P.K. Subban is likely the best skater in Nashville Predators’ history, so everyone knew trouble was on the horizon when he went down with injury. We all waited with baited breath. The Predators had failed to acquire another right handed defenseman during the summer, and now the “depth” that Nashville bragged about would be put to the test.

Yannick Weber, the only other right handed defenseman besides Ryan Ellis, stepped into the spotlight alongside Mattias Ekholm, and proceeded to get exposed. Luckily, Peter Laviolette saw that Weber was better suited for a third pairing position, and rolled the dice on Dan Hamhuis. 

Hamhuis was pretty good on the second pairing, but he clearly wasn’t Subban. He’s slow at defending the rush and provides very little offensive impact, but to be fair, he’s never been that guy. Expecting Hamhuis to match Subban would be as foolish as throwing me out there to replace Ryan Johansen. It wouldn’t be pretty.

While Subban has finally returned, questions still linger. Hamhuis will continue to be a great fit on the left side of the third pairing, but is Weber the perfect partner? My gut feeling is no, and neither Matt Irwin nor Anthony Bitetto are suitable candidates. So how should the Nashville Predators address this weakness?

Peace Comes From Within

ships n trips

I’m a big fan of giving the kids a chance. I’ve seen it during my time working in junior hockey, but kids will often surprise you if you give them the chance. I’m not implying that Alexandre Carrier or Frederic Allard are sure-fire stars or even sure fire NHLers, but what’s the harm in giving them a few games?

Allard just turned 21 years old and has 18 points in 34 games during his second year in the AHL. Carrier is a bit older, 22, and is having a bit of trouble on the offensive side of the puck with 11 points in 34 games. Both of them are waiver exempt, according to CapFriendly, and could play for the Predators at a moment’s notice.

Since the injury bug has been biting for the last month or so and the Predators have not activated either defenseman, it’s pretty clear how upper management feels about them. So, if call ups can’t do the job, how do they fill the void? 

Trades!

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Trades are a lost art form in today’s NHL. Every trade nowadays has winners and losers, and the goal isn’t just to get the player you like more. The goal nowadays is to make the other general manager look like a dummy. Now, sure, we all love to laugh at Pierre Dorian and Peter Chiarelli, but trades can be beneficial to all parties involved. 

I’ve identified a few players that I think the Predators could use and I’m going to propose a few trades. I’m going to do my best to make this as fair as possible. So these trades won’t rob a rebuilder of a prospect or a Cup contender of a core player. Now, let’s start with one of the biggest rebuilders of all!

All stats are at five on five unless explicitly stated otherwise and are correct as of January 2nd, 2019.

No More Parades In L.A.

Well, at least for the next five years or so. The L.A. Kings are some of the biggest losers this year and currently sit in the league’s basement. It’s time for the Kings to rebuild. The best way to accomplish this would be to dump some cap and respectable players in order to get those sweet, sweet draft picks.  And the two best targets aren’t necessarily the big guns, but rather two very servicable right handed defensemen.

Jake Muzzin is a 29-year-old defenseman who makes four million dollars for one year after this season ends. The 6’3″, 214 pound slick puck mover could be exactly what the Predators need. He currently has 16 points in 41 games, with 13 coming at five on five. 

Not only are his individual numbers surprisingly solid, but Muzzin also has some decent possession numbers on a terrible possession team. He currently sports a 50.73% Corsi, 50.88% shot share, 58.33% goal share, and 49.02% scoring chance share. The only stat where Muzzin fails to hit close to 50% is his high danger chance share, which sits at 46.90%. I’m willing to forgive Muzzin though, as he starts in the offensive zone a meager 42.79% of the time. 

Muzzin is riding a bit of a high PDO (101.9) but I don’t see much regression i

n his future. His solid play comes from his quick ability to identify a forecheck and make a quick pass out of the zone. His turnover numbers are high, but that is due to how his partners usually depend on him to exit the zone. I think Muzzin’s defensive capabilities could take some of the responsibility off of Ekholm and Subban while also allowing Josi and Ellis’ play to go unpreturbed.

The other King I’m after is Alec Martinez. Martinez currently has 11 points in 30 games. Martinez has had some injury trouble this season and is currently sitting on the injured reserve. While this is clearly not ideal, it might lessen his perceived value, and therefore his cost. Nevertheless, what we do know about Martinez is that he’s currently 31 and has two more years after this season ends at four million dollars.

While Martinez sits in the pressbox, let’s look at his stats. He currently has 49.22% Corsi, 48.30% shot share, 47.37% goal share, but a 50.32% scoring chance share, and a 51.35% high danger chance share. It’s not like the Kings do Martinez any favors either, as his offensive zone start percentage is just above 44%. 

