Preds trade for defenseman who already was headed here

Monday, March 1, 2010 at 6:11pm

Denis Grebeshkov changed teams but not cities. At least not yet.

The first thing the 26-year-old defenseman had to do after he was acquired by the Nashville Predators late Monday afternoon was to move his equipment from the visitors’ locker room to that of the home team tat Bridgestone Arena.

That’s because Grebeshkov has spent the last two-plus seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, who will face the Predators at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the first game for both teams following the Olympic break. Thus, he already was in town.

The Predators, who open the stretch run in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, got him in exchange for a second-round pick in this June’s draft. Edmonton, with the league’s worst record, made the deal with the future in mind.

“We think experience is critical,” assistant general manager Paul Fenton said. “We want to improve our defense overall, and he’s very, very smart, which is a quality we look for in our defensemen. He also moves the puck well.”

His current salary, according to the NHL Players’ Association, is $3.15 million, which makes him the third-highest paid blue liner on the team behind Olympians Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Grebeshkov is scheduled to be a restricted free agent following the season.

The move gave the Predators, who earlier in the day recalled defenseman Alexander Sulzer and Colin Wilson from Milwaukee, seven defensemen on the active roster. With Cody Franson on the verge of coming off Injured Reserve, Nashville could have as many as eight at that spot, where it has had no more than seven virtually all season.

“We’re probably going to be deciding (whether we want to keep eight) on (Tuesday),” Fenton said. “

Grebeshkov was a first-round pick (18th overall) by the Los Angeles Kings. Since then he has appeared in 223 NHL contests for the Kings, New York Islanders and the Oilers. His best offensive season was 2008-09 when he had seven goals, 32 assists and 39 points — all career-highs. He never has had more than 38 penalty minutes in a season.

He was a member of Russia’s team at the Winter Olympics as well as a member of that country’s last two World Championship teams, both of which won gold.

“He is someone I’ve followed very closely since his draft year,” Fenton said. “We had him rated very high the year he was drafted.”

The only thing that would prohibit Grebeshkov from playing in Tuesday’s contest is an issue with immigration given that he has been playing with a Canadian team. Fenton said the franchise hopes to complete all the necessary work in time for the opening faceoff.

Two days remain before the NHL’s 2 p.m. (CST) trading deadline.

“The last couple of years, the right deal has not presented itself the way this one did,” Fenton said. “The fact that we got it done a couple days before the deadline gives us the opportunity to see if we can find someone else who improves us.”