Our Predators mailbag is back this week and you all brought the heat.

We asked you guys for questions concerning the Nashville Predators and you all delivered in a major way, as per usual. In this week’s edition we take a look at the possibility of the team trading for Max Pacioretty and what that may take, what the best third pairing may be and why Ryan Johansen isn’t shooting the puck.

Earlier this week Darren Dreger of TSN tweeted out that Nashville may have interest in Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty as trade rumors surrounding the 29-year-old have really gained traction.

Pacioretty is a top-quality goal scorer. The left-wing has scored 30 or more goals in each of his last five full seasons played including a 35 goal campaign a year ago when he finished with 67 total points in 81 regular season games. That 67 point season was his second in three seasons.

This year the story has been a little bit different as he’s managed only nine goals and 13 assists in 41 games as the Canadiens have struggled this year in nearly every area as they sit sixth in the Atlantic Division.

Even with a slow first-half of the season, the price tag for Pacioretty is going to be extremely high, and rightly so given his very proven track record. It’s also worth noting that Pacioretty is on a very friendly contract at the moment which sees him make $4.5 million this season and next season. The Preds currently have just over $5.8 million in cap space at the moment, per Cap Friendly.

Nashville General Manager David Poile discussed the roster on Nashville’s 104.5 The Zone earlier in the week and said that if he were to make another trade before the NHL trade deadline on February 26, it would be to tinker with his forward group.

Poile is not going to mess with any of his top-four defensemen. Not to go too deep down the speculative rabbit hole on this possible scenario, but if Montreal was to start conversations on a possible deal, a trade built around Kevin Fiala and a first-round pick, top-end prospect Dante Fabbro and a first-round pick or even highly touted prospect Eeli Tolvanen and a first-round pick is, in my opinion, the only scenario that draws up a fair trade for both sides.

Last year’s third pairing during the Stanley Cup Final run was Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber as they each played in all 22 post season games. The Predators could certainly go in that direction seeing as how it worked out pretty well a year ago, but that team didn’t have Alexei Emelin on it.

The Predators have this luxury of being able to split up their defensive pairings virtually night-in and night-out thanks to having the deepest blue line in the NHL. In Ryan Ellis’ first game back from injury earlier this week we saw P.K. Subban and Emelin stick together on the second pairing while Roman Josi and Ellis manned the top pairing and Mattias Ekholm slid down to the third pairing to play alongside Anthony Bitetto and that lineup looked strong.

That likely won’t be the case as the top-four will be established soon, but it is a weapon so to speak given matchups around the league.

To answer the question however, I do think Ellis, Josi, Subban and Ekholm will make up the top-four in the playoffs – and the rest of the season – while Yannick Weber and Emelin will round out the group down the stretch.

Ryan Johansen’s game has always been centered around dishing the puck rather than shooting it. Currently, Johansen sits 10th on the team in shots on goal with 54 shots through 37 games played which is far less than his 84 shots on net through the same amount of games last season.

Shots on goal is of course the go-to statistic when talking shots, but when looking at Johansen’s total shot attempts, the numbers tell us something too. This year he’s managed 94 shot attempts meaning that when he does shoot the puck, only 57.4% of the time it’s on net. This time last year he had 108 total shot attempts giving him a success rate of being on target 77.7% of the time. Johansen may not be shooting the puck this year due to the fact that when he has, he hasn’t been hitting the target as much as he would like.

This season No. 92 has five goals to his name while this time last season he had seven. Needless to say, Johansen has an underrated shot when he does in fact decide to pull the trigger and I believe that with the absence of Filip Forsberg for at least the next four weeks, getting Johansen to shoot the puck more should be an emphasis.

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