Preds would consider trading first-round pick for ‘top-six’ forward


From The Tennessean:

The Predators are open to trading their first-round pick in the NHL Draft in exchange for a “top six” forward, general manager David Poile said today.

Poile indicated the crop of unrestricted free agents this offseason is less than stellar…and there are not many such players who could jump in and help the Predators immediately.

The Preds have the 11th overall pick in the draft. They also have a new coach in Peter Laviolette, who was hired in part because he likes to play a more offensive style.

What they don’t have is a dynamic play-maker up front. Nashville’s leading scorer in 2013-14 was Shea Weber, a defenseman. Its top scoring forward was winger Patric Hornqvist, who finished with 53 points. Over 70 NHL players had more points than Hornqvist.

PS — apparently Nashville is one of the teams on Jason Spezza’s no-trade list.

Related: Poile likes Lavy’s ‘fun way to play’

All of a sudden the Canucks aren’t so slow

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For Vancouver GM Jim Benning, it became clear early last season that speed was an issue for his team.

Specifically, the Canucks didn’t have enough of it.

And that’s a pretty big problem in today’s NHL.

Fast forward to when Vancouver was eliminated by Calgary in the first round of the playoffs and it was the Flames’ ability to “get in on the forecheck” (an oft-used phrase by Benning) that proved a deciding factor.

And so Benning made changes. He traded aging defender Kevin Bieksa and slow-footed forward Nick Bonino. He acquired Matt Bartkowski, an excellent skater, and Brandon Sutter, also a good skater.

But most importantly, Benning committed to a younger roster. Last night in Calgary, the Canucks earned a 5-1 victory with a lineup that featured Sven Baertschi, 23, Ben Hutton, 22, Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19.

All four can skate.

So can Jake Virtanen, 19, who was a healthy scratch.

Add Jannik Hansen and Derek Dorsett, arguably their fastest veteran skaters, to the equation and all of a sudden Vancouver doesn’t look so slow anymore.

“The Canucks were much better than us,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “We got what we deserved. They kicked our butts.”

Granted, it was only the first of 82 games. Who knows if kids like McCann and Hutton can maintain their level of play for an entire season.

But last night?

That wasn’t the same Vancouver team as last year.

Benning made sure of that.

Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

We’ll start to find out tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.