The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, April 12 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be moved by then. We start today with Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm.
It was only a few short years ago that the Nashville Predators were one of the league’s elite teams.
A 2017 Stanley Cup Final appearance was followed up by a 117-point Presidents’ Trophy season with a core of players that looked to be ready to compete for years. That never happened. That two-year run ended up being their peak and it has been a steady regression ever since with decreasing point totals and shorter postseason appearances. This season, the postseason is starting to look out of reach entirely.
With 26 games remaining on their schedule as of Saturday they are six points out of a playoff spot, seventh out eight teams in their own division by points percentage, and have the same issues offensively and on special teams that have plagued them for the past few years with some questionable contracts adding up. It is a team that has seemingly reached its peak as presently constructed and it is becoming increasingly clear that some changes are needed.
Those changes should not necessarily involve players like Filip Forsberg or Roman Josi (at least not yet), but they could start with Mattias Ekholm.
He still has one year remaining after this season on a contract that carries a salary cap hit of $3.75 million. That remaining term, affordable salary cap number, and his overall play should make him an attractive trade chip for the Predators to start their reset. Or retool. Their rebuild. Whatever buzzword you want to use to describe it.
[Related: Taylor Hall trade would benefit everybody]
What the return might look like
It is the Jake Muzzin return. A veteran defenseman around the age of 30 that is strong defensively, drives possession, can add some offense and has one-and-a-half seasons remaining on an affordable contract. That return could be something along the lines of a first-round pick and either one pretty good prospect, or two lower level prospects.
The most logical landing spots: Winnipeg, Toronto, Boston
There is a lot to like about the Jets due to their forwards and goaltending, but the defense is still in need of some extra help. This team is screaming for a player like Ekholm. The North Division is wide open for the taking, and for as big of a lead as Toronto jumped out to it is not invincible out of that group. Somebody from that division is going to reach the semifinals. The Jets have the forwards and goaltending. They need the defense.
Toronto is a logical choice given the seemingly “all in” mindset for this season, but given their current struggles they might need to address the goaltending issue before the defense. That is the concern right now.
Boston has the salary cap space to make a play for a top defenseman at the trade deadline but given how much their secondary scoring has hurt this season
Wild Card team: Philadelphia
The Flyers are trending in the wrong direction at the moment and have some issues. Those issues start on the blue line. This is also a team that wants action from its front office. The more bold moves, the better. Would Ekholm be enough to get them in a playoff position this season? Maybe. Maybe not. That is a tough division and one good team is going to end up missing the playoffs. They would still have that goal for next season either way, and Ekholm’s ability, remaining term and salary cap number would be attractive. Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere have not developed as hoped and there is a clear need here for more help on defense.
Spot I want to see just for fun: Montreal
Now that Jim Rutherford is no longer currently an NHL general manager, Marc Bergevin has taken over as the league’s most unpredictable and wildest move maker. Who knows what this team has planned and he has already overhauled most of his roster over the past year to try and get in the playoffs, so what is one more big move? Keep making trades, Marc.
NHL Trade Deadline prediction
The Winnipeg Jets see an opportunity to make a move, a chance to make a run, and give up the pick and prospects to get Ekholm for this season and beyond. It is a perfect match.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.