With the NHL trade deadline just over one month away, the contending teams will be looking for ways to improve their club and targeting some of the bottom-feeding clubs. The Nashville Predators currently sit in third place in the Central Division, just one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues and eight points in front of the Dallas Stars. While not in a comfortable spot just yet, the Predators have been enjoying a mostly-positive season, one that wasn’t expected but is surely appreciated thus far. They could be potential buyers at the deadline but how much they’ll be willing to spend is still up for debate.
Enter the Philadelphia Flyers, a team currently in the basement of the Metropolitan Division and undergoing a troubled season riddled with injuries. Star player Sean Couturier’s season is over after he underwent back surgery, while former Predators’ defenseman Ryan Ellis is on long-term injury reserve and could be out for the remainder of the season as well. General manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher has emphasized focusing on next season, all but confirming the team will be sellers at the trade deadline. Here are three potential targets that Nashville could target.
One area of improvement the Predators can make is on their fourth line, a place Derick Brassard could fit in nicely. A big part of his game is on the defensive side of the puck, he’s a center that can win faceoffs while also capable of playing the wing, and he doesn’t take many penalties. At $825,000 for the remainder of the year and a pending unrestricted free agent after the season, Brassard is your typical low-cost, high-reward type of player.
Potentially the biggest asset of acquiring a player like Brassard is his undeniable tangibles when it comes to post-season action. Brassard was a member of the 2013-14 New York Rangers that reached the Stanley Cup Final and were just three wins away from winning it all. A year later, he and the Rangers went to the Conference Final. Brassard was also involved with the 2016-17 Ottawa Senators that took the Pittsburgh Penguins to Game 7 of the Conference Final. His exposure in the playoffs is something the Predators could use, and he’d fit in perfectly on the fourth line.
At 34 years of age and making under a million dollars, it’s safe to say the cost to acquire Brassard shouldn’t be anything more than a third-round pick. Fletcher will look to maximize his return on any trade he makes in hopes of building a brighter future for the Flyers, but Brassard won’t be the player to bring in a significant return. Predators GM David Poile has two third-round picks in the 2022 draft, their own and the pick from the Los Angeles Kings, acquired in the Viktor Arvidsson trade. Parting ways with one of them shouldn’t hurt too much if they can bring in Brassard for a playoff push.
Arguably one of Fletcher’s miscues in the off-season was the acquisition of Rasmus Ristolainen from the Buffalo Sabres. At $5.4-million and shifting between the second and third pairing, it’s evident the experiment in Philadelphia has been a failure. While not all of it can be blamed on the 27-year-old defenseman, given that the Flyers have had a revolving door into the injury reserve, the team may want to move on from his hefty contract and get a return before they potentially lose him to free agency. Ristolainen is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the season’s end.
A sturdy, big-bodied defenseman could be worth interest for Nashville, especially given his style of play and the ability to avoid taking penalties. In 42 games this season, Ristolainen has just 18 penalty minutes, down from 36 minutes in 49 games last season. Offensively, he won’t add much to the Predators’ rotation, but a third-pairing role and some penalty-killing time would be the best scenario for him. If Matt Borowiecki continues to get himself into penalty trouble, perhaps Ristolainen can suit up in his place on the third pair and still provide the Predators’ blue line with some physicality.
Fletcher would be lucky to get a mid-round pick for Ristolainen unless a few teams come knocking and drive up the price. While things haven’t worked out well this season, he can still give some GMs the idea that he’ll turn things around with a new team in a deep playoff push. A fourth-round pick should be the absolute highest a team should go, with a fifth-round selection being the more reasonable approach.
Taking a flyer on the last target, Nate Thompson has been on the injured reserve with a shoulder injury for almost three months, and there has been no timeline set for his return. Should Nashville ring up Fletcher to inquire about his services, he’ll have to be confirmed to be ready to go for the playoffs. Again, this is strictly on the premise that he’ll be able to play because there’s no sense in talking trade for a player that will require season-ending surgery to repair his shoulder.
Thompson brings a lot to the table when healthy. He’s a physical, bottom-six player who can take every defensive faceoff a team needs and come out winning most of them. He’s defensively reliable and would improve Nashville’s fourth line. Last year with the Winnipeg Jets, Thompson took just two minor penalties in 44 games and one minor penalty in eight playoff games that same year. He’s incredibly smart with his stick and knows how to play the physical side of the game without crossing the line, making him a perfect fit for a Nashville team looking to play every shift with a physical edge.
Given his health concerns and his role on the team, it’s not out of the question that he’ll return no more than a mid-to-low end pick. In 2020, the Montreal Canadiens got a fifth-round pick for him, while the year prior, the Kings got a fourth-round pick in return for him and a fifth-round pick the other way. With his shoulder injury not resolved, it would take a green light, and even then, a sixth-round selection would likely be enough to acquire his limited services.
Unfortunately, Claude Giroux couldn’t make the list, as Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now reported the long-time Flyers captain would like to be traded to the Colorado Avalanche. According to Dater, if a deal can’t be worked out with Colorado, a trade to either the Blues or the Minnesota Wild would be acceptable alternatives. While Giroux would be wonderful to have on the Predators’ top-six and their power play, it seems unlikely he’ll end up in Nashville. Given the big return he’ll likely get the Flyers, perhaps it’s better suited to target the aforementioned names that will help short term and not cost too much.
Covering the Nashville Predators. I work for a company called SPORTLOGiQ and have loved the game of Hockey for over three decades. I’m obsessed with advanced analytics and pair that with my love for the eye test – i.e. watching the games (I DO that too!)