David Poile still has some time to decide if the Nashville Predators are sellers or buyers. But if he does decide the team should sell, it seems likely that Poile will move at least one of the team’s top six wingers on expiring contracts: Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund.

Since Mikael Granlund seems to be coming into his own under John Hynes’ leadership, not to mention his ceiling is considerably higher than Smith’s at this point, let’s assume that the best option for selling is long time winger Craig Smith.

There will be time to bemoan the loss of guy who has been a staple of the Nashville Predators’ offense for the better part of a decade, but for now let’s look at the top possible destinations for Craig Smith.

Calgary Flames

In an article for The Athletic, Scott Burnside indicated that the Flames are looking for some offensive pop, who have had scoring depth issues all season. He mentions in his article that GM Brad Treliving could look “to try to add a top-six forward with an eye to a right-hand shot winger” while also saying that the Flames were at one point interested in Jason Zucker.

Craig Smith would meet that criteria and could help round out the Flames’ top six. After Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Elias Lindholm, the Flames do not have much of a threat at wing at the top of their rotation. Andrew Mangiapane has had a decent breakout season, but is largely unproven. The Flames need a speedy scorer that can balance out their second line with Mikael Backlund, bumping Mangiapane down a line and giving him better competition to continue his growth.

This seems like a perfect fit for Craig Smith. His 13 goals would be 5th on the Flames this season, and his 139 shots would be 4th. He’s always a hard worker in the offensive zone and his presence on the forecheck would be a welcomed addition for the Flames.

What the Preds could get in return:

Since the return for Jason Zucker was an NHL player, a 1st round pick, and a prospect, it seems likely the Nashville Predators can get at least a 1st round pick and a prospect in return for Smith. The Flames have all of their draft picks in hand to go shopping, so the draft pick seems like a given.

Edmonton Oilers

Another team on the hunt for scoring depth, only this one is probably more desperate than the Flames. The Oilers just learned that Connor McDavid will be out two to three weeks, but have recently indicated that will not affect their plans at the deadline. They are buyers and are currently chasing down Vancouver for the Pacific Division lead.

As with the Flames, Smith would bring consistent speed and shot production for the Oilers. The difference is where Smith would play. He could find himself on a line with Zack Kassian and Riley Sheahan, the new look 2nd line with McDavid out. He could also find himself playing with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, which would be to Smith’s benefit. He could also find himself playing with former teammate James Neal somewhere in the middle six.

The options are numerous for Smith here and that has to be intriguing for the Oilers. Plugging in a consistent 20-goal scorer with speed into that lineup would only make the Oilers better, plus being a right handed shot on a team full of great left handed shooters would give them some nice balance.

What the Preds could get in return:

The deal would likely be for a high draft pick and a prospect, but the real intrigue comes with forward Jesse Puljujarvi. Puljujarvi is currently in Finland scoring a point per game, having jetted for his home country after becoming unhappy with his playing situation in Edmonton. The Oilers still hold his rights and could trade them away at any time. The Nashville Predators have an affinity for Finnish players and could come out on top of this trade in the long run if Puljujarvi transforms into what people think he can become.

New York Islanders

Could Craig Smith be reunited with former Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz?

In the article mentioned earlier, Burnside mentioned the Islanders could look for scoring depth at the deadline, especially “a Jason Zucker type” which Smith definitely resembles. The only thing holding them back would be that Smith is on an expiring contract, and they are reluctant to go for rentals, but they might have no other option as they compete to stay in playoff position in the Metropolitan.

The Isles have some decent shooters in Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle in their top six, but Smith would be a nice addition. If he doesn’t fit in there, he would be rocket fuel for their bottom six which is struggling to put up secondary scoring. You could see Smith complimenting Derick Brassard nicely on the 3rd line and helping to bring along young players like Kieffer Bellows and Michael Dal Colle.

I’m not sure Smith would sign long term in New York, nor am I sure the Islanders would entertain the idea, but he would be a good rental option.

What the Preds could get in return:

The Islanders have plenty of picks and prospects, including… Sebastian Aho!

No, not that one. The other one… the defenseman.

If the Preds are looking to restock their prospect cupboard, the Islanders have plenty of options. Corey Pronman placed the Islanders 16th in his annual farm system rankings (the Predators were 26th). He mentioned Aho, who was a top defenseman in the AHL in 2018-19. He also mentions Bode Wilde, though I doubt the Islanders would part with their 2018 2nd round pick for a rental.

Whatever Poile decides to do with Craig Smith, it seems likely he would fetch a nice haul on the trade market, just based on the Zucker return. And if Poile plays his cards right, the Nashville Predators could turn one of their most consistent scorers into another franchise piece in the near future.

— Featured image via John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports —

Facebook Comments