The Nashville Predators made the most significant trade of the season so far, and they may not be done.
"Right now, we are a team that’s out of the playoffs as of today, so we got to improve," Predators veteran general manager David Poile said over the phone Tuesday.
"I hope it happens from within our club, but we’re totally open [to more trades]. Because we haven’t played as well as we had hoped to play at this point in the season."
The goal-starved Predators most likely would again be looking to add some help up front, even after getting center Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Seth Jones in the blockbuster trade of the season.
"We have to get more production, more consistency, so that would be the first place I would look," Poile said of adding a forward. "But I’m just open to ideas and anything that might come along. You know how hard it is to make a trade but for whatever reason it seems to open up more at the trade deadline."
"People use that expression, 'window of opportunity,'" Poile said. "I don’t like that, per se, because my goal is to be competitive every year. With the way the NHL has such parity right now, making that playoffs creates that window of opportunity. Because I truly believe that anything can happen [once in the playoffs].
"So, I think we have a good club that just hasn’t done as well as we’d expected. But we have almost half a season to rectify that."
Even if it means another trade or two.
Reached on the phone Tuesday afternoon, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher would not discuss specifics other than to say that yes, he’s trying to add offense.
"I’ve been making calls and I’ve been receiving calls, really, on a pretty consistent basis for the last two months," Fletcher said. "I think most GMs are in the same mode. Everyone is trying to get a sense of who might be available and what type of transaction might be possible. Who knows where it leads. Right now we’re struggling to score, there’s no question about that. The reality is the solution to those problems rests in the dressing room. That’s a group of players that’s been able to score before and will be able to score again.
"Anything I’m looking to do right now is not based on our current offensive slump, it’s about what do we need to add to take the next step," Fletcher added. "And who potentially can we add to the mix to make us a better team."
Patrick Marleau’s kind-of trade request has really gone quiet as a storyline since that early-season blip of news. But don’t think it has gone away. His agent, Pat Brisson, continues to quietly explore the market; San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson gave him permission to do so earlier this season. Things should heat up closer to the Feb. 29 trade deadline, although there’s certainly no guarantee of a deal. Wilson will trade Marleau only if it’s a deal that makes sense for San Jose. Which means there’s just as good a chance that it’s an offseason move.
Topping the list of trade deadline needs for the Dallas Stars would be another top defenseman. I wouldn’t expect Stars GM Jim Nill to make this a do-or-die objective or to give up the farm to get it done, but if there’s a deal that makes sense for a top blueliner, that’s where the No. 1 need exists for the high-flying Stars.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins it out six to eight weeks after blocking a shot with his hand Monday night in Florida, so that would likely dampen any interest other teams had in the 22-year-old Edmonton Oilers center. Mark Spector of Sportsnet revealed last week that trade discussions between the Oilers and Predators regarding a potential Nugent-Hopkins for Jones deal occurred before Nashville traded for Ryan Johansen. I certainly don’t get the sense that the Oilers have tried to shop Nugent-Hopkins, but you’re obviously going to listen if Nashville calls with a chance to land Jones. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t listen on other offers for Nugent-Hopkins down the road; they’re not in a position in which they can’t listen on many of their players as the rebuild continues. I just don’t think they’re going to force a Nugent-Hopkins trade for the sake of it. The priority for the Oilers is improving the blue line, whether that’s before Feb. 29 or just as likely in the offseason.
Preliminary contract discussions have begun between the Bruins and pending unrestricted free-agent winger Loui Eriksson. The 30-year-old is enjoying a fine season and is second on the Boston Bruins in scoring. But whether or not the Bruins and Eriksson's agent, J.P. Barry, find common ground on an extension before the Feb. 29 trade deadline remains to be seen.
The owners’ secret executive committee meets this week in New York (believed to be Wednesday) in a special session to further discuss expansion. Regardless of the outcome of this meeting, no expansion vote is expected at the full-fledged board of governors meeting at All-Star weekend in Nashville. But the smaller committee meeting this week is nonetheless important as the group continues to debate what the expansion draft rules should look like. In early December, the league showed the group its first draft of expansion draft rules, and it was clear from that initial effort that the NHL wants to make sure any expansion team gets to pick a better team than in previous expansion years. It wants either Las Vegas and/or Quebec City to be more competitive than expansion teams in the past to reflect the new-found parity of the NHL. That means a deeper expansion draft with better players available. Hey, you should get something for $500 million, right? But some owners -- and their GMs -- aren’t crazy about the quality of players and prospects they would have to expose in the rules currently being discussed. The matter of no-move clauses and whether those players with them in their contracts should be exposed or not in the expansion draft also remains in flux. Hence, for a number of reasons, the expansion draft is a delicate issue that needs further internal debate.
Always fun to look back and wonder how differently things could have worked out, right? Sources say both the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs were among the final short list of bidders (5-6 teams) for scoring leader Artemi Panarin last spring before the Russian winger made the decision to go to the Chicago Blackhawks, signing on May 1. Of course, being told at the time he might have a chance to start the season on a line with Patrick Kane didn’t hurt. But the Habs and Leafs both made strong efforts to sign Panarin, sources said. I think we can all agree Panarin chose rather well. Some 20-plus teams showed original interest in the skilled winger.