Last week, Cellblock 303‘s Jeremy Gover posted an article about the Predators’ search for that elusive top-level forward that they have been lacking. The article had Twitter and Facebook abuzz (anything with “Shea Weber” and “trade” in the title will naturally create buzz). It featured the idea that the Predators could end up trading Shea Weber for the #1 or #2 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and take phenom Connor McDavid or stud Jack Eichel. I’d like to weigh in on the issue.
First, the article featured a quote from GM David Poile that discredited the Predators’ potential attempt at signing a top-level player during this offseason. I think that is a grave mistake. There are a lot of phenomenal forwards out there, such as Mike Cammalleri, Matt Moulson, Thomas Vanek and Paul Stastny. It would be unwise to not even attempt to sign any of these players. If history is any indication, none of them will be interested in Nashville, but that doesn’t mean that Poile shouldn’t even take a look.
Next, I agree with the idea of trading Shea Weber for that first overall pick in 2015, if the right things happen in this upcoming season. Connor McDavid is the real deal. If you are unfamiliar with McDavid, here’s a comparison: picture a hybrid of Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk. Now make him ten years younger. That’s Connor McDavid. Eichel is also unbelievably skilled, but there is less hype about him in the hockey community.
I have a wait-and-see attitude about this possibility, though. Seth Jones has been developing really well. If he puts out another good season next year, and shows even more progress, why not pull the trigger on a Weber deal? For those who think that the Predators will be left significantly weakened on defense with such a deal, consider this: Roman Josi is just 24 years old, and Ryan Ellis is just 23. Both of them have blossomed into fantastic defensemen. If Jones steps up and fills the “franchise player” void, the Predators would be well-off at defense without Shea Weber.
There are a number of ways that a trade like this could happen. If we can assume that the Oilers and Islanders have bad years again next year, either of them could easily end up with that first overall pick. Both teams are hungry for defensemen, and have pieces that the Predators could easily acquire along with that first overall pick. As Gover said, Weber would yield a king’s ransom for Nashville. For example, in Edmonton, a player like Andrew Ference should accompany that pick to Nashville. New York could easily ship over guys like Frans Nielsen, Travis Hamonic, or maybe even Kyle Okposo if the Preds get greedy. Obviously Weber would yield more than the pick and one player, but these are just some pieces that could go along with that pick.
I also have another radical idea. Why can’t the Predators sign a fantastic forward this July, and then pull the trigger on the 2015 Draft? It is possible, but there is one big factor of risk involved. If the Predators want to sign a player like Paul Stastny with the 2015 draft in mind, they would have to “backload” that player’s contract, in order to make the finances work. Once Shea Weber’s contract would be off the books, the Predators would have more money to pay the back end of that player’s contract. It is very risky, considering the age of some of these free agents.
It may be worth it to get a skilled veteran presence to lead a player like McDavid or Eichel into the league. Plus, it would take the pressure off of McDavid or Eichel’s shoulders. Seth Jones had too much to handle with his ice time this seasonm so it got scaled back as the season went on. Young rookies generally have a tough time adjusting to the NHL if they have a veteran’s workload thrown on them immediately. Another top-level guy to share the burden may fix that problem. Imagine if the top four centers in 2015 were Paul Stastny, Connor McDavid, Calle Jarnkrok, and Craig Smith.
Okay, you can stop salivating now.
Overall, it seems like the Predators will be dormant this offseason. But, if the Predators want to see a Stanley Cup in Nashville, a top forward is probably the only piece missing as of now. In 2015, the opportunity may not present itself to get a top 2 pick. But, there are top level centers with contracts expiring on July 1st, 2014. It would be foolish not to at least take a look.