When looking at the lineup of the Nashville Predators, a glaring hole is their lack of a true first-line center. Nashville has plenty of depth down the middle, but unfortunately, all of them are second and third liners. That missing piece of the puzzle could cause the Predators to have the Stanley Cup slip through their fingers.
Luckily, it is not too late to acquire one via trade, but if it is to be done, it needs to be done weeks before the trade deadline. Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes and Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche are a couple names in the rumor mill that can fill the void. To acquire a player like Staal or Duchene, the Predators would have to give something valuable in return.
It is no secret that Nashville has one of the deepest defense corps in the league. For teams that need defense and are shopping a first-line center, the Preds are a perfect trading partner. But which defensemen would general manager David Poile be open to trading?
Shea? Not Today
Shea Weber trade rumors have been around for years and have no end in sight. But, I do not believe Nashville’s captain is going to be traded anytime soon. As the face of the franchise, any proposed return will simply not be good enough. Though Seth Jones and Roman Josi have vastly improved as of late, Weber is still needed on the back-end. Without his presence, the Predators are a worse team, as evident in the 2015 Western Conference Quarter-Finals series with the Chicago Blackhawks. Weber is the glue that keeps the team together.
“Shea just leads by example,” said defenseman Victor Bartley earlier this month. “He’s such a powerful person to be around. You know when he’s around, and he expects the best out of you and himself each and every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s practice or game-day, he’s one of the hardest working guys around. It’s a guy like that that makes him a great captain and player to follow.”
Josi is the Future
Another player the Predators will not trade is Josi. Before the season began, I boldly predicted Josi would win the Norris Trophy. So far, he has lived up to the hype. Through 31 games, Josi ranks in the top ten among all defensemen in scoring with 22 points (7g, 15a) and third in the league in blocked shots with 84. Not to mention, he is doing this while only having a $4 million cap-hit through 2019-20.
Josi has been tremendous all-around. In addition to being responsible defensively, he has shown his spectacular puck possession prowess. Josi has dangled around Norris Trophy winners Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks this season.
Kane continued: “[Josi] has really come into his own the past couple years. He’s a special player.”
— Robby Stanley (@RStanley247) December 10, 2015
Jones is Staying Put
Nashville was fortunate enough to select Jones fourth overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and there is no plans of him leaving the organization.
From the Nashville Post:
To all those waiting and watching for the Nashville Predators to trade defenseman Seth Jones for a high-scoring forward or two, David Poile has a message.
“That’s not happening,” the general manager told the Nashville Post on Thursday.
Jones, 21, is improving year after year and is on the path of becoming an elite defenseman in the league. Nashville will have to soon re-sign Jones, who is in the final year of an entry-level contract.
Though Poile is firm on not trading away Jones, he may want to at least consider it. Jones will provide an excellent return, and as the saying goes, you have to pay to play.
Given that Victor Bartley, Anthony Bitetto, newly-acquired Petter Granberg and Barret Jackman will not provide much of a return, that leaves Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm.
Ellis, 24, has 13 points (2g, 11a) in 30 games, and Ekholm, 25, has 10 points (3g, 7a) in 31 games. Ellis has a $2.5 million cap hit through 2018-19, and Ekholm will have a $3.75 million cap hit beginning next season through 2021-22. Their low cap-hit and high upside is attractive to many teams.
Neither possess enough value for the Predators to do a player-for-player swap, so it would require a package deal involving either Ekholm or Ellis, an additional player and a draft pick.
Nashville needs to do whatever they can to fill the missing hole in their lineup, and they need to do it sooner rather than later.
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.