Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Expect Predators to Be Conservative at the Trade Deadline

Will the Nashville Predators be buyers or sellers at the NHL trade deadline? Historically, the Predators have not been major players in the trade deadline theatrics that many clubs seem to relish in due to their conservative management. Rarely does General Manager David Poile roll the dice in personnel matters preferring more of a long term strategy approach.

Traditionally, teams that are in the hunt for a playoff position pick up players from teams that are willing to trade current players and build for the future. This year may be a bit different than in the past as 25 of 30 teams are still in contention for the playoffs with less than two months left in the season.

In the early days of Predators franchise history, it was an annual tradition for players to be shipped off near the deadline in return for draft picks or other considerations. In 2000, all-star forward Sergei Krivokrasov and defensemen Joel Bouchard and Bob Boughner were dealt. The following year the Preds traded Drake Berehowski.

In 2002 many Predator fans felt that the heart and soul of the team had been sent away as the Predators traded Capt Tom Fitzgerald and leading point producer Cliff Ronning.

By the 2003-2004 season, the tables had turned and the Predators became buyers as they were in the playoff hunt for the first time. The Preds acquired Steve Sullivan and defensemen Brad Bombadir and Shane Hnidy who helped Predators make the playoffs.

After the lockout year in 2006, the Predators picked up two veteran players, Mike Sillinger and Brendan Witt that helped take a young Predator team to the playoffs for the second season in a row.

The most uncharacteristic move in franchise history came in 2007 when David Poile traded Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent and two draft picks to Philadelphia for future Hall of Famer, Peter Forsberg. The move was considered a failure as the Predators exited quickly in the first round and Forsberg did not return so the team was less four prospects and had nothing to show for their efforts.

Last year, as the Predators headed for their fourth straight playoff appearance, they returned to their conservative roots adding only Brandon Bochenski and Jan Hlavac giving up only one seventh round pick in return.

This year, before the Predators recent surge, they clearly looked to be on the selling end. At the all-star break, Predator players that were unsigned, unrestricted free agents for next year appeared to be prime candidates to be offered to teams needing a late season boost.

Included in that group are Radek Bonk, Vern Fiddler, Greg Zanon, Greg de Vris, and Villie Koistinen. Steve Sullivan and Scotty Nichol also fall within that category but would be unlikely candidates due to injury situations.

Currently, with the Predators moving up in the standings, it is no longer a certainty that they will be sellers. Their biggest need is obviously a scoring forward as they are currently 29th in the league in goals per game. Steve Sullivan's return has provided some additional scoring opportunities but they still need another sniper if they plan to compete through the end of the season.

In addition to the list of potential free agents, the Predators have an abundance of draft picks in next summer's draft that they can use to trade for a needed scorer. They have five picks in the first three rounds that would be attractive to a team building for the future.

How the Predators play on the ice over the next few weeks will weigh heavily in providing the answer to the original question as to whether the Predators will be buyers or sellers prior to this year's trade deadline of March fourth. An overriding factor will be that the Predators have a tight budget and will not commit limited resources that will affect their long term strategy to build from within the organization.

Either way I expect to see movement from the current roster that will either strengthen the team for this year or for the future. Any move will be a conservative one and will do nothing to mortgage the future of a team that is loaded with prospects and has a bright future with the current core group that has been signed for the long term.

The Predators return home to the Sommet Center Tuesday at 7 p.m. to play their division rival, the Detroit Red Wings in the first game of a four game home stand that also includes visits by St. Louis, Boston and Ottawa.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald

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