The Nashville Predators are still in limbo when it comes to the trade deadline this year. For the first time in a while, David Poile has yet to make any significant moves this season, aside from firing head coach Peter Laviolette back in January. He’s normally very active in the trade market, but this year he’s been quiet.

But there’s still three days until the February 24th deadline. If we know anything about David Poile, it’s this: he’s as liable to make a franchise altering trade at the drop of a hat as any general manager in the NHL.

At this point, it seems like defense is the biggest issue with the Predators, not to mention it’s likely the only area they could improve via trade. Goaltending is still suspect and offense is still inconsistent, but those issues seem more than “one trade away” from being resolved.

Several key defensemen on the market have already been dealt, a few of which were interesting options for the Predators, so what’s left? Here’s three intriguing defensemen the Nashville Predators could look to buy at the deadline, along with why a trade will or won’t happen.

Sami Vatanen

Vatanen is a smaller, quicker defenseman than the Predators’ current stock of blueliners. He’s not Roman Josi or Ryan Ellis, but he can skate quickly up the ice when needed and he has decent offensive instincts. He also has some experience working in John Hynes’ system, which is a plus.

If the Preds were to acquire Vatanen, he probably would take over as right defenseman on the bottom pairing. Yannick Weber would probably be the 7th defenseman at that point, and Matt Irwin’s season would effectively be over (if it isn’t already). Vatanen would be a considerable upgrade in offensive talent from the other options, while being adequate (not great) in the defensive zone.

Sami Vatanen
Sami Vatanen’s isolated 5v5 defensive impact from Hockey Viz. A threat of “average” means Vatanen’s defensive impact is at the league average.

With Vatanen, the Preds could reorganize their top four, returning it to a more natural, balanced unit. He would be a welcome sight on the bottom pairing, which has been a recurring disaster this season.

Why a trade will happen

The cost won’t likely be out of Poile’s budget. In fact, it’s likely the Preds could get Vatanen for the same 2nd round pick they got in the P.K. Subban trade. Vatanen is a pending free agent, so the Devils are probably just trying to get something for him at this point. A 2nd round pick for a guy that upgrades your biggest weak point would be a reasonable exchange.

Why a trade won’t happen

The biggest issue with Vatanen is that he’s currently injured. He’s been on injured reserve since February 4th with an undisclosed “lower body” injury. While trading for an injured player is probably unwise, I think it’s likely the Devils are merely playing it safe here, holding back a potential trade piece to retain his value.

If a trade for Vatanen doesn’t happen, it might be because Poile is hesitant to trade for an injured player.

Jonas Brodin

Much like the Nashville Predators, the Minnesota Wild can’t figure out if they are buying or selling. They fired their coach and sold Jason Zucker, but have been playing some pretty good hockey recently, going 4-2-1 in their last seven games.

But if they do sell at the deadline, they might part with either Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba. Selling Dumba seems like a reach, but selling Brodin could be a real possibility, especially if they feel like they can get a good return.

Brodin is a left-handed defenseman who is more of a shut-down type than a puck-moving type, but he can still skate well. He’s also a minutes-eater on the blueline, averaging 21:49 time on ice in his eight years in the league. He’s a bona fide top four defenseman, which are rare to find at the deadline.

Why a trade will happen

David Poile has to recognize that Dan Hamhuis isn’t getting the job done on the bottom pairing. Acquiring Brodin would bump Hamhuis from the lineup and improve the defensive coverage on that pairing.

Also, Brodin wouldn’t be a rental for the Preds. His contract runs through 2021 and is moderately priced at $4.1 million. Poile is probably more likely to buy at the deadline if he knows he is also setting the team up for next year simultaneously.

Why a trade won’t happen

While the Nashville Predators have a trade history with the Minnesota Wild, the Wild have a new manager in town. Is he likely to deal a big piece of his blueline to a Central Division rival? And one that is currently competing for the same space on the playoff bubble as his own team? Probably not.

Plus, I am not sure Poile will like the asking price. As an established top four defenseman, Brodin would cost at least a 1st round pick and a prospect, maybe even more. That’s a lot to give up.

Dustin Byfuglien

The wild card!

Dustin Byfuglien hasn’t played a hockey game since April 2019, when he scored a goal and an assist in Winnipeg’s Game 6 loss to the St. Louis Blues in the playoffs.

In September, the Jets suspended Byfuglien for failing to report to camp. Then in November, the NHLPA filed a grievance on behalf of Byfuglien, challenging that suspension. Byfuglien had surgery on his ankle over the summer, but the team said he was cleared to play the next season. Some reports said Byfuglien was prepared to retire. Since then, the two parties have been in a standoff.

Since Byfuglien is clearly done playing for Winnipeg, the Jets have two options: they can either terminate Byfuglien’s contract, getting nothing for him in return, or they can trade him. If reports from the Byfuglien camp are true, that he still wants to play (and is able to), he surely wouldn’t turn down a chance at another Cup run. But would teams be willing to part with draft picks or prospects if there is a chance he won’t report to the team?

There’s an awful lot of unknowns about Dustin Byfuglien at this point, but here’s what we do know: at 34 years old, Byfuglien is a highly impactful defenseman that brings Stanley Cup winning experience and plenty of skill on the ice. He would be a substantial upgrade over every Nashville Predators defenseman not named Roman Josi.

Why a trade will happen

The Nashville Predators wouldn’t have to pay all of Byfuglien’s $8 million salary, plus it is likely the Jets won’t be able to demand much. A 3rd round pick? A 4th round pick? Less than that? Like I mentioned earlier, the Jets have very little leverage here. They can either terminate the contract or get what they can in a trade.

David Poile would not likely turn down a chance at such a highly skilled defenseman for such little cost, given the opportunity. However…

Why a trade won’t happen

If Poile has even the slightest hunch that Dustin Byfuglien won’t report to the Nashville Predators, he won’t make the trade. He can’t afford to give up trade capital for a guy that won’t play. Also, there’s a chance that no matter how little leverage the Jets have, like Minnesota, they might refuse to trade a defenseman to a division rival that is competing for the same playoff spot as they are. They might rather just terminate the contract and get nothing for him, just on principle.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —
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