What you see is what you have. The NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone, with general manager David Poile and the Nashville Predators mainly staying quiet. However, there is one name leaving the Music City – Matt Irwin, but his playing time has been largely nonexistent for the past few months – and the return, Korbinian Holzer – who has six goals and 23 assists in 203 regular-season games – is not exactly the splash that many were hoping for.
The Predators’ up and down season led to Poile changing his mind repeatedly, from buyers to sellers back to buyers again, until ultimately landing on none of the above. During his post-deadline press conference, he explained not making a move may have been the best move for the team.
“Overall, I think we’re going in the right direction,” Poile said. “Again, it all comes back to the same thing in terms of making big moves or making no moves.”
The long-time general manager continued to say, “My hopes and thoughts are today that the way we’re playing we should be a playoff team.”
The lack of activity was actually expected by some close to the situation in Nashville. With the Predators in a limbo state of being so close to a playoff spot, but at the same time just a handful of losses away from calling it a wrap, the smartest decision may have been to let the chips fall where they may.
However, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Poile apparently reached out to every GM in the league repeatedly, gauging interest in Predators players, as well as gaining a sense of the current cost of doing business.
“I think we were very active in terms of the amount of phone calls we were making to different teams in the last week and specifically the last two or three days,” Poile said. “I’m pretty sure I talked to all 30 other teams at least two, maybe sometimes five or six times to show interest.”
The Predators’ GM was open and honest about some of the conversations he had, explaining that he “entertained offers” on Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund, two players that were touted as options most likely to be moved.
Sure, both Smith and Granlund are pending unrestricted free agents this summer and the general rule – when you’re in a position like the Predators are in the standings – is to move them for what you can now rather than lose them for nothing during the offseason.
But, like Poile said when he opened his press conference, “As they say in GM 101, sometimes the best trades you make are the ones that you don’t.”
After beating the Ottawa Senators, the Predators are 9-4-1 over their past 14 games, which may suggest that this GM masterclass rule Poile is living by could serve them well.
Look, with the expectations the Predators had, and the standard they’ve set over the past four or five seasons, 9-4-1 is not otherworldly. But, considering that the Predators have been a .500 team for the majority of the season, the recent record shows enough promise that maybe the team is moving in the right direction.
Related: Predators’ Reasons for Optimism
Smith and Granlund have played massive roles in this somewhat rejuvenation. During their past 14 games, Granlund leads the team in points with 10, which includes a team-high six goals, tied with none other than, you guessed it, Smith.
Head coach John Hynes clearly sees Granlund as a big part of the success. Again, using the same 14-game span, Granlund leads all forwards in average ice time at 19:28. Fans are well aware by now that Hynes’ playing time philosophy centers on earning it.
It’s obvious that the players who Hynes feels are working the hardest and giving the team the best chance to win are the ones you see most on the ice. So, it’s even more interesting to see that the forward with the second-highest time on ice average during the last 14 games, is no other than the guy many wanted to be shipped out of town many months ago, Kyle Turris.
The numbers back up Turris’ ice time. The former pariah under Peter Laviolette is tied for the second-most points during the last 14 games with nine.
To those who are upset that Poile and the Predators were dormant at the deadline – what else could they have possibly traded?
The Predators have seven picks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, with five selections coming in the first three rounds. The last time the Predators had that many picks in the opening three rounds was back in 2009.
Poile is known to be a little bit of a gambler, living in the present for a Stanley Cup run and not shy about using draft selections to bolster the team at the deadline. In the 2018 Draft, the Predators had just four picks – their first selection didn’t arrive until the fourth round, 111th overall.
There would be no point in making a trade just for the sake of making one. That mentality could put the Predators back in a position where they see young talent pass them by when the 2020 class is being selected. There were six first-round picks traded this season, which goes to show the desired market price for assets. The San Jose Sharks even fetched a first-round pick for Barclay Goodrow. Not to knock the player that Goodrow is, but really, a first-round pick?
The Sporting News ranked the Predators’ farm system at 25th, which is actually an improvement from their previous season’s rank of 27th. In fairness, the team’s ranking is not really a surprise or criticism, it’s expected. When you’re a contender, your minor league talent most often suffers. You’re one of the last teams to select each round and that’s if you haven’t traded away your picks at the deadline for a playoff run.
Poile has a team built to be in the playoffs and they’re playing closer to that standard of late. You don’t need to mortgage the future to sneak into the playoffs when the name of the game in the NHL is to get hot when the postseason rolls around.
This is not to make any bold predictions should the Predators qualify for the playoffs this season. But, with a roster already comprised of a Vezina-winning goaltender, a Norris caliber defenseman and forwards such as Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson and more, would you really be surprised if this team were to get hot and make some noise in the playoffs?