David Poile wants to make a deal. More than that, he feels he needs to make a deal.
It is understood the Nashville Predators general manager can strengthen his position with potential free agent defenseman Ryan Suter if he adds a notable player for the stretch run and possibly beyond. More importantly — and equally obvious — he can beef up the roster for what he hopes will be the deepest playoff run in franchise history.
“Everybody needs more depth and needs to improve their team over where they are today,” Poile told The City Paper on Monday. “You’re going to play, say, the last 25 games of the regular season and to win the Stanley Cup you have to win 16 postseason games.
“That’s a call for manpower, if you will.”
Whether or not he actually answers the call between now and Feb. 27, though, is anybody’s guess. Even Poile, who has managed teams for 30 years, can’t say for sure whether anything will happen. He only can say that nothing is imminent.
“Right now, there’s not a deal out there for us or — for that matter — anybody else,” he said.
Three weeks before the National Hockey League’s trade deadline, the Predators’ position is clear. They are buyers.
Nashville entered the week fourth in the Western Conference standings and just four points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the league’s highest point total. It has been one of the league’s best teams since mid-December, with victories in 19 of the last 25 heading into Tuesday’s game against Vancouver (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena).
Barring a monumental collapse over the remaining 29 contests, the Predators will be in the postseason for the seventh time in eight seasons.
The problem, Poile believes, is that the vast majority of the league’s other 29 teams feel as if they will be there too. As of the start of play Monday, the difference between seventh place and 12th place in the Western Conference was six points and the difference between seventh and 11th in the Eastern Conference was 10 points.
“In the next two weeks, if nothing changes — meaning if everybody plays approximately .500 — who are the sellers?” he said. “There usually are a lot more sellers at the trade deadline than there currently are and than currently looks to be on Feb. 27. How many teams are going to be sellers on Feb. 27?”
Arguably the best deals in franchise history have been made weeks in advance of the trade deadline rather than in the final hours. Center Mike Fisher was added last year on Feb. 10, and left wing Steve Sullivan was acquired on Feb. 16, 2004.
Now in that same window of opportunity, Poile is working the phones.
“Today, when you make a call, I’m one of 20 teams that’s calling one of four or five teams and we’re all calling about the same player,” Poile said. “So it’s clearly a seller’s market.
“It means that there’s not going to be the high-end players available. It means that the price for whatever you’re going to do … you’re going to have to pay an outrageous, inflated value to get a player whether he’s a rental or he’s a signed player.”
In the case of the Predators, a lot of speculation has centered on the perceived need to add a top forward.
Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan have been popular subjects of discussion given that the Ducks are 14th in the West. Even that team, though, had 20 points in its last 15 games prior to Monday and suddenly looked much more like a franchise that need to be retooled slightly rather than overhauled completely and seemed unlikely that Ryan and Getzlaf still were available.
Even without that type of player, though, the Predators were fifth in the Western Conference in goals per game, second in power play percentage and fourth in power-play goals.
“Our forwards seem to come under the most criticism, yet … we have a sneaky–good offense,” Poile said. “I couldn’t ask for us to be in a better situation with all that has taken place. It’s a combination of a lot of things. We’re certainly good. We’re improving. We’ve been fortunate in some areas to have had bounces go our way. And our goalie has saved our bacon when we’ve been outplayed or outshot.”
Still, he insists he is prepared to make a deal, even one on the scale of the trade that brought Peter Forsberg to town for the final two months of the 2006-07 season
“If that opportunity presents itself we will do that,” Poile said. “But, is that big trade going to be available to the Nashville Predators or — for that matter — anybody else?
“… I’m always open to doing that. I want to do that.”