The interesting part of all of this is that Martinez and Muzzin have played with each other for over 430 minutes this season. Their stats together are good, but when they’re seperated, Muzzin plays with Doughty while Martinez plays with Dion Phaneuf. Talk about polar opposites in terms of quality of teammate. 

All in all, I’d say trade for Muzzin before looking at Martinez. Muzzin has one less year on his deal and has better numbers. For a side by side comparison, look below at the wonderful SKATR tool created by Bill Comeau.

I’d probably start by offering at a second or third round pick. Maybe a combination of the two will do it. The Kings are losers and should be participating in the #LoseForHughes sweepstakes. Keeping these two older defensemen does nothing for their club except make it harder to lose games.

Flyin’ High

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but Radko Gudas could be a decent deadline pickup. 

Gudas is a fascinating player. He might not be the tallest player, 5’11”, but he weighs in at 205 pounds, making him a tank. Gudas is one of the few players who actively seeks out hits and uses his physicality to dominate the corners. Imagine Alexei Emelin but younger and faster.The 28 year old Czech defenseman patrols the right side for a reasonable 3.35 million dollars per year, which ends after next season. 

Gudas has 10 points in 37 games, and will likely not produce much more with the Predators. Despite his poor scoring numbers, Gudas excels in terms of possession. He has 54.45% Corsi, 53.15% shot share, 56.10% goal share (ON THE FLYERS!!!!), and a 63.74% high danger chance share. These numbers are in line with Gudas’ career as he rarely posts below 50% in any category. Gudas is multiple percentage points above the Flyers’ average, and it’s not a mirage, this is the kind of player Gudas is.

The issue is that Gudas often plays against middle six competition, but he’s always carrying around a younger player. His two linemates this season have been Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim, who are very different players. Hagg is terrible in terms of possession, but recieves little to no shelter. The opposite can be said for Sanheim, who has an above 55% Corsi, but starts in the offensive zone more than 56% of the time.

I think the SKATR above shows just how much of an improvement Gudas would be. I think now would be the perfect time to go after him. The Flyers have a new front office who likely has little allegiance to any player not named Giroux or Couturier. Though, who knows if Philly is willing to throw in the towel this early.

Giving away Gudas would be the sign that their season is over, so they may not be willing to move on from the defenseman. We should know sooner than the trade deadline, but Chuck Fletcher hasn’t always made the best moves for his squad.

A second-round pick plus Alexandre Carrier should be enough to pry Gudas away from the city of brotherly love. They might play hardball, but at this point, a high pick and middle prospect should be more valuable than a prime defenseman taking minutes away from the youngsters.

Blues On The Way Out

This will never happen, but how incredible would Colton Parayko look in gold? The 25-year-old is a certified number one defenseman who can eat heavy minutes and contribute in every zone. Plus, he’s signed for 5.5 million dollars for the next three years after this one. 

The issue is the Blues would want a treasure trove in return. It’d likely be Kevin Fiala, Eeli Tolvanen or Dante Fabbro, and a first round pick, plus who knows what else. Right handed number one defensemen don’t grow on trees, and no one knows that better than St. Louis.

This is more of a fantasy than a reasonable trade.

Sin City To Music City?

A wonderful twitter follower of mine suggested that Colin Miller would look great in Nashville, and quite frankly, I couldn’t agree more. Miller is a power play specialist who makes his money from the top of the circles. He currently has 17 points in 36 games, with only six of them coming at five on five.

It might seem redundant to acquire a power play specialist on a team that has Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and P.K. Subban, but it could mean that Mattias Ekholm would get some much needed time off the ice.

The only issue is that Vegas really wants to hold onto Miller. Miller only makes 3.875 million dollars per year for the next three years after this season ends. That’s cost certainty that contending teams need. Speaking of contending, the Knights are turning their poor start into a pretty good season. I can’t see Vegas giving up a “core member” for a reasonable price.

The cost would have to be stupidly high to get Miller out of Vegas. As much as I’d love him in gold, Miller just isn’t a reasonable target at the moment.

Can We Count On Health?

Depth is all well and good while you’re healthy, but it doesn’t mean much when your third line center can’t step into the second line center’s shoes. Granted, only three or so teams in the NHL have that kind of depth, but still, most Stanley Cup winners have it.

The playoffs are a war of attrition. Health makes life a lot easier, but there’s not enough supply to meet demand. Players will go down or have to play injured, so it’s important for third pairing or bottom six forwards to be ready to jump up. 

Do we trust Yannick Weber or Matt Irwin to jump up into the top four, or even to play competently in a third line role? This is the Predators’ Cup window. They rarely last longer than three or four years and you must strike while the iron is hot. Who cares how many draft picks it costs, maybe that trade is what finally puts you over the top.

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