The Nashville Predators have suddenly found themselves poised to qualify for the postseason, in large part thanks to a very successful run through the second half of March and into April. With several games remaining on the schedule against the teams chasing them for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Discover Central Division, the Predators still have plenty of work ahead of them.
Ahead of Monday’s trade deadline, general manager David Poile has options in front of him; maintain the status quo and go with the lineup he has at his disposal already seems the likely option, but with injuries wreaking absolute havoc on the lineup, it’s not inconceivable to think he could make a splash, especially if he sees this season as the potential final year of a window of opportunity for the club to advance deep into the playoffs and even win it all.
My THW colleague Alex MacLean has expressed some thoughts on current Predators who could be in a different uniform come Monday evening, as well as the benefit of a trade for Alex Kerfoot. I doubt Poile will look to make a push for one of the top-skilled players on many trade bait lists, like a Taylor Hall or a Mike Hoffman, but some players who could do multiple things in the lineup could be assets the general manager looks to add.
Here are three other players the Predators should inquire about acquiring if they are serious about making a big playoff push in 2020-21.
Working on the assumption that Alex outlined in his piece linked above, it stands to reason that Mikael Granlund or Erik Haula could find themselves traded to contenders higher up in the standings than Nashville is as rental players. If the Predators decide to make these moves, they will need someone to fill the flexible roles that both Haula and Granlund have played this season. Nick Foligno is such a player.
The current Columbus Blue Jackets captain was held out of the lineup on Saturday out of precaution, meaning a trade could be imminent. The return of a first-round draft pick for Foligno might seem steep, but he is a player who could fit seamlessly into Nashville’s lineup and might be worth the price.
He could play anywhere in the top-nine of the forward unit, step into a penalty killing role — especially if Brad Richardson is going to be out long-term — and could also be a big factor on the power play. Foligno is a big, physical bruiser of a forward who could add an element of physicality alongside the skill of Filip Forsberg or Eeli Tolvanen once they return from injury. Foligno’s leadership qualities could also be welcome on an underdog squad looking to make a seemingly unlikely push deep into the playoffs.
The Scotia North Division’s final standings are not set in stone quite yet, but all indications are that the Calgary Flames won’t be able to catch any of the four teams ahead of them. While players like Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are more dynamic and explosive than Sam Bennett, he could be a nice, affordable addition to Nashville’s playoff roster.
Bennett is another forward whose flexibility could be a major asset to the Predators. His ability to line up at any of the three forward positions means he could float through the lines as the injured forwards return to play, and similar to Foligno is a big, physical body whose forechecking ability could open up the ice for the more skilled offensive forwards. He could also provide a solid net-front presence, something the Predators’ lineup has been missing this season.
Another forward who could be an asset in any strength situation, I don’t think Bennett’s price would be as high as a dynamic player like Foligno’s, but he still has good playoff experience, with 11 goals in 30 playoff games to go with an eye-opening 54 hits in only 10 playoff games last season. His fearlessness in past playoffs could look really good playing with Calle Jarnkrok and Tolvanen on the second line, or even a good substitute for Mathieu Olivier on the physical fourth line.
The defenceman is another player whose contract expires at the season’s end, but who could come at an affordable price for Nashville. Likely to cost only a couple of mid-to-late-round draft picks, Mike Reilly has become a surprisingly effective player on a young Ottawa Senators team.
With a salary of only $1.5 million this season, Reilly is a player who the Predators could conceivably try to re-sign in the offseason, although admittedly their young depth has been impressive enough that he could end up being another rental. He’s a consistent two-way defender who could eat up third- or second-pairing minutes alongside someone like Mattias Ekholm or Ben Harpur, and should injuries decimate the blue line again, could fit comfortably on the power play as the puck-mover.
Reilly could be a steadying addition on a blue line that has been somewhat of a revolving door over the past few weeks due to injury. While I don’t believe that adding a defenceman is a priority for Poile, it would certainly show the rest of the team that he is serious about making a push deep into the postseason.
The trade deadline is at 3 p.m. EST Monday, April 12, and while Nashville could end up staying relatively quiet, making one of the moves above could prove to be a good motivator for the players on the roster. With some pivotal regular-season games left before the first round begins, the Predators could certainly use a boost amongst all of the injuries their roster has experienced. Picking up an experienced roster player for a decent price could be exactly what the doctor ordered for a team that floundered through most of the first half of the season.
Wray has been an NHL fan long enough to remember when Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne were linemates, as well as when Colorado and Detroit had a brutal rivalry.
Wray has seven years’ experience serving as the Sports Writer for Mount Allison University’s student newspaper, The Argosy, as well as two years as the Sackville Tribune-Post’s student reporter. After covering football, basketball, and hockey at the university level, Wray worked for four years with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks in a behind-the-scenes capacity, and while currently living in New Brunswick (Canada), is doing lots of writing and podcasting for various topics, including CFL football, movies and television.