February 9, 2018 | 4:55pm ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period
AS DEADLINE NEARS, PREDATORS ARE ALL-IN
TORONTO, ON -- Being two wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup stings. It stings the players, it stings the coaches, it stings the trainers, it stings management. It stings. The Nashville Predators have been dealing with that pain since last June and they don’t like it.
This season, we’ve seen how powerful the Predators are. Last season wasn’t a flash in the pan. They’re the real deal. And GM David Poile wants to make sure his team has the best shot of going after the Cup, once again.
Having already acquired centre Kyle Turris in November and bringing back fan-favourite Mike Fisher, who could lace up the skates later this month, the Predators are now hoping to add a goal-scoring winger to the lineup.
Poile has been actively scouring the market and have engaged in talks with multiple teams as he weighs his options. He’s willing to pay the price for the right player, and that doesn’t necessarily mean adding a pending free agent.
Evander Kane and Rick Nash are atop Nashville’s wish list. They’d like to add one of them, but they’re also believed to be eyeing the likes of Max Pacioretty, Mats Zuccarello, Patrick Maroon and Michael Grabner.
Pacioretty and Zuccarello each have one-year left on their respective contracts and their clubs, Montreal and the New York Rangers, are willing to listen.
But with news surfacing this week that Nashville is atop Nash’s wish list, the match here might be undeniable. Both sides like each other. Both sides would like to see something work out. But the final call rests with Rangers GM Jeff Gorton.
Gorton has 12 teams he can approach about Nash, Nashville being one of them. It’s up to him to find which team is willing to dish out the best package. Poile isn’t afraid to pay a premium, especially if it helps his chances are another Stanley Cup Final appearance, and he has the tools to do it.
The Predators have a ton of solid prospects they could move, and they still own their 2018 first-round draft pick, which is certainly part of the Nash asking price, along with two top young assets.
If Nash doesn’t work out, Poile could turn to Buffalo and go after Kane, who has a similar price tag, or go a different route altogether. But as many around the NHL seem to suggest, the Predators are all-in this season and that usually means taking a chance on a(nother) big move.
DROPPING A KLEF-BOMB
As we reported earlier this afternoon, the Edmonton Oilers are willing to take calls on defenceman Oscar Klefbom, but only if it means bringing in a top-winger that can play alongside Connor McDavid.
The Oilers want to add speed to their lineup and lack a few wingers who can keep up with the likes of McDavid and Leon Draisailt.
Klefbom isn’t actively being shopped, but Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli isn’t hanging up the phone. According to multiple well-placed league sources, discussions have already taken place, though nothing is imminent.
In addition to Klefbom, injured centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ name is popping up again. He’s expected to be out until the end of the month, or early March, but word on the street suggests he may be ahead of schedule.
Nugent-Hopkins has generated plenty of interest from a number of teams, including the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets, but he’s not going anywhere unless the Oilers can swap him out for a top-line winger or a top mobile defenceman.
With the Ottawa Senators dangling sniper Mike Hoffman, could a Klefbom swap work for both clubs? Edmonton’s been disappointed in Klefbom’s play this season, so it’s entirely possible – unless they’re trying to aim higher.
I also wonder if the Oilers kick the tires on Arizona Coyotes star blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson, though Arizona may wait until the off-season to know if they’re drafting first-overall or not before deciding what route to take with OEL.
FRUSTRATIONS PILING UP IN MONTREAL
If you’re a fan of the Montreal Canadiens and are beyond aggravated with how this team has performed this season, imagine how the players feel. It’s not a great situation right now, and players are wondering when the first shoe drops.
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin wants to shake up his roster and retool for next season, and the belief is management is intent of utilizing the summer, as well as this month’s trade deadline, to restock rather than rebuild.
And if part of your frustration lies with the coach and GM, it seems owner Geoff Molson is willing to let them figure things out – that might have something to do with the fact Claude Julien is signed for four more seasons at $5 million per year, while Bergevin is locked up through the 2021-22 season and also has a hefty salary.
Whether the Habs move centre Tomas Plekanec or forward Andrew Shaw, currently injured, by Feb. 26th’s 3pm ET deadline remains to be seen, but dealing away the likes of Alex Galchenyuk or Max Pacioretty is complicated and if it were to happen, it’s more likely to happen in June.
But if you’re Galchenyuk or Pacioretty, you’ve got to be scratching your head at the fact the Habs are listening to calls on two of their more offensively-talented forwards.
Galchenyuk’s ice time went from nearly non-existent earlier in the season to respectable now, but he still doesn’t receive the same type of leash other players on the team are granted. I’m still of the understanding the Canadiens prefer to keep him, especially now that he’s building some solid chemistry with Jonathan Drouin and newcomer to the lineup Nikita Scherbak, but I’m also told he was almost shipped to Anaheim before the Ducks acquired Adam Henrique, so you never know.
As for Pacioretty, unless a team is willing to cough up a top-pair defenceman or a top young centre in a package, he’s likely staying put. That’s the asking price right now.
Whatever happens, the season can’t end fast enough for a number of players in Montreal, and management’s focus is already on 2018-19. How they go about their roster decisions will be entertaining to watch.
With so much going on across the NHL, here are a few tips, if you will, on what we’re hearing around the League:
- It doesn’t sound like many teams are interested in giving up a first-round draft pick for New York Rangers winger Michael Grabner. His price tag will likely drop as we inch closer to the trade deadline.
- Vancouver’s asking price for Erik Gudbranson isn’t being met over with significant interest, either. The Canucks say they’re hoping to re-sign him, but they’re doing their trade market due diligence. We aren’t clear on the actual price, but we do know teams will wait for it to drop before pouncing.
- The Washington Capitals remain interested in Mike Green. The Red Wings are willing to eat a chunk of his salary, which the Caps would need, but the Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings are also in the mix.
- Marian Gaborik continues to frustrate those in Los Angeles. He’s bouncing in and out of the lineup and if Kings GM Rob Blake can find a team to take on his contract, he’ll pull the trigger. But we’ve heard this before, so we aren’t holding our breath.
- Similar to the players in Montreal, the guys in the Anaheim Ducks room are also ticked off – but at lease they’re in the playoff race. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf admitted frustration following Monday’s 7-4 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto, telling us the team needs to “figure out what we need to do as a group and trust each other.” The Ducks are just two points out of a playoff spot, so they have time, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see GM Bob Murray add a top-nine winger to the roster over the next two weeks.
- Take a look at our updated Top 30 Available Players List.