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Friday, March 2, 2012

Nashville Predators Trades and Contracts

Let’s talk about Shea Weber and Ryan Suter first and then discuss the numerous trades that the Predators were involved in before the deadline this past Monday.

Free Agency and Contracts

Ryan Suter will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and despite negotiating with David Poile (President and GM) at various times earlier in the season an agreement was not reached. Suter called it a distraction and then refused to discuss a new contract this past month before the trade deadline—talk about putting the boots to your employer! Nevertheless, Poile did not trade him before the deadline and who knows what will happen this summer? If Suter walks then Poile takes a huge loss because he could have traded him for players and / or drafts picks! I would have traded Suter for sure because there is no excuse for not wanting to negotiate, and all it could take for Suter to leave is a big offer from the Sharks, the Kings, Lightning, Panthers, Ducks or perhaps some other team.

As for Weber, he will be a restricted free agent this summer, just as he was last year and ended-up going through arbitration and was awarded a record-setting one year contract worth 7.5 million. Despite being allowed to negotiate at the beginning of 2012, he also refuses to discuss a new contract calling it a distraction.

I don’t know how signing huge contracts can be a “distraction” for these guys when that much money is involved? I would not be surprised if Suter leaves the team for a larger paycheck. The Predators will not let Weber go while he is restricted, and despite making 7.5 million this year he just might go through arbitration again because he is playing even better this year. How much can Weber like management if he had to go to arbitration last year? Poile knows that he really needs to sign him on a long-term deal. Weber might decide to agree on a short-term contract so that he won’t have to wait long to be unrestricted. It will all depend on whether Weber wants to be in Nashville or not. In my opinion, Weber should just be honest rather than playing games like Nash did. Everyone hates Nash after his lying, betrayal and continual deception up until this day!  

Both Weber and Suter claim to like living in Nashville but if that is the truth it does not make sense to not sign contracts before the playoffs and get them out of the way. Pekka Rinne was going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer but back in November he decided to accept a huge seven-year contract offer worth 49 million. That’s enough isn’t it, and the security it provides! This was a good contract for Rinne and he was offered that much due to his outstanding playoff performance against the Canucks last year, not to mention his great play in the regular season as well.

Obviously, Weber and Suter have purposely put the Predators in a tough spot and for management and fans it is not a good scenario.

Trades

In the last two weeks Poile was extremely active with trades in an attempt to add depth to the team so that they can increase their chances of winning the Cup this year. It has been said that Poile wants to prove to Weber and Suter that management is serious about doing whatever it takes to strengthen the team and win the Cup, because, he wants them to sign long-term contracts with the Predators after the playoffs. Well, I wouldn’t base my decisions on the possibility of pleasing two players. In my opinion, Poile made two very high risk trades and we shall find out this spring and summer whether he is a winner or big loser.  

Gill Trade

Poile began his trade rampage by acquiring veteran defenseman Hal Gill, and a conditional draft pick in the 5th Round of the 2013 draft, in exchange for forwards Blake Geoffrion and Robert Slaney and a 2nd Round pick in the 2012 draft. Gill played for the Bruins for several seasons, the Leafs, Penguins, and most recently the Canadiens. He is 36 years old, huge, and has a lot of playoff experience and can kill penalties. I believe that he has lost a step and has been in minus figures in all three seasons with the Canadiens. However, that isn’t the biggest problem that I have with this trade. Gill will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and the chance of him signing with the Predators is probably not great. It could happen but there are a lot of NHL teams who might pay him more on a one-year contract and maybe someone will offer him a two-year contract? Or, maybe he will even decide to retire? Whatever the case, Poile gave Geoffrion and Slaney and a 2nd Round pick just for Gill and a conditional 5th Rounder. Geoffrion is 24 years old and had only played in 42 games in the NHL (all for the Predators) and could improve if given more opportunity. At the very least he could be a good guy to call up if the team has injuries. He has already played two games with the Canadiens since the trade, with very limited ice time of course. Slaney is a minor league player and does not mean much in this deal; however, the 2nd Round draft pick this year could mean a lot. Unless Gill plays extremely well in the playoffs and decides to sign with the Predators next year, Nashville takes a loss on the deal and possibly a big loss depending on the 2nd Round pick.

Smithson Trade

The Predators moved forward Jerred Smithson to the Panthers for a 6th Round draft pick in the upcoming draft. This was a good move for the Predators because Smithson is 33 years old, has been in minus figures the last six years, and does not contribute much offensively. Additionally, the Predators had too many forwards and there was no place for him, not on a winning team. In sending Smithson to Florida, Poile was giving him a “gift” for the long-term service Smithson had provided to the Predators.  

Kostitsyn Trade

On trade deadline day, February 27, Poile made a second deal with the Canadiens by trading a 2nd Round pick in the 2013 draft, along with the conditional 5th Round pick that had been part of the Gill trade, for Andrei Kostitsyn. This reunites Kostitsym with his younger brother Sergei who the Canadiens traded to the Predators in 2010. Andrei is 27 years old and was drafted in the 1st Round by the Canadiens in 2003. He really has not lived up to the hype that he received. His best season for the Canadiens was probably in 2007-2008 when he had 26 goals and 27 assists (53 points) in 78 games. This year has been a tough year for him, like many Canadien players, and we can expect him to improve now that he is with his brother and on a team that is playoff-bound.

Both Kostitsyn brothers will be restricted free agents this summer and if Poile is wise he won’t overpay them because they have not achieved the stats that merit higher salaries. Andrei is currently making 3.25 million and Sergei is making 2.5 million. I would offer Suter a lot more money and present the Kostitsyns the minimal wage increase.

Gaustad Trade

Also on deadline day, Poile traded his 1st Round pick in this year’s draft to the Sabres in exchange for centerman Paul Gaustad and a 4th Round pick in the 2013 draft. Gaustad is 6' 5'' and 220 pounds and specializes in face-offs and penalty-killing. Gaustad is 30 years old and will be an unrestricted free agent come this summer. He has a cap hit of 2.3 million and Poile is likely going to have to put out a lot more than that to keep him in Nashville after this year; and, maybe Gaustad will not like living and playing in Nashville and won’t even consider a contract offer from them? Thus said, this is a huge gamble by Poile and it really indicates that the Predators believe that they can win the Cup this year. If Gaustad does not sign with the Predators and the Predators don’t win the Cup this year; then, Poile likely takes a huge loss, depending on how the draft pick turns-out for Buffalo.

Finally

The team that Poile has assembled does have a legitimate chance of going all the way since they added some offense, face-off strength, and penalty-killing ability. They still need more offense but when you have an elite goalie between the pipes, Rinne, it helps a lot. Remember that they did not have enough offense last year against Vancouver in the Second Round and that is why they lost. In the upcoming playoffs the two teams in the Western Conference that would give Nashville the most problems are the Red Wings and Canucks.

TJ Stanley