The Nashville Predators news and rumor mill were lit on fire this week due to a coaching hire, trade talk, and the Preds gaining a new ECHL affiliate. Andrew Brunette’s hiring is old news; however, his recent press conference alongside general manager (GM) Barry Trotz revealed some interesting information. Juuse Saros, arguably the Predators’ best player, was reportedly almost moved at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline following a shocking tweet from David Pagnotta on June 6.
Atlanta Gladiators Become ECHL Affiliate of Predators
The Atlanta Gladiators are now the ECHL affiliate for the Predators. The ECHL is a farm league for development, with every NHL team affiliated with one. The league, skill-wise, is a step below the American Hockey League (AHL) and is more of a secondary affiliate for NHL clubs. The Gladiators arena is a short three-and-a-half-hour drive from Nashville. If Preds fans wanted to see some prospects or players trying to work their way up through the hockey world, they now have a convenient opportunity in a large, big-market city.
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The Gladiators are replacing the Florida Everblades as the ECHL affiliate for the Predators. The Everblades are now the Florida Panthers’ affiliate, making the geography of the team’s parent club more sense than Nashville. The Gladiators reside in a growing hockey market that may be home to an NHL team once again, as rumors are swirling about the city of Atlanta receiving an NHL Expansion team in the future. Whether that proves true, the Gladiators’ success and attendance numbers may factor in the decision to go to Atlanta for the NHL.
Brunette’s Introductory Press Conference
The Predators hired Andrew Brunette to fill their 24-hour coaching void on May 31. A press conference followed the same day, where GM Barry Trotz introduced him to the media, welcoming him as the fourth head coach in franchise history. Like any NHL press conference, most of the language was generic hockey mumbo-jumbo; however, some notable lines stuck out about Brunette’s vision to coach the team.
Brunette mentioned how he wants his team to play fun, enthusiastic hockey while dominating the puck. The latter is more complicated than the former; however, playing a loose, carefree style of hockey is something the Predators have never truly done. With the influx of youth entering the organization, and many rookies vying for roster spots as early as training camp, this psychology will benefit the younger, faster, skilled players more than their aging veterans. This style under a Trotz-led team is also shocking, considering how the New York Islanders played when he coached them. But this holistic change should be good for the Predators, embracing the speed and skill of the youth rather than turning them into something they are not.
Saros Trade Discussed at Deadline
The Predators and Los Angeles Kings discussed a trade surrounding Saros before acquiring Joonas Korpisalo and Vladislav Gavrikov. The package, reported by David Pagnotta, consisted of first-round picks and prospects. The news is shocking, as Saros seemed to be a significant piece staying with the team during their retooling era. If the report is accurate, the Predators may envision a total rebuild for the team under GM Barry Trotz rather than a quick turnaround. With the Kings moving off of Cal Petersen’s contract in the Ivan Provorov trade, freeing up millions in cap space, and still in dire need of a goaltender, they may return to negotiating with the Predators soon.
If the Predators move on from Saros, a haul of premier picks and prospects is expected to be the return. If the Kings circle back to the Preds to solve their goaltending woes, one of Alex Turcotte, Quinton Byfield, or Brandt Clarke must be included in the package to make it worth considering. Moving Saros, the reason the Predators were close to making the playoffs, would mean a rebuild is on the way, or the Preds are confident Yaroslav Akarov can take the reigns as their starting goalie immediately. Negotiating a Saros trade is risky, but the payoff, if executed right, would bring in key pieces to build a future Stanley Cup Contender in Nashville.
The 2023 NHL Draft is hosted by the Predators this season. Typically teams like to make it memorable for their home fans through trade, the draft, or any other means they see fit. If a Saros trade were to happen, expect it near the draft, where the Predators can maximize the picks they receive to their benefit.
Gaining the Atlanta Gladiators benefits fans wanting to watch the club’s prospects play, being a shorter drive to watch them than the Everblades. Saros or not, the Brunette-Trotz era of Predators hockey is shaping to be fast, enthusiastic, and straying from the defensive, hard-nosed style the NHL has come to expect from the team. The change is exciting, but a culture shift is risky.