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Predators should not trade Tolvanen, Fiala at deadline

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Note: The situation would change considerably if the Predators managed to keep a trade target like Artemi Panarin or Mark Stone. This post revolves around the dangers of paying a big price just to rent someone like them.

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Looking to the past has its obvious flaws (are any two situations truly alike?), yet the Nashville Predators should consider history before trading Eeli Tolvanen and/or Kevin Fiala. The result would preferably be to … uh, not trade either of them.

One can look to other recent trades as warnings, including the Edmonton Oilers selling low on Jordan Eberle, but the Predators’ longer history probably resonates best with GM David Poile and the fanbase.

Remember the Forsbergs

We probably don’t need to linger on that one, as I already feel the piercing glare of Capitals fans for beating that dead horse.

  • In February 2007, the Predators sent a first and third-round pick (plus Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent) to the Flyers for Peter Forsberg.

Forsberg actually put up some impressive numbers during his short stay with Nashville (15 points in 17 regular-season games, four in five playoff contests), but the Predators were bounced 4-1 by the Sharks in the first round of that postseason.

Potential fallout of trading Fiala

This was mentioned in a post about not trading Jonathan Huberdeau, but it might be a point that I bleat out until the trade deadline: GMs should institute their own rule about never trading away a talented player whose shooting percentage is below 10 percent during that season. (If it’s the summer, use the most recent season as your barometer.)

If the Predators need a more splash-of-cold-water example than Eberle, try Jeff Skinner. I pre-scolded the Hurricanes about trading Skinner when his value was artificially low in May (24 goals in 82 games on an 8.7 shooting percentage in 2017-18), they did it anyway before the season for a weak return, and now Skinner’s playing so well (34 goals in 56 games, 18.5 shooting percentage) that there are credible talks that he might earn $9 million per season on his next deal.

Fiala is just 22, and as the speedy 11th pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, there’s plenty of pedigree there to expect bigger things. Guess what: Fiala’s shooting percentage is at just 7.3 percent this season, and his career average is a flat 10.

People are frustrated with the Predators second line, and so you hear people losing patience with Fiala. But those lost-patience deals are often the ones where teams lose big in trades. That might have happened with the Hurricanes and Skinner, and it likely happened when the Oilers traded Eberle after a tough playoff run.

Here’s the thing: a smart team might actually leverage this for future gains, and the Predators have shown some history of being wise in exactly that way.

When you look at the best contracts on the Predators’ salary structure at Cap Friendly, you’ll see some situations where context and luck helped Nashville get good deals, like with the trend-setting bargain for Juuse Saros and the flat-out lucky steal with Viktor Arvidsson, who somehow has 26 goals in just 36 games this season.

But then you’ll see examples of the Predators showing foresight and signing players before they blossomed.

Consider the deals the Predators landed for the likes of Forsberg, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm, and you’ll see a team that’s leveraged RFA advantages to lock up guys for term, in many cases before they’ve been identified as difference-makers. (In Ellis’ case, consider that his expiring $2.5M cap hit lasted for five seasons.)

Fiala’s struggles could serve as Nashville’s gain. If they could lock him up for a value contract, Fiala could deliver top-six forward production at an affordable price, which could be crucial when players like Josi need new deals (in Josi’s case, after 2019-20).

When you don’t know what you have

Not that long ago, people were wondering how the Predators stole Eeli Tolvanen with the 30th pick in 2017. It might feel like he’s taking forever to develop, yet it’s easy to forget that he’s just 19 years old.

The Filip Forsberg trade is the big, waving, red flag regarding Tolvanen.

While it’s true that landing Artemi Panarin would be worlds ahead of what the Capitals received in even their more optimistic projections with Erat in 2013, the point is that Washington clearly didn’t know what it had in Forsberg. If the Predators are being truly honest, they’d admit that they do not know what kind of player Tolvanen is yet.

On the lowish end, Tolvanen could be a depth player/specialist on a cheap entry-level contract. If he reached his ceiling, the Predators’ would get a cost-controlled player whose earnings would still be pretty limited. How many contenders wouldn’t love to have a potentially cheap difference-maker through 2020-21?

Sure, it stinks that Tolvanen’s only scored one goal and one assist in seven NHL games, but he also only averaged 12:46 time on ice. It would be better if he was tearing up the AHL right now, yet considering that he could have left for the KHL because of a special out-clause – but instead stayed – the Predators should reward him. And, by rewarding him, there’s a strong chance they’d reward themselves.

More palatable options

The Predators have other chess pieces to move around that trade deadline board.

If they feel like they must move a valuable future asset for Panarin, Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, Wayne Simmonds, or any number of other intriguing targets, then Dante Fabbro might be an easier loss to stomach.

(I’d personally still be reluctant, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money, or some other colloquialism.)

Fabbro’s a touch older than Tolvanen, and the Predators haven’t signed him to a rookie contract yet, at least slightly opening the door for another Jimmy Vesey situation. Fabbro could be valuable if the Predators decide they can’t afford Josi along with P.K. Subban, Ellis, and Ekholm, so it would be best to keep him, but that’s something to consider.

Nashville has its first-rounders intact, and while they shipped their second away at a hefty price for Brian Boyle, there are other picks to work with, such as two fourth-rounders in 2019. The Predators are unlikely to be bad enough to have good first-round picks anytime soon, so paying the price for first-rounders is a smarter risk.

