What does the last game before the trade deadline mean? Generally not all that much really. If you’re a team that is outside of the playoff race but who still has a fighting chance, and who has been playing better hockey in the last stretch than through most of the season and who’s starting goaltender is playing his first game since October and you’re literally playing the best team in the east to gauge the team’s performance – then that last game before the trade deadline can be very significant.
That’s where the Preds find themselves tonight. Facing the Pittsburgh Penguins the night before the trade deadline and 8 points, four wins, outside of the wildcard spot, this evening could make all the difference to Poile tomorrow.
Dallas, who is currently holding onto the last wildcard spot, also plays tonight (in Columbus, on game two of a double header). A win for us and a loss for them creates a three win spread. Six points between a second consecutive playoff miss and a return to the post season – albeit likely as an 8th seed.
Not only will a win bring us closer in terms of points, but it will do a lot for the confidence of this team and its fans in the health of Pekka Rinne. Making his return against the fourth highest scoring team in the NHL is not going to be an easy task. A win will prove that this team can contend even though they are behind the eight ball. A win could make for a very interesting end to the season.
And it could keep Legwand, Cullen, Ellis and Gaustad on the roster (for better or worse).
The Predators don’t have too many tangible assets to sell off if management does feel like the playoffs are out of reach. Legwand is a good player but his consistency if underrated on a league scale, and I think Poile is unwilling to give up his franchise centermen on the cheap, even if it does mean losing him for free this summer. To be honest, I’m not sure I can disagree with him.
Ellis seems like a redundant piece right now, especially with the acquisition of Del Zotto and the extra defensive healthy scratch of Bartley or Ekholm. I love Ellis, I really do. And I think he is a late bloomer who has showed a lot of potential this season. But he is probably one of the few Preds that is expendable and would draw interest.
Poile has already done away with one of his big signings during the offseason. Cullen might be the second to suffer that fate. He was a pretty poor signing to be honest. We already had a ton of centers and acquiring Cullen in an effort to put Fisher on the second line and Legwand on the third was quite frankly a bad idea. He hasn’t done much to make fans believe it was a good decision anyway. Cullen could help a team down the stretch and would be a good salary dump for Nashville.
Gaustad is the final player that gets trade rumor enthusiasts going. The center was picked up from Buffalo to help us on our 2012 cup run. And he’s done very well in his role. The only big knock against him is the outlandish contract he was offered during the 2012 off-season. It’s a big price tag, but there may be a team in a bigger market willing to cut a deal for him. He can certainly help a team on the PK and is a great third or fourth liner.
Bourque, Wilson and Spaling (depending on his injury) could turn heads in the market as, but I am not sure that any of them have had a bad enough season to warrant the club giving up on them. They would be good pieces in a package for an established first or second liner, but I don’t think we are in the market for that position.
It all hinges on tonight’s game, in my opinion. A loss could see us 10 points out of the playoffs. A win, 6. Those four points are very significant with twenty games left to play.
Tonight shapes tomorrow. Let’s see where puck drops, shall we?