The Nashville Predators have spent much of the 2021 season at the forefront of trade rumors and speculation of when a potential rebuild may happen.
As the April 12 trade deadline approaches, the Predators appear to be in prime position to stockpile future assets while cleansing the roster of unnecessary contracts and opening full-time spots for many of the team’s top prospects.
One of the teams Nashville has been linked to recently is the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose General Manager Kyle Dubas told reporters on Tuesday that he was essentially open for business.
With a 19-9-2 record and 40 points, the Maple Leafs lead the North Division by four points over Winnipeg and Edmonton. Dubas wants to on add a top-six forward for the stretch run, and he reportedly has interest in Predators forward Mikael Granlund — whom he tried to sign in the offseason — and to a lesser degree, Erik Haula.
“It’s a rare time where probably a rental is the better fit,” Dubas said.
Due to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for players joining new teams, it would make sense if the Maple Leafs and Predators were to do business on a potential Granlund trade for it to happen sometime soon. Dubas said as much, stating he’s looking to make a deal fairly quickly.
“I think given the quarantine that’s in place right now and the 14 days where the player’s going to come in and sit for 14 days in their hotel and then join the club, we’re going to be in a tougher spot to certainly get as much out of it as we can,” he noted.
“And if you look at the schedule where it goes, where April 12 is the deadline and then if you go the two weeks beyond that you’re April 27 or 28 before they get out of their hotel, and then they’re only with the team for I think it’s like six games or 10 days or something like that [before the playoffs start]. So, it certainly provides an incentive to try to make the moves earlier.”
Scouts and GMs have less of a sample size to evaluate players this year with the NHL draft being held in July. Conversely, teams are reportedly rebuffing 2021 draft picks as having much value this year while instead asking for draft picks next year.
Consequently, Dubas let it be known that he would trade one of Toronto’s top prospects this year to expedite any potential trade.
The Maple Leafs have a handful of prospects of interest as far as Nashville is concerned such as forwards Nick Robertson and Rodion Amirov and defensemen Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. Any of the four would go a long way toward sparking a potential rebuild.
If the Predators do in fact part with Mattias Ekholm, as expected, getting Sandin or Liljegren in exchange for Granlund would ease the sting of losing the 30-year-old defenseman and also provide his eventual replacement.
Should General Manager David Poile insist on a forward coming back, Robertson or Amirov would stock the Predators cupboard with even more offensive talent behind Eeli Tolvanen, Philip Tomasino, Egor Afanasyev and Rem Pitlick.
If the Maple Leafs are serious about acquiring Granlund, and serious about parting with a top prospect, then Poile should be on the phone closing that deal yesterday.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_