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

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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’

Poile reaffirms that Weber’s not for sale

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There’s no question that teams would jump at the chance to pry defenseman Shea Weber away from the Nashville Predators — as Philadelphia once tried to do — but GM David Poile isn’t interested in listening to offers.

“We’re keeping him, we’re building our franchise around him,” Poile said. “I think we’ve got one of the best young defenses in the league. I think he’s got an excellent chance of winning the Norris Trophy in 11 or 12 days from now.

“Why wouldn’t we build our team around him? That’s exactly what we’re doing. We just need one or two forwards and when we get that, you’ll be saying, `Imagine that someone ever thought they would trade Shea Weber?’ No, we are not trading Shea Weber.’”

It’s worth noting that, possibly in an attempt to financially muscle the Predators out of matching their offer sheet, the Flyers made sure that Weber’s contract was severely front-loaded in a way that wouldn’t be permitted under the new CBA. Weber will earn $14 million annually through the 2015-16 campaign even though his cap hit is roughly half that. However, if the small-market Predators can endure that stretch, then his salary will begin to decline.

Nashville signs Swedish league standout Alm

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The Nashville Predators have inked Swedish league defenseman Johan Alm to a two-year deal, the club announced on Wednesday.

Alm, 22, was a key member of the Skelleftea AIK team that won back-to-back Swedish Hockey League championships in 2012-13 and ’13-14, finish fourth among all skaters in the 2014 SHL Playoffs in plus/minus rating (+9). Alm’s also established a winning pedigree, having either won titles or been part of runner-up team at the under-18, junior or senior Swedish league levels six times in the last six years.

At 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, Alm will add more size to a Nashville blueline that already includes the likes of captain Shea Weber (6’4, 233), Seth Jones (6’4, 205) and Mattias Ekholm (6’4, 204).

The Preds announced Alm is expected to play in North America this coming season, though it’s unclear if he’ll start in the NHL or with Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.

Trotz: ‘I don’t want to take anything away from the Capitals offensively’

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Barry Trotz was introduced as the 17th head coach in Washington Capitals history on Tuesday, and one of his first objectives was to clarify that the Caps won’t sacrifice offense for defense.

“I don’t want to take anything away offensively at all. I didn’t have enough of that [offense] in Nashville,” Trotz explained. “The team takes on the identity of the top players — in Nashville it was Pekka Rinne, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.

“The strength of this team is dynamic forwards, size, good depth, leadership and good people in the room. I don’t want to take anything away form the Capitals offensively.”

These quotes, obviously, will be of interest to Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, who has become one of the league’s most polarizing players due to his dynamic goalscoring ability — arguably the best in the NHL — and his lacklustre defensive efforts (like when ex-head coach Adam Oates called him out for quitting on a goal against Dallas, seen here):

To further illustrate the disparity between offensive and defensive abilities, Ovechkin finished with an NHL-best 51 goals this year… and the league’s third-worst plus-minus rating, at minus-35.

Trotz said that while he’s yet to speak about Ovechkin and his role on the team, he does have some ideas about how No. 8 can be successful “within the group.”

“Ovi scores a lot,” Trotz said. “But he can contribute in many ways.”

Despite remarks about keeping the offense intact, it’s pretty obvious Trotz was brought aboard to adjust how the Caps play the game — or at least approach it — from a defensive perspective. New GM Brian MacLellan spoke at length about the club needing to change certain facets of its identity, and said a big reason Trotz was brought aboard was due to the stability and consistency his teams displayed in Nashville.

“One of the things I like about Barry’s coaching style is it’s a consistent, disciplined style for 82 games a year,” MacLellan explained. “They don’t veer off it.”

There’s also the not-so-small issue of Washington getting back into playoff and Stanley Cup contention. The Caps missed for the first time in six seasons this year and while Trotz doesn’t have a wealth of postseason runs — his Preds teams never advanced past the second round — he was adept at getting Nashville into the dance, as it qualified for seven of his last 10 seasons on the job.

Trotz said that the key was to qualify for the playoffs because once the team’s in, anything can happen. And as for how long he thinks it’ll take for Washington to get back to being a Cup contender?

“With a couple of adjustments,” he said, “I don’t see why we can’t be in the mix right away.”

If Penguins want to focus on scouting and development, how ’bout Paul Fenton as GM?

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From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, on the Penguins’ search for a new general manager to replace Ray Shero:

Penguins ownership is said to prefer the new general manager to have a successful background in scouting and development, believing the franchise needs to improve most in those areas.

No real surprise there. As we noted here, the Pens have not drafted a player that’s appeared in more than 100 NHL games since 2007 (Jake Muzzin and Dustin Jeffrey).

In fact, Pittsburgh’s situation — i.e., not getting that all-important “support from the bottom” — closely mirrors that of Vancouver’s. The Canucks hired Jim Benning as their new GM, based largely on the success he’s had as a “talent evaluator.” Back in January, the Sabres went a similar route with Tim Murray.

Among the potential candidates for the Penguins job, if drafting and developing is indeed where ownership wants to focus, current Nashville AGM Paul Fenton might be a fit.

From Fenton’s bio on the Predators’ website:

He has assisted in player acquisitions since joining the Predators and managed the club’s Entry Draft efforts from 2003 (when the team selected Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Kevin Klein and Alexander Sulzer) until 2008 when he passed the torch to Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty.

In 2012-13, the Predators used 17 players drafted and developed by the team – which included 10 of the team’s top 12 point getters – and five more who were acquired by Nashville before making their NHL debut, meaning 22 of 34 players used by the Predators in each of the last two seasons have been “homegrown.”