The National Hockey League’s trade deadline came and went Wednesday, and the Nashville Predators did not participate.
General manager David Poile chose not to take part in any of the 22 trades, which were executed prior to the 2 p.m. (CST) deadline and involved 47 players and 21 draft picks.
It was the sixth consecutive year at least 20 moves were made on the final day of dealing, and the number of players who switched teams was a deadline day record.
Poile made it clear that he did not sit idly as his peers tried to transform their rosters for the better. He simply could not come to an agreement on anything that he figured was favorable to his team, which recently has thrust itself into the heat of the playoff chase.
“We had a lot of discussions, although maybe not as many as in years past,” Poile said. “I chalk it up to the parity we find in the playoff race and the fact that there were not a lot of offensive players available.
“Nothing quite seemed to fit, either because of the price being asked or the chemistry it would have brought to our team.”
In every previous season Nashville has been active on the final day or those leading up to it but, according to Poile, this year was different – both for the franchise and the league as a whole.
In most seasons, two or three days in which there are a limited number of transactions precede the final day of dealing.
That was not the case this time. There was one trade (New Jersey and Atlanta) on Monday and two others last Thursday.
As a result, general managers who wanted to move players on Wednesday were asking a higher-than-normal price. Poile resisted the temptation to make a move simply to say he did so.
“Suddenly someone who might have been seeking a third-round pick says they want a second-round pick,” Poile said. “It’s like the store is closing and you have to make a selection really fast. Sometimes teams can overpay in that situation.”
On the strength of a recent surge the Predators were just one of seven teams between sixth and 12th in the conference separated by just six points with roughly 20 percent of the season remaining. In the East, there was a six-point difference between fifth and 10th place.
That effectively meant there were eight teams looking to move players and 22 hoping to add them.
“No question, our play since the All-Star break put us in a position to become ‘buyers,’” Poile said. “That changed the perception of a lot of people who figured we were certain to be a team that would be selling. With the intensity of the playoff races, there just were not a lot of people offering much, particularly offensive players, which was the area we wanted to try to improve.”
In 2006-07, the Predators landed the most coveted free-agent-to-be, Peter Forsberg in a deal with Philadelphia, which cost Nashville two former first-round draft picks (Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent) and a future first-round choice.
The result was a first-round to loss to San Jose in a series that lasted just five games.
Poile stressed that – as he always has – his focus is not just to field a competitive team in the present but also one that will remain that way in the future. Plus, he noted that other factors prevented a similarly bold move this season.
“You’re talking about a team that season that had the third-best record in the league and wasn’t looking to get in the playoffs but to make a playoff run and try to win a Stanley Cup,” Poile said. “Plus we had an owner (Craig Leipold) who felt we had to do something significant to try to create more fan interest.
“We’ve lost half of the players from that team, and we’ve been rebuilding and restocking ever since.”
ON A ROLL
Following the 6-5 overtime victory over Edmonton on Tuesday, the Predators had earned 15 points in their last 10 games (7-2-1). Prior to Wednesday’s contests, only three teams had earned more points over the same period.
On the strength of a 12-5-1 mark since the All-Star break, Nashville climbed to eighth place in the Western Conference and thereby negated the possibility that it would try to dump salary or move veteran players to create opportunities for prospects.
They scored at least four goals in four straight games for the first time this season and had outscored the opposition 23-10 over that span.
“We have a good thing going right now, for sure,” Poile said. “You always like to try to get help and improve your team, but we do feel like we have good chemistry right now. Plus we felt like we have an obligation to the players who have been here and have put us in this position.”
HELP IS ON THE WAY
Poile noted that possibly the best move he’s made this season had nothing to do with his decision-making.
Steve Sullivan’s return from an absence of nearly two years because of a back injury provided an additional scorer for the top and helped solidify the second line.
Sullivan has scored 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 23 games, including 11 (six goals, five assists) in the last seven games.
With that in mind, the Predators to look forward to the return of forwards Scott Nichol, Radek Bonk and Martin Erat from injury. Nichol has been out since mid-December, Bonk has missed six of the last nine and Erat has missed the last two.
All are expected to return within the next two weeks to provide some much-needed depth up front.
“We’re playing very well right now and we have good, solid team chemistry,” Poile said. “We have three forwards who are ready to get back, and we expect that will make us even better.”
Trade Deadline Activity Since 1979-80
Season Date Trades Players
1979-80 March 11, 1980 3 5
1980-81 March 10, 1981 12 22
1981-82 March 9, 1982 5 11
1982-83 March 8, 1983 1 1
1983-84 March 6, 1984 2 2
1984-85 March 12, 1985 4 7
1985-86 March 11, 1986 8 14
1986-87 March 10, 1987 5 9
1987-88 March 8, 1988 8 12
1988-89 March 7, 1989 9 21
1989-90 March 6, 1990 10 16
1990-91 March 5, 1991 14 33
1991-92 March 10, 1992 11 22
1992-93 March 22, 1993 9 14
1993-94 March 21, 1994 18 35
1994-95 April 7, 1995 19 32
1995-96 March 20, 1996 13 21
1996-97 March 18, 1997 18 35
1997-98 March 24, 1998 19 38
1998-99 March 23, 1999 21 30
1999-00 March 14, 2000 12 23
2000-01 March 13, 2001 17 31
2001-02 March 19, 2002 17 35
2002-03 March 11, 2003 24 46
2003-04 March 9, 2004 20 32
2005-06 March 9, 2006 25 40
2006-07 February 27, 2007 25 44
2007-08 February 26, 2008 25 45
2008-09 March 4, 2009 22 47
(source: National Hockey League)