Nashville Predators general manager David Poile has never shied away from trading big-name players. Over the past few seasons, he has traded away Shea Weber, Seth Jones and PK Subban. This defensive bundle includes a captain, a Norris Trophy-winner and a top NHL defenseman. As I see it, if Wayne Gretzky can be traded no one is safe, especially during a rebuild.
Nashville is in an interesting spot in the standings. They could sneak into the fourth and final playoff spot. If that happens, they will likely be eliminated in the first round, especially if they face the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the Predators on the eve of a rebuild, there are plenty of decisions the organization needs to make. However, one thing is certain: they can not make a wrong decision when it comes to Roman Josi.
Josi has been protecting the Predators’ blue line for the past nine seasons. The 6-foot-1 defenseman was introduced as the organization’s seventh captain in 2017. During his professional career, he has worked up an impressive resume that includes a Stanley Cup Final appearance, a handful of All-Star Games, and a Norris Trophy.
In October 2019, the Predators signed Josi to a contract extension worth $72.472 million that would keep him in Nashville until the 2027-2028 season. His full no-movement clause means that the organization can not waive or trade him without his approval. It also means they must protect him during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Poile has handed out some hefty contracts in the past few seasons, and while some were questionable, Josi is worth every penny.
Poile knows that Josi is a special player. During an interview with Adam Vingan of The Athletic, he said, “It’s probably the most important negotiation we’ve ever had. You’re signing Roman Josi, our best player, and our leader, so there were so many things in the negotiation outside of the obvious, meaning money. It was a little bit more about the relationship part of things I would want to talk to Roman about that I wouldn’t necessarily talk to other players about, some of the more future thinking. We were all around it for a long time and could’ve or should’ve maybe even done it (at) an earlier time, but all that really matters is we got it done,” (from ‘‘It’s probably the most important negotiation we’ve ever had’: How Roman Josi’s megadeal happened,’ The Athletic, Oct. 30, 2019).
If Nashville Keeps Josi
For the first time in Josi’s career, the Predators are on the eve of a rebuild, though what that will look like is unknown. Teams like the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils have been rebuilding for about a decade, while the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche only needed a few years to turn their team around. Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman stated that there are only three untouchable players on the Predators: Josi, Ryan Ellis and Pekka Rinne. He also said that Poile will listen to offers on just about anyone else.
Josi is 30 years old and in his prime. He is a player a team can build around; he logs the most ice time on the Predators and is consistently among the point-leaders on the team. Nashville already has key pieces needed for a quick turnaround. Including Josi, the Predators also have Ryan Ellis and Filip Forsberg. We also can’t disregard that a handful of prospects have stepped up this season, including Dante Fabbro and Eeli Tolvanen.
If Poile plays his cards right, Nashville’s can successfully rebuild in limited time. The organization’s key pieces and prospects put them in an excellent starting position, and keeping Josi and Ellis together as their top defensive pairing – one of the best in the league – will help expedite the process.
If Nashville Trades Josi
On the flip side, if Nashville’s rebuild proves lengthy, it may make sense to ask Josi to waive his full no-movement clause. A player of his caliber can bring a big return of draft picks and prospects. Some organizations get burned doing a perfunctory rebuild which ends up prolonging the process. Trading Josi would be a tremendous help in pushing a rebuild in the right direction.
In 2018, the Ottawa Senators were in the early stages of a rebuild and traded franchise player Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks. Like Josi, Karlsson had a full no-movement clause, is a Norris Trophy-winner and had the “C” stitched on his sweater. While the circumstances surrounding their contracts are different, the return on Karlsson is comparable to what Nashville could get for Josi.
“Erik Karlsson was probably going to gather the best return in a possible rebuild. This was not an easy situation for us, to trade a player of Erik Karlsson’s caliber. But for us to be where we need to be for the long term in this rebuild, we had to make this decision at this point in time,” said Senators general manager, Pierre Dorion at the time.
In a few seasons, the Predators might be in a situation where they have to sacrifice their top talent to properly prepare for the future. It was only four years ago that they were in the Stanley Cup Final. Since then, the team has been in steady decline, until last year when they were eliminated in the qualifying round by the Arizona Coyotes.
Is There a Right Way to Approach the Rebuild
It may take extreme circumstances for Poile to pull the trigger on Josi. The good news is that the Predators are in a win-win situation, no matter what the future holds for their captain. Nashville fans will have a better understanding of what direction their team is headed by the April 12, 2021 trade deadline. In the meantime, Josi will try to lead his team in a final playoff push.