David Poile will work the phone lines in pursuit of trades in due time.
For now, the Nashville Predators general manager has decided to rely on the wire — the waiver wire. Two days in a row he has claimed players from other teams with the singular goal to improve his team’s offense.
Tuesday it was 23-year-old forward Zach Boychuk, who already has been with two other franchises this season. A day earlier it was 25-year-old right wing Bobby Butler.
Both have been prolific scorers at lower levels, but that production has not translated to the NHL.
“We’ve certainly come to the point after 23 games — almost the mid-point of the season here — where it’s pretty evident that our forwards are not getting the job done offensively,” Poile told The City Paper on Tuesday. “So we’ve got to look at different areas to try to make some changes, to see if we can remedy that situation.
“There’s other things but the lack of goals is certainly paramount in keeping us from being a winning team on a regular basis.”
As the abbreviated 2012-13 season reaches the halfway point, and with the trade deadline a month away (April 3) Nashville is last in the league in goals scored and the only one among the NHL’s 30 teams that averages less than two goals per game. Five times in the last six games it has scored fewer than two.
Most teams, including the Predators, continue to weigh whether they will be in the playoff hunt at or near the trade deadline and are unlikely to deal until they know for sure one way or another. Following five regulation losses in the last six games, Nashville no longer is among the top eight in the Western Conference,
Injuries have not been a problem. Nine Predators forwards have played in at least 21 of the 23 games. Brandon Yip, though, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, to clear a roster spot for Boychuk but was not expected to be out for an extended period.
Plus, Poile says he is happy that some of the organization’s prospects at Milwaukee are “playing down there on a regular basis and continuing to develop.” Three of the four top scoring forwards are Predators’ draft picks from 2009 or later.
Thus, the waiver wire is the best option with which to add to the team at the moment.
“When you get the opportunities for some of these younger players, like Boychuk who has been a first-round pick and just hasn’t made it, you’re really hoping, based on the things you saw back in juniors and in the American Hockey League, that being put in the right situation he could finally make it,” Poile said. “Sometimes you’re only one or two goals from making it as a regular.”
Boychuk was the 14th overall pick by Carolina in the 2008 draft after he had 72 points (33 goals, 39 assists) in 61 games for Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League. He averaged better than a point per game (65 in 60) in his second full professional season, when he played for Charlotte of the AHL.
In 80 career NHL games, he has just seven goals and 11 assists.
The Predators got him off waivers from Pittsburgh, who claimed him earlier in the season from the Hurricanes.
Butler was undrafted but turned pro with Ottawa in 2010 after he put up big offensive numbers at the University of New Hampshire. He was a Hobey Baker Award finalist and a first-team All-American as a senior, when he finished second in the NCAA with 53 points (29 goals, 24 assists) in 39 games.
He has appeared in 108 NHL games with the Senators and Devils and has produced 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists). New Jersey waived him over the weekend.
“They’re going to be at practice [Wednesday], and that’s the coach’s decision in terms of who he plays and when, and if he’s going to play them,” Poile said. “Our organization, our scouting staff feels that both of these are young players that have had good success. … We feel that the potential is there for them to be good offensive players in the NHL and let’s hope that we’re right.”