By: Greg Moshopoulos
David Poile has been a busy man over the last several weeks. A GM’s job doesn’t allow for much sleep when your team is on the cusp of being left out of the playoffs for the 2nd consecutive year. Add to that the fact that he is pulling double duty as the GM for the US Olympic team, and it’s amazing he’s been as active for the Preds as he has been.
On January 15th, Poile got rid of Matt Hendricks, 3 months into his ludicrous 4-year, $7.4M contract, to Edmonton for goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so there’s no long-term commitment to him should he fail (which he has up to this point), and Poile even got Edmonton to cover HALF of Dubnyk’s salary. Now, when Rinne gets back, it’s possible Mitch Korn can work his magic with the 6’6” netminder and not have any pressure on him in the process. Score one for Poile in a big way to find a team to take on Hendricks’ contract and right a wrong.
A week later, Poile surprised everyone by trading away defensive stalwart Kevin Klein to the Rangers, for up-and-coming defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Most people view this as a fairly even trade, much more even than the Dubnyk trade for sure, though I find this as another win for Poile. For a team that relies heavily on its top 5 d-men, the Preds had ONE lefty, and that’s Josi. By moving Klein, not only did he get another left-handed blue-liner, but he moved 5 years of $2.9M cap hit with Klein’s deal. Del Zotto, 23, is a former 1st round pick is set to be a restricted free agent, so it’s likely he’ll remain on the team, and likely at a cheaper price than Klein’s deal. Furthermore, Del Zotto should thrive under the tutelage of assistant coach Phil Housley who has done wonders for Ryan Ellis this season.
So that brings us to the current status of the Preds, four points out of a playoff spot and one big UFA-to-be on the roster in the name of David Legwand. At 33, Legwand leads the team in points and his expiring contract makes him a distinct possibility for a true contender to trade for his services and make a run for a Stanley Cup run. There’s nothing stopping the Preds from trading away Legwand, with a handshake agreement that he’ll be re-signed by the team in the off-season. The Blues famously did this in 2007 when they traded Keith Tkachuk to the Thrashers, and got 3 draft picks in return, including a 1st rounder. Legwand is not Tkachuk, but if you look at their stats for the season in question, they are quite comparable. Tkachuk had 44 points in 61 games, while Legwand has 39 points in 57. I’d be shocked if Poile doesn’t pull the trigger on a trade involving Legwand after the roster freeze of the Olympic break.
Unquestionably, the biggest disappointment of the season has been the play of Viktor Stalberg. The 28-year old Swede has produced a meager 6 goals during his first season with the Preds. His speed has been on display, but unfortunately his finishing has not. Even though he’s said publicly that he’s a much better all-around player than he was last season with Chicago, everyone has been frustrated with his lack of production. Don’t be surprised to see Poile move his $3M contract over the next 4 years before the deadline.
Though the Preds have seen some change this season, more change is yet to come… and perhaps the biggest change in franchise history that has nothing to do with a trade.