With the Nashville Predators (6-9-0, 12 points) dwelling near the bottom of the Central Division standings, time may be running out for them to salvage their dwindling Stanley Cup Playoff hopes.
Only six teams across the league have fewer points than Nashville, which is closer to a top-five draft pick than a playoff spot.
An intriguing possibility for the Predators and General Manager David Poile would be to trade assets that would have little or no use beyond 2021, stockpile draft capital and insert some of the team’s top prospects into the lineup to find out what they truly have in the pipeline.
For instance, Nashville could create four roster spots by offering up Mikael Granlund, Nick Cousins, Erik Haula and Brad Richardson.
Sportsnet’s Elliott Friedman reported on Tuesday that Granlund and Haula garnered plenty of offseason interest and likely would on the trade front as well. Granlund is 28 and has the higher offensive upside; he could bring back a second round and conditional third-round draft pick. Haula likely would return a third- or fourth-round pick.
Cousins being signed to an affordable two-year deal and being just 27 also could make him appealing to teams looking for an affordable versatile forward who can also play on the power play. He could likely fetch a third- or fourth-round pick. Richardson is 36 but offers some of that toughness Nashville craved when building its 2021 roster. He’s likely worth a sixth-round pick.
Granlund leaving would open a slot for Eeli Tolvanen on the second line next to center Matt Duchene, a play-making center who would likely bring out the best in the 21-year-old. To round out the second line with scoring depth, 23-year-old Luke Kunin could slide up on Duchene’s other side.
The third and fourth lines will be the most significantly affected with Cousins, Haula and Richardson gone. Colton Sissons is a versatile and underrated forward and will be a strong winger for 19-year-old top prospect Philip Tomasino, who could take over as the third-line center. Tomasino would need all the offensive help he can get to be successful, so sliding Rocco Grimaldi to his right could provide him with a solid complement of wingers.
Twenty-three-year-old Rem Pitlick or 25-year-old Michael McCarron could take over for Richardson as the fourth-line center with Calle Jarnkrok slotting in on one of the wings. Pitlick figures to factor into the club's long-term future, so let's pencil him in there. The other wing spot could go to either Mathieu Olivier, 23, or Yakov Trenin, 24. We’ll go with Olivier for now as he has looked more impressive in fewer games.
Shaking things up like this means the Preds could head into the 2022 season knowing exactly where players such as Tolvanen, Pitlick, Tomasino and Olivier figure into the team's future. They could also potentially enter the 2021 draft with 10 or 11 picks, including multiple selections in the second, fourth and sixth rounds. Nashville already owns Colorado's fourth-round pick thanks to the Austin Watson trade with the Ottawa Senators.
A new-look lineup would look something like this:
Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Eeli Tolvanen – Matt Duchene – Luke Kunin
Colton Sissons – Philip Tomasino – Rocco Grimaldi
Calle Jarnkrok – Rem Pitlick – Mathieu Olivier
Roman Josi – Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm – Dante Fabbro
Mark Borowiecki – Matt Benning
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