Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile has taken a lot of heat over the years for the unfailing loyalty he’s shown his players in keeping their core together and trying to replicate the team’s Stanley Cup Final run of 2017.
However, Thursday morning’s trade of Viktor Arvidsson to the Los Angeles Kings for a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 third-round pick could signal the beginning of a new era. Each offseason, Predators fans had to sit and bear it when Poile gave his players the benefit of the doubt as they said they wanted to keep the team intact and run it back. But in the four years since 2017, the light bulb may have finally gone off in Poile’s mind that the current core isn’t working.
During his end-of-season media interview, Poile struggled to find any semblance of an explanation for why Nashville’s top players weren’t producing as expected over the last two years. He did make it clear, however, that underachieving would no longer be tolerated.
“From my standpoint, where we were a few years ago and where we are today is not exactly the same place,” Poile said Thursday during a radio interview on 102.5-FM. “I think we need to go in a little bit different direction. I’m not saying I’m going to make a whole bunch of changes but it’s time to make some changes.”
Arvidsson’s $4.25 million salary by no means handcuffed the team financially like Ryan Johansen or Matt Duchene’s $8 million contracts do. But freeing up a sizable chunk of cap space gives the Predators some flexibility following the expansion draft to improve an offense thirsting for a difference maker.
Although he’s just 28, Arvidsson had appeared to wear out his welcome with the Predators’ front office. He missed 42 games over the last three seasons, and he never quite seemed to be the players he once was before suffering a cross-check from Robert Bortuzzo in November of 2019.
In the 294 games prior to that injury, Arvidsson totaled 108 goals and 201 points and produced at a 0.68-points per game clip. In the 85 games after the injury, Arvidsson scored just 19 goals and 38 points, and his offensive production dropped to 0.44 points per game. While not terrible, those numbers coupled with durability issues didn’t justify Poile keeping the 5-foot-9 forward around.
“In our end-of-the-year meeting, he was not happy with where he was at,” Poile continued. “I think it’s fair to say we weren’t happy. In our conversation today, I think we both acknowledged that. I believe Viktor is very appreciative and thankful for everything that’s happened here in Nashville, and I think he needs a fresh start.
“I can’t speak for him, but if you do speak with him, I think he’s okay with this. He needed something different… I think he would acknowledge this, that he just didn’t think it was going to work here anymore.”
Arvidsson was by no means the whole problem, if he was even part of the problem at all. Johansen, Duchene and Ryan Ellis — and maybe to a small degree Filip Forsberg — fit in that group of top players not producing like top players should.
While jettisoning Arvidsson to Los Angeles by no means guarantees that any of those players are also moved, it does demonstrate that Poile, who is clearly growing tired of not getting much return on his investment in the team, is not afraid to part with any player who might stand in his way of winning a Cup.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_