The first day of July started with a bang, as news from Pierre LeBrun surfaced that Viktor Arvidsson of the Nashville Predators is headed to the Los Angeles Kings for a second-round pick in the upcoming 2021 NHL Entry Draft and a third-round pick in next year’s 2022 Entry Draft.
A player who appeals to everyone, Arvidsson’s ability to hustle and throw defenders off are traits fans shouldn’t take for granted. He was one of the most impactful forwards in Predators franchise history, but his most recent seasons were not up to standards. Ever since the injury that Robert Bortuzzo gave him after brutal cross-checks, he just hasn’t been the same, and it has shown. Lots of mental mistakes and costly errors with the puck have defined his play as of late. As a result, his value slowly began diminishing, and the picks are a result of it. What does this mean for the Predators now that one of their top-six forwards is gone?
Cap Room and Signings
Arvidsson’s salary is not a bank-breaking one like that of Ryan Johansen or Matt Duchene. Most, if not all, teams would be willing to take on the contract for a player of his caliber. His $4.25 million for three more years is pretty team-friendly. The Predators and general manager David Poile have now gotten rid of the contract, and extra room has opened up for a wide variety of moves to be made. With $22,858,857 million cap space available now per CapFriendly, it gives the team a lot of options.
Juuse Saros needs a new contract, and the burden it will take on the cap is not as significant as before the trade. His next contract could be a bridge deal around $5.5 million, and the extra room provides a more minor obstacle for the front office to navigate around. He had a Vezina-caliber performance this season, and a raise is imminent.
Another player that would be great to bring back for relatively cheap is Mikael Granlund. Poile has said before that he wants to talk with his camp and bring him back to the Music City, and with the additional cap room, they can make a contract happen. While doing so, they can look at other moves in free agency like a backup goaltender if Pekka Rinne decides to hang up the skates in the NHL arena. On the other hand, they could keep the cap space and see what options open up as time moves on and as the expansion draft comes and goes.
All in all, freeing up cap space was the correct move. Every team wants financial flexibility, and considering the flat cap is in place for a few years to come, general managers must be smart with their money. The Predators’ situation has two contracts heavily weighing them down, so every dollar counts. It’s a very smart move from the front office, considering no one wants to take Johansen and Duchene with their cap hits. Arvidsson is a recent 30-goal scorer with a good deal attached, so an up-and-coming team like the Kings was chomping at the bit.
The Predators had a dilemma on their hands. They have four protectable defensemen in Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and Dante Fabbro or Alexandre Carrier. That puts them in the eight skaters and one goalie category for the expansion draft. Leaving the two centers with massive contracts exposed was possible, but another option was leaving Arvidsson exposed for the Seattle Kraken front office to snatch up.
Now that he’s gone, it gives the Predators free rein to protect someone else. It’s most likely that they opt to protect one of Johansen and Duchene along with Filip Forsberg. That leaves two spots available for Calle Jarnkrok, Yakov Trenin, Luke Kunin, Colton Sissons, and Nick Cousins. There are some other forwards available, but those are the most probable names to be taken.
Had Arvidsson not been traded and instead exposed, it’s more than likely that the Kraken would have chosen him, just as the Vegas Golden Knights did with James Neal. Poile protected Jarnkrok over him, and it’s very well possible that the same situation would have occurred. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about that anymore. Like the cap situation, this trade lessens the stress of choosing to protect him or expose him. It provides more options, which is what the team needs.
The Future of the Forward Core
The final point I’m going to go over here is how much the roster opens up as a product of this deal. The Predators didn’t bring in a new body as part of this trade, whether that be a low-tier NHL player or a prospect, so that means no salary and a new roster spot. The idea of a youth movement has been roaming around Predators circles for what seems like ages, but it has never come to form. This trade is the small snowball at the peak of the mountain that just got pushed.
Not only will a young player like Eeli Tolvanen get an elevated role with the team, but it means that a spot is up for grabs. Whether or not there are multiple spots available has yet to be seen due to a delayed free agency, but there’s certainly one. The big question involved star prospect, Philip Tomasino. Does he make the roster next season? It sure would be a fun scenario. Centering a second line with two of Jarnkrok, Kunin, Granlund, Forsberg, or Duchene on his flanks could be highly lethal and the perfect way to break him into the big show.
Tomasino could easily be a more potent scorer than Arvidsson, which bodes well for the forward core. I doubt he makes an incredible impact in his first year on the team as a full-timer because most rookies don’t. However, the experience is all-important, and it’s something the coaching staff should be looking at extremely hard at this point.
The deal that the Predators made was bizarre at first glance, and a lot of the fan reaction has been something along the lines of “the Kings fleeced the Predators.” Although, after looking past the trade at face value, it’s an excellent deal for both sides. The Kings get a former 30-goal scorer that needs his career revitalized after some tough seasons, and the Predators get options. I think Poile and his team could have gotten more out of the trade, but not much more than a low-level prospect or another second-round pick. All in all, it’s hard to see him go after all of his contributions in Nashville, but it had to happen.
Jeff is a consistent source for Predators content here at The Hockey Writers. He enjoys watching all sorts of hockey from juniors to the pros, and playing hockey for his high school and local teams in Nashville. He’s a big proponent of hockey analytics, and you’ll often see him using lots of statistics and data to back up his main talking points. You can find his work here, or check out his contributions on his own Substack, or at Last Word on Hockey and On the Forecheck. Lastly, you can listen to him on the Youth Movement Podcast presented by On the Forecheck or the Triple Shift Podcast. For any inquiries about interviews or questions about statistics, analytics, or just general hockey opinions you can message his twitter, @jjmid04.