Catch 23: Roster Jam at the Trade Deadline
By: Miranda Martin
With the April 3rd trade deadline looming, many are wondering if the Nashville Predators will make a move. Unfortunately, it’s hard to budge in such a crowded locker room.
Earlier in the season, with players like Paul Gaustad, Hal Gill, and Patric Hornqvist on injured reserve, players were being called up from Milwaukee to fill the void. After a significant losing streak, David Poile decided to pick two players up on waivers in a matter of a week to spark the team to perform better. Suddenly, this seemingly barren team was flourished with players, giving opportunities for veterans to step up and new players to show their potential.
The major problem the Preds are facing is that the ones who can be easily moved are the ones that are performing the best on the team. Moving them would not only be detrimental even more to the win column, but it would be damaging to an already jeopardized “message” for this team. Gabriel Bourque, who is still on an entry level contract, is the highest goal scorer on the team with 11 goals. Victor Bartley, who was recalled in early March to spark the defense, has performed to a level that warrants a start. The traffic jam also resulted in two conditioning assignments for Craig Smith and Matt Halischuk not only to free up space but give them time to play.
With players returning from injuries and others like Erat, Legwand, and Kostitsyn finally finding their grooves this year, the players that filled in begin to hear their “Thanks for coming in, but we don’t need you anymore” lines. Over a week ago, Zach Boychuk found himself on waivers again after just 5 games Nashville’s roster. In that time, Boychuk registered 2 points (1 G, 1 A). On Sunday, Chris Mueller, who registered 2 goals and an assist in just 6 games, was sent back down to Milwaukee. Taylor Beck, who has also acquired three points (1G, 2 A) in 6 games with the club, still is on the current roster, as is waiver acquisition Bobby Butler, who has had 4 assists in 10 games. But is there potential for them to lose their spots, as well, especially in the future?
Should Wilson, Hannan, and Fisher get healthy overnight, this team would have 25 active players on the roster. Unlike the previous few seasons, this is not the time to waste anything on a rental player to make a “playoff push.” If it’s part of the rebuild, then sure, but just one acquisition isn’t going to be the key. With so many young players performing well enough on a season that is all but finished, this is a perfect sellers market to give them an opportunity to get their feet wet in the NHL. Besides, they didn’t get a chance to show it in a preseason this shortened season. It also may be time to move people that may not even have a very bright future within the Predators system to attain something in return. If not, there is a definite risk that other players may be lost for nothing on waivers. If the options are available, what’s the risk of making a few phone calls before the deadline?
With the Predators sitting at 12th in the conference and last in the division with just 13 games left, it is safe to say this is not likely the year of the Stanley Cup for the Predators. Of course, optimists are going to say that the Predators are only two points behind a playoff spot, and the team could make a run for the playoffs and squeeze into the last spots “Just like Los Angeles did.” It is absolutely absurd for this current Predators team to be compared to the defending champs. They were the first 8th seed team in the modern playoff setup to even go to the Stanley Cup Finals—winning was just icing on the rarity cake. The Kings made a major coaching change and picked up Mike Richards’s former teammate Jeff Carter at the trade deadline, thus having two players who’d previously played together on a Stanley Cup Final team in 2010. Not to mention the fact that the Los Angeles Kings didn’t lose a road game until… oh… Game 5 of the Finals. Even if the Predators were able to squeeze into the final playoff spots, their horrendous 5-11-3 record on the road would likely lead a quick exit. So why waste an opportunity for the long future for a quick, lackluster exit?
The goal of any team should be the Stanley Cup. And that goal comes with building a team truly capable and deserving of that title. It’s time to start looking beyond this season into the future of the Nashville Predators to make that goal happen again. Besides, surely our ol’ buddy Ray Shero could use… oh wait… Nevermind.