With Viktor Arvidsson gone, lots of options for the future have opened up. Philip Tomasino has a very good shot at making the opening night lineup, and other prospects like Rem Pitlick could get their moment to shine as well. With general manager David Poile seemingly choosing the way of youth, other options for trades open up. Rumors circulated when the Nashville Predators were in the dumpster during March about trading multiple assets, and I still think it would be the best possible course of action. Whether the players are on expiring contracts, team-friendly contracts, or contracts with term and a suitable annual average value (AAV), the Predators could get some integral assets from dealing them.
Ryan Ellis is an interesting piece because his contract is relatively long compared to the others in this article. Per CapFriendly, he sits at $6.25 million for the next six seasons, which is hefty. However, teams are looking for a skilled, cost-controlled defenseman that can play an effective role on the top pair. Ellis is that guy. Over the last three seasons, he has played 166 games and tallied 97 points, 20 of which are goals. The analytics also love him, as he is third overall among defensemen in goals above replacement (GAR). While he does fall in expected goals above replacement (xGAR) to 28th among defensemen, they’re still great numbers in the aggregate.
It’s essential to recognize the role that Ellis plays on the Predators defense core. He’s the solid and steady two-way presence on the first pair that allows his partner Roman Josi to roam free with the puck. Young teams especially could use a player like him to work with the younger players and use his experience to build them up. His countless years playing alongside one of the most talented defensemen in the league, along with his Stanley Cup Final appearance, are the primary experience-related reasons to trade for him.
As far as the cost may go, it’s going to be expensive. Poile won’t give up one of his top three defensemen without a fight. Something along the lines of an NHL-ready prospect, a mid-tier prospect, and two early picks would be the package I start with at this point. He has had some injury problems, which diminish his value, but when he has played, he looks excellent. There are very few concerns about Ellis’ game that general managers need to worry about.
The centerpiece of trade talks during the regular season and nearing the trade deadline was Mattias Ekholm. He would be an excellent asset for teams to pick up at a very low price of $3.75 million until the end of next season. Standing at a stout 6-foot-4, he’s a menacing presence on the blueline, and he possesses a tremendous amount of skill to coincide with his toughness. He doesn’t shy away from a physical encounter with the opponent, and he sure isn’t afraid to put points on the scoresheet as well. As far as the statistics go, Ekholm has put up 100 points in the 196 games over the last three seasons and is the Predators leader in xGAR over that same span. He ranks 22nd among defensemen in both GAR and xGAR, and his production year-to-year has been steady.
The most significant selling point is Ekholm’s sturdiness in all situations. I cannot understate his intensity on the puck, whether he’s defending the rush or is pressuring a forward down low in the defensive zone. He always puts in the effort, whether or not he’s in a scoring drought or is scoring at a Norris level. He is much more of a vocal leader than Ellis, which has its benefits. While he will be looking for a pay raise at the end of the season from whichever team he is with, it’s deserved. The contributions he has made on the Predators’ blue line are innumerable, and he did all of it while being one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL. It’s not often that you come across a defenseman with his size, hockey IQ, and ability to create offense with and without the puck.
The package that Poile will most likely be looking for and was rumored around the trade deadline was a top prospect, and two high draft picks. This package likely goes down to only one draft pick due to the extra year being gone at this point. However, if the other general manager can add an additional selection, it would be a massive win for the front office.
The biggest benefit to trading for Calle Jarnkrok is acquiring a player of his caliber for the contract that he’s on currently. His contract expires at the end of the season, but at only $2 million, he won’t ask for much more. Jarnkrok, if given the opportunity by the coaching staff, could be a solid 40-point player. He put up 88 points in 192 games over the last three seasons, including this past year, where he was the team’s third-highest point scorer. While he hasn’t entirely panned out into the player most people expected after Poile chose to protect him over James Neal in the 2017 expansion draft, he has been a staple of the middle six. Additionally, he’s seventh in GAR and xGAR over the last three seasons among Predators’ forwards.
The one impressive thing about Jarnkrok’s previous season isn’t entirely his point totals. He was on the award radar for the Selke Trophy because his defense was at such a high level. He is an excellent forechecker, and he uses his speed to throw attackers off their game. He makes a much bigger impact on the defensive side of the game than most would expect if they’re casually turning into a game.
With the package that Arvidsson got to the Kings–a second and a third-round draft pick–it’s hard to envision Jarnkrok getting anything more in a trade. A second-round draft pick would probably be a suitable package for him, and including a later-round pick could entice the front office to pull the trigger.
All of these players have their respective cases to be traded this offseason, and with the draft steadily approaching, we could see talks ramp up. Various teams could be interested in one, two, or all three of these players. The Predators need to find the best package coming back their way if there is a trade-in place considering the franchise’s direction at this point.