Viktor Arvidsson — traded. Pekka Rinne — retired. Ryan Ellis — traded.
Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile is sending a clear message to his players that they no longer have the luxury of coasting by as the team that made it to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final or won the 2018 Presidents’ Trophy.
The dismantling of that core started two weeks ago when Poile traded Arvidsson to the Los Angeles Kings for draft capital and continued when Rinne called it a career after 13 seasons. Then Poile took thing to another level with Saturday’s trades that sent Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for center Nolan Patrick and defenseman Philippe Myers, and the subsequent move that sent Patrick to the Vegas Golden Knights for center Cody Glass.
“It’s not dissimilar to the Viktor Arvidsson situation where I just felt it’s time for a change,” Poile said. “I’m very excited about the return we got for Ryan Ellis. I’d like to emphasize in my mind I don’t see this as a rebuild, I see this as an effort to get younger and add some elements to our team that maybe we hadn’t had in recent years.
“I know that we’ve been clinging onto that ’17 Finals, the ’18 Presidents’ Trophy but going downhill since then. If we don’t do anything, it’s not going to get any better. The hard decisions that I’m making right now is we need to change the cast.”
Ellis was one of the NHL's better puck-moving defensemen in his 10 years in Nashville. He tallied 75 goals, 270 points, and he has the fifth-best plus/minus rating (plus-114) since entering the league in 2011.
But perhaps the most telling conclusion drawn from Poile’s post-trade media availability is that his decision to ship Ellis out wasn’t necessarily because of anything the 30-year-old defenseman did, but because a shakeup was needed and Poile needed to start somewhere.
“It’s changing our team, it’s changing our makeup, it’s getting younger,” Poile added, “In this case on defense, it’s getting a lot bigger with Philippe Myers.
“I think the players knew that I felt this way. The people that are surprised or caught off guard, I think it’s the right thing to do. But it never gets easy making these trades. We signed Ryan to an eight-year deal, and I would have been happy if we would have gone all eight years, but it didn’t happen that way.”
After making it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, the Predators were eliminated in the playoffs a round earlier each year from 2018 to 2020. In fact, Nashville hasn’t made it to the second round since the 2018 season.
Poile has repeatedly stated that is no longer acceptable. The 2021-22 roster will look markedly different, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Poile had a few more tricks up his sleeve.
“Some decisions I make are not going to be popular,” Poile said. “When you make these trades, I would be disappointed if our players weren’t upset. I’d be disappointed if our fans weren’t upset because they’ve been cheering for these guys for a number of years.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_