Ah, the weeks leading up to the NHL deadline.
For fans of some teams, it’s like the last few days before Christmas. Visions of goal-scoring sugarplums and shot-blocking reindeer dance in the heads of the buyers. For the sellers, the trade deadline is more like a game of “White Elephant” (or Naughty Santa\Yankee Swap, colloquially). What past gifts can we swap for new toys that still need to be put together?
Then there’s the in-between, steadfastly choosing to abstain from the Pagan revelry altogether. The least fun group to be in, on either side of the analogy, but perhaps the wisest.
If you’ve been a fan of the Nashville Predators for long enough, however, you know that David Poile treats this holiday more like Hannukah–he likes to get started a little earlier than Santa Claus and all of his merry trade elves.
With that in mind, this could be a week to keep an eye on.
Looking back over NHL trade deadlines passed, it’s easy to see that it’s not historically a big\meaningful day for David Poile, at least not as a buyer. Sure, there’s been minor tweaks made on deadline day– Sergei Zholtok and Brad Bombardir from Minnesota for a 3rd and a 4th; Shane Hnidy for 4th from Ottawa; Jan Hlavac for a 7th from Tampa Bay; Dustin Boyd for a 4th from Calgary. The closest to a “big” acquisition on deadline day came in 2006, when the Predators acquired Brendan Witt in the closing minutes for Kris Beech and a 1st in one of the worst-kept-secret deals of recent deadline history.
Several GMs, including Brian Burke, have gone on record that they prefer to do their dealing ahead of the deadline, when prices haven’t quite gone stratospheric. If you’re looking to avoid sticker-shock, the best approach might be the week or two leading up to the deadline, and this is clearly a philosophy that David Poile ascribes to.
Let’s take a look back at a few of the biggest trades in Predators history, taking care to note when they occurred in relation to the deadline. One quick note: a few years back, the deadline was pushed up by about two weeks, moving from mid-March to late February.
February 16, 2004:
Chicago trades Steve Sullivan to Nashville for 2004 2nd rd pick and 2005 2nd rd pick.
Steve Sullivan was a guy that I remember clamoring for on various messageboards at the time, but had little faith we would actually acquire. After all, to that point, the Predators were known for getting scoring from such unlikely sources as Scott Walker and Vlad Orszagh. It seemed impossible to bring in someone with an established scoring track like Sullivan. So when it happened, it seemed to hearken a new era of legitimacy for the Predators. Sully didn’t disappoint, putting up a hat trick in his debut against the San Jose Sharks, and providing the spark the Preds required to make their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance.
February 15, 2007:
Philadelphia trades Peter Forsberg to Nashville for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, 2007 1st rd pick, 2007 3rd rd pick
This trade is likely the moon launch moment for many Predators fans. Ask any fan where they were, what they were doing when they heard the news– I’m betting they remember. I was in class when the actual trade went down, but had been in a computer lab killing time for the hour before, when Bob McKenzie broke the news that the Flyers had pulled Forsberg from warm-ups and that it seemed a trade was imminent, and that he was hearing it was Nashville that had won the sweepstakes. This wasn’t a total shock in some ways– the Predators had been vocally involved in the hunt for several weeks, and the list of likely destinations had come down to Nashville, Anaheim, Detroit, or San Jose. In some minds, Nashville was even the front runner, given the amount of young assets they could include to get a deal done. Yet, even with the rumors swirling, it was STILL a shock. While the Predators were enjoying a record regular season that saw them as one of the elite teams in the NHL, and while they had very good\borderline “star” players like Paul Kariya, Jason Arnott, JP Dumont, Kimmo Timonen, and Scottie Hartnell– Forsberg was on another level. This was a legitimate superstar. A sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. When it came time to go to class before the trade was officially announced, I grudgingly made my way down the hall to the lecture. I think I managed to restrain myself for about 5 minutes before I bailed on the rest of class and went back to the computer lab, hitting “refresh” on the browser fiendishly, awaiting new details\trade confirmation. And then it came.
Ultimately, the trade didn’t provide the results that the Predators and Craig Leipold had hoped for. The Predators fizzled out in a sad effort versus a bigger and stronger San Jose Sharks, lasting only five games. Worse yet, it later came to light that the trade was as much driven by wayward owner Craig Leipold as it was General Manager David Poile. This was a last ditch effort to “save hockey in Nashville.” When it didn’t pan out, Leipold pulled up stakes, and the Predators entered a new era.
February 10, 2011:
Ottawa trades Mike Fisher to Nashville for 2011 1st rd pick and conditional 3rd rd pick.
This is another one that falls into the “badly kept secrets” category. Fisher had a no-trade-clause, and while it was well-known that Ottawa GM Bryan Murray was shopping him, the only teams he was a slam-dunk to waive for were the Los Angeles Kings and the Nashville Predators. Both were young, up-and-coming contenders, and perhaps more importantly, both would lessen the strain of travel due to wife Carrie Underwood’s career. While Fisher may not have brought the excitement of a speedy sniper like Steve Sullivan or the future-legend pedigree of Peter Forsberg, Fisher’s two-way, lunchpail game and leadership provided components to the spark that finally pushed the Preds over the dreaded first-round hump that had long haunted them.
While the attention will continue to be on February 27th, 2 PM CST, don’t be surprised if a gift comes considerably earlier for fans of the Nashville Predators.
This week may just be prime-time, when it comes to a Preds trade.