During the latest installment of TSN Insider Trading (Feb. 16), NHL insider Pierre LeBrun reported that the Nashville Predators could be sellers at the 2023 Trade Deadline depending on how they perform during their next set of games. That included Thursday’s contest against the Boston Bruins, and things went horribly for them. They lost to the league-best Bruins by a 5-0 final score, and a fan even threw a catfish on the ice during the final seconds of the second period. With this loss, they now have a 25-21-6 record and are currently five points out of a wild card spot.
INSIDER TRADING: #TSNHockey Insiders @DarrenDreger, @PierreVLebrun & @reporterchris on the #NHLPA & Marty Walsh, #StLBlues, Habs, Chychrun, #Preds and ‘trade related’ healthy scratches… pic.twitter.com/aaDIcMajNT— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) February 16, 2023
If the Predators are unable to turn things around quickly, big changes could be on the way, and perhaps even the beginning stages of a retooling period or full-on rebuild. This is because LeBrun noted that general manager (GM) David Poile will be open to hearing offers for four notable players on their roster if the Predators do not start heating up. Let’s go over them now.
Mikael Granlund was one of the players that LeBrun listed as a potential trade target if the Predators end up selling at this year’s deadline. After recording a 64-point campaign in 80 games last season, the 30-year-old’s production has gone down, as he has six goals and 29 points in 52 games played. Those aren’t necessarily bad offensive totals, but this dip in production mixed with the Predators’ struggles could certainly lead them to consider moving him.
Granlund signed a four-year, $20 million contract to stay with the Predators during the 2021 Offseason, so he would be more than a rental if another team acquires him. Ultimately, his $5 million cap hit is a little bit steep for his production this season, but if he can heat up again, he would certainly be worth real consideration. While playing at his best, he is a very solid second-line forward and an effective penalty-killer in the process.
Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.
At this point, the Predators could be able to land a second-round pick and mid-tier prospect for Granlund. If the Predators decide to tear things down, that could be an avenue worth exploring. Furthermore, perhaps the 11-year veteran would benefit from a change of scenery and the opportunity of a fresh start.
Mattias Ekholm has been brought up in the rumor mill often this season, so hearing LeBrun list him as a possible trade candidate is not all that surprising. There is no question that the 32-year-old defenseman has the potential to garner interest around the league, as he is a quality top-four defenseman who plays an immensely responsible game and also can chip in offensively in the process. As a result, teams that end up missing out on trade targets like Jakob Chychrun and Vladislav Gavrikov could contact the Predators about Ekholm.
Related: 6 Top Prospects Who Could Be Moved at 2023 Trade Deadline
Latest News & Highlights
However, the primary obstacle regarding a potential Ekholm trade is that he is only in the first season of his four-year, $25 million contract. Although he is a very good defenseman, his $6.25 million cap hit for multiple years may worry some teams, as he is inching closer to his mid-30s. However, at the same time, he also has the potential to be a strong piece to a contender’s left side in the short term, so he could be a player worth taking a gamble on.
Although there is some long-term risk in acquiring Ekholm, I believe that the Predators could easily land a first-round pick and prospect for him. His immensely steady style of play mixed with his ability to play top-pairing minutes still makes him a very valuable asset.
LeBrun also brought up the possibility of the Predators listening to offers for Ryan Johansen. Similar to Granlund, Johansen has seen his numbers dip rather noticeably in 2022-23. After scoring 26 goals and posting 63 points in 79 games for Nashville last season, the 30-year-old only has 26 points in 52 games this campaign. Although averaging a point every two games is certainly not bad, it is below expectations for the 2010 fourth-overall pick.
Johansen’s contract mixed with his disappointing season will make it challenging for the Predators to move him. He carries a hefty $8 million cap hit until the end of the 2024-25 season, and I just cannot see a team taking on that contract. However, if the Predators retain a good portion of his salary, the possibility of a trade occurring would certainly increase. Furthermore, it seems likely that Nashville would do this if they opt to embark on a full-on rebuild.
Right now, Johansen’s trade value isn’t particularly high, but if he were to heat up and the Predators retain half of his salary, Nashville could potentially land a second-round pick and prospect for him.
Matt Duchene is the final player that LeBrun noted as a potential trade piece for the Predators, and in my opinion, he is the biggest one out of these four. Although the Predators have struggled this season, Duchene has once again been quite productive, as he has 16 goals and 42 points in 51 games played. Although it is a step down from his 86-point campaign in 78 games last year, he is still producing like a legitimate top-six forward, so there would surely be interest in his services if he is made available.
However, Duchene also carries an $8 million cap hit until the end of the 2025-26 season, so he would not be the easiest of players to bring in financially. However, if Nashville retains a small portion of his salary, a sizeable market would form for the Haliburton native. After all, he is a proven top-six forward who can play both center and right wing if needed. Some teams that I could see entering the Duchene sweepstakes if he is made available include the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, and New Jersey Devils. The Colorado Avalanche also would stand out as a good fit, but the way Duchene’s tenure ended there makes a reunion seem very unlikely.
Alas, if salary is retained, there is no question that the Predators could score a first-round pick and notable prospect for Duchene. It is something worth considering if Nashville decides to change up its group significantly, and this is especially so when noting that this is the final year Duchene’s contract does not have any trade restrictions.
Nevertheless, LeBrun’s report is a big one, and it is something that we should pay close attention to. Unless the Predators can go on a run from here, don’t be surprised to see them become one of the league’s top sellers at the deadline.