Things are quickly spinning out of control in Nashville. GM Scott Davidson made some moves recently in the aim to address their recent slide.
Just a little over 2 weeks ago, this team sat on top of the Western Conference with a 5-2 record. After an opening season loss, the Preds jumped back to their Preseason form running off a 4 game winning streak. They then went 2-2 in the next 4 games which brought them to a 7-4 record and among the tough Western Conference elite.
Since that 4-3 overtime win against Winnipeg on Day 17 the Predators have gone on a brutal run, which began with back to back overtime losses. As we sit here on the brink of the Day 33 games, the Predators have now lost 7 straight games!
As you all know, the not so quiet GM Scott Davidson was not going to sit idly by and let this season go down the toilet. Said Davidson: “It’s honestly really disheartening. I loved this group post draft. I checked off all the boxes I wanted to in the draft, and felt this was the mix to take us all the way.”
This sounds like a different GM than we are used to. The normally brash GM sounds much different through this adversity, questioning if he is still the GM he thinks he is.
GM’s throughout the league are loving the freefall of the Preds. Nashville was picked by many to win their division, even with the questions surrounding their goaltending and defence. This streak of collapse has had nothing to do with Goaltending or Defence.
A team built to score and excellent two way play has done neither. Any team that scores 11 goals in 6 games isn’t going to win hockey games, plain and simple.
Losses piled up and aside from mixing of line changes and grasping at straws by coach Tocchet, little else was being done. Finally a shoe dropped.
Said Davidson: “I wasn’t sitting on my hands. I was running numbers. The injury to Paquette may have hurt us more than we first thought. Our forecheck really dropped off in his absence and what initially looked like a minor replacement certainly didn’t work."
He continued: “My thinking was that with him out I could finally see who was the odd man out in the bottom 6. The plan was to move some money out of the bottom six and use it for a defender or goaltending later. Who that guy was leaving changed after seeing the team play in Paquette’s absence.”
Davidson had a plan for the season including upgrades later, but the money was going to dictate, when and where the moves would happen. With his hands forced quicker the decision on the first trade happened. Longtime favourite of Mr. Davidson, Joe Thornton was moved out in a cap saving move.
“It hurt so much to move Big Joe, but 4 million for a guy who really was just a 4th line center made no sense. It took this losing streak though to remove my personal thoughts about it and look at the value."
In familiar Davidson fashion, he sent a draft pick (2nd round) along with Thornton to Seattle for farm defenceman Dillion Heatherington. Discussions for Joe went on with 5 teams in the mix, however GM Davidson felt that the Seattle offer was the only one where some value was returned, aside from the very valuable cap space.
Another loss ensued, this time without big Joe and running 7 defencemen. A bomb then dropped late at night on day 31 after what can only be described as an ugly loss to the Blues 6-2.
The backstory here is that the Isles GM Jussi Kalmi has been after Patrik Laine basically since the draft took place. This is a player who should be in the discussion as the league's best goal scorer and still holds untapped potential. GM Davidson had no issue politely declining GM Jussi’s requests to discuss Laine.
Before the Thornton trade, Jussi brought an offer again on Laine which looking at it outside of finances was a very solid offer and a great “Hockey Deal”. Even so, the finances brought a substantial amount of cap back into Nashville and GM Davidson thought very little about the offer given the knowledge that he needed more money for defence and goaltending.
“Hey, the offer was good. No doubt. But all my thinking for days was being put into finding cap dollars on the backend, and I loved Laine and Couturier.” The deal was rejected and Davidson was working the phones like a pimp in Vegas on a Saturday night, looking for options to help the Preds and bump out of this losing streak.
After many avenues explored and very little happening to get closer to a deal, a thought occurred to Davidson that might shake the team up, add scoring and then only bring back an extra 750K on the cap.
“Moving Thornton cleared out 4 mil, so I considered the deal from Jussi further.” Davidson approached Jussi to include Lucic, another personal favourite player and Wennberg, who was being shopped previously by the Isles. Lucic at 32 and Wennberg at 26 and making 1 million less swung the deal to a point the Predators were happy about.
Sean Couturier, Patrik Laine and Milan Lucic were on their way to New York and Teuvo Terravainen, Alex Wennberg and Leon Draisaitl were on their way to Nashville.
“Leon is one of the league's top 3 players. We got the best player in the deal. I wish nothing but the best to the guys we lost and I’m certain that Jussi is as thrilled as we are. Those guys have the potential to be among the league's best in a year or two, but we need a scoring punch now and at 25 years old, Leon will be a top 3 player for years to come yet.”
Does it solve the problems the league currently sees in defence or in net? No it doesn’t. But the added scoring could see the Preds lift out of this slump and the team has as much as just shy of 5 million extra in cap to add at defence and goaltending.
Those deals will still happen, but don’t expect Davidson to jump into a move unless it makes sense.
There was one more minor deal made during the off day. Davidson moved prospect Antti Tuomisto and a 5th round pick out for 4th line center Jordan Weal. Weal brings in a solid faceoff rating and at 900,000 per season is a bargain. This move allows both White and Granlund to remain on the farm where they are both having excellent seasons and both developing young rookie players.
The Preds have a very different look that they did a week ago. They also got younger, saved money and gained a true superstar. The next week in Nashville should be fun to watch and see if anything changes.
Who knows what would happen if this unbalanced GM saw the streak reach double digits...