Considering that the Nashville Predators are in desperate need of a top-six forward (or three) and the team’s current payroll being slightly above where GM David Poile normally settles, one could assume that Nashville will be exploring their trade options come July 5.
Add in a logjam of right-handed defenseman, and Ryan Ellis and Kevin Klein both have an equal chance to be moved in the next week or so. Shea Weber will, of course, man the right side of the top defensive unit beside left-handed shot Roman Josi. Rookie sensation Seth Jones will presumably play the right side of the second unit, with the best current internal options to play alongside him being lefties Mattias Ekholm or Hal Gill.
That leaves $4.34 million in salary next season tied to effective defenseman playing third line minutes. Nashville also has Jonathon Blum (RFA) waiting for his opportunity down in Milwaukee. Something clearly has to give.
Head coach Barry Trotz implied at the draft that he does not intend to play any blueliners out of position. Therefore, we could see a wave of right-handed defenseman being shipped out of town to acquire a top-six forward. Considering the Predators’ current salary issues, I’d say this would be more likely than additions through free agency.
Right-handed blueliners are a hot commodity and combined with untapped potential, Ellis could warrant that scoring top line force Nashville seeks. Klein is under contract at a reasonable price until 2017-18 and has absolutely proven his worth in recent years.
Poile indicated to the Tennessean at the draft that after stockpiling defensive talent, he will give his full attention to acquiring a top-notch forward. Unfortunately, that’s seemingly been the objective since the Predators first made the playoffs in 2004. Hopefully, it’s for real this time.