David Poile needs a top center to skate with newly acquired winger James Neal. He knows it. Everyone knows it. It’s just not clear how — or if — he’ll be able to do it.
The Predators’ general manager has already tried to pick Jason Spezza out of Ottawa, only for Spezza to nix the deal.
Tomorrow, Poile will try again when the free-agent frenzy begins. And despite Nashville’s well-known financial constraints, he says he’s got the budget to play the game.
In fact, Poile can’t afford not to. Not after hiring Peter Laviolette to coach a more up-tempo, offensive-oriented system. And not after selling Neal on the new, “fun way to play” Preds.
“Things are changing here,” Neal said today on a conference call. “We’re going to be a more offensive team. I’ve talked to coach Laviolette. Nothing but a bright future ahead.”
At the moment, Mike Fisher, Matt Cullen, Paul Gaustad, and Colin Wilson are the centers the Preds have got — a collection that doesn’t exactly scream offensive juggernaut.
So, who could Poile go out and get?
The biggest-name center that’s expected to test the market is, of course, Colorardo’s Paul Stastny. However, one would think the Preds would really have to knock Stastny’s socks off, financially speaking, to get him. After all, Stastny has no strong desire to leave Denver, and even if he can’t get a deal done with the Avs, there will be plenty of other suitors for his services. Like the Blackhawks. Would the 28-year-old take less to play for a proven contender like Chicago? If you haven’t heard, the ‘Hawks are in need of a second-line center. And unfortunately for Poile, “come to Nashville and win a Stanley Cup” isn’t a sales pitch he can use. Not like the ‘Hawks could, at least.
Besides Stastny, UFA centers include Mikhail Grabovski, Brad Richards, and Mike Ribeiro. Oh, and if Mathieu Perreault doesn’t accept the Ducks’ offer, him too.
Or, to put it another way, a guy the Leafs bought out, a guy the Rangers bought out, a guy the Coyotes bought out, and a guy the Ducks didn’t qualify.
Take your pick.