Put it this way: even if they were to get Tolvanen 2.0 and Fiala II with subsequent picks, those prospects would still be behind those players in their development cycles. There’s something to be said for the time Tolvanen and Fiala have put in – stitled, stacco growth rhythms or not – particularly for a contending team.

It’s not always about if, but when

None of this is to say that the Predators can’t ever trade Kevin Fiala or Eeli Tolvanen, just that now might be the worst time to do it. Fiala’s a pending RFA, but a struggling one, so there’s a chance at getting a cheap deal for him. Tolvanen’s already cheap because of his rookie contract, and Nashville doesn’t truly know his ceiling or his realistic floor as an NHL player.

The Predators are in a spot where a calculated gamble is actually quite reasonable. They see a possible second-round rematch with the Winnipeg Jets looming, and on paper, they might need a serious boost to clear that hurdle.

But when you look at Poile’s trades, his best ones come when he’s timed things well (see: Erat/Forsberg, Subban/Shea Weber), yet like any GM, more desperate moves have been pretty dicey. Paying a first-round pick for Ryan Hartman or a second-rounder for Boyle won’t decimate Nashville’s future on an individual level, but those decisions begin to add up.

The risks that come with selling low on Fiala and Tolvanen likely wouldn’t exceed the rewards, especially since those players would likely need to be packaged with other high-value assets like a first-round pick. The Predators are better off leaving those two out of deals, even if it means settling for a medium fish rather than the biggest catch.

On the bright side, if the Predators throw caution to the wind and go big anyway, it should make things more exciting during the trade deadline, not to mention the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Seguin shines, JVR leads comeback, Kucherov dominates

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Three Stars

1. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars. After all of the drama earlier this season the Dallas Stars are looking like a playoff team, and not surprisingly, the two players that took the most heat from their CEO — Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn — are a big reason why. Seguin was dominant on Tuesday night in a 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers, figuring in on all three Stars goals, scoring two and assisting on another.

2. James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers. The Philadelphia Flyers probably deserved a better result on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but things have a funny way of working out. It looked like they were headed for a second consecutive loss for most of the night until they stormed back for a third period rally against the Minnesota Wild. James van Riemsdyk scored two goals on the night, including the game-winner on the power play with less than five minutes to play in regulation. The playoffs still seem like a long shot, but they are definitely looking like a team that is on the right track.

3. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. The matchup of the night was in Tampa Bay where the best team in the Eastern Conference — the Tampa Bay Lightning — faced off against the best team in the Western Conference — The Calgary Flames. The Lightning showed that for as good as the Flames may be, they are still the top team in the NHL right now and cruised to a 6-3 win. Leading the way was Nikita Kucherov with a four-point night, which is already his fifth four-point game of the season. He is now up to a league-leading 88 points on the season.

Other Notable Performances From Tuesday

  • The Columbus Blue Jackets completely shut down the Washington Capitals in a 3-0 win. The Capitals managed just seven shots on goal through the first two periods and rarely seemed to be a threat to score. It was one of the Blue Jackets’ best showings of the season. Yes, just as they did after their previous win over the Capitals, there were some Evgeny Kuznetsov bird celebrations being done on the ice and also in the stands from fans.
  • The Boston Bruins received a four-point night from Brad Marchand in a big win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
  • The St. Louis Blues remained hot with their seventh win in a row to continue solidifying their playoff spot.
  • Mark Scheifele scored a pair of goals for the Winnipeg Jets in a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers.
  • Teuvo Teravainen scored two goals for the Carolina Hurricanes in a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators as they kept pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Highlights of the Night

Jeff Skinner shows off his quick release to help lift the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders.

Jimmy Howard boosted that trade value for the Detroit Red Wings by backstopping them to a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators, thanks in large part to these saves right here.

Columbus’ win over the Capitals was not just about defense. It also had this slick passing play completed by Nick Foligno to help put the game away late in the third period.

 

Factoids

  • Vladimir Tarasenko‘s point streak is at a career-high nine games. [NHL PR]
  • No goalie in the NHL has more shutouts since the start of the 2016-17 season than Sergei Bobrovsky [NHL PR]
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs scored three power play goals in 1:49 on Tuesday night, the fifth-fastest sequence in franchise history. [NHL PR]

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 3, New York Islanders 1

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Washington capitals 0

Boston Bruins 6, Chicago Blackhawks 3

Dallas Stars 3, Florida Panthers 0

Carolina Hurricanes 4, Ottawa Senators 1

Tampa Bay Lightning 6, Calgary Flames 3

Winnipeg Jets 4, New York Rangers 3

St. Louis Blues 8, New Jersey Devils 3

Detroit Red Wings 3, Nashville Predators 2

Philadelphia Flyers 5, Minnesota Wild 4

Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Colorado Avalanche 2

Arizona Coyotes 5, Vegas Golden Knights 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Power Rankings: 10 teams that could be most active at NHL trade deadline

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In this week’s edition of the PHT Power Rankings we start to get you ready for the trade deadline (which is now just two short weeks away!) by looking at 10 teams around the NHL that could be the most active leading up to trade deadline day.

Some of these teams are sellers. Some of them are buyers. All of them have the potential to be busy over the next two weeks.

Let’s take a look at who is out there and who could be made available.

1. Ottawa Senators — Senators management has a grand plan for what the future of the franchise will look like, but it remains to be seen how they actually get there. In the short-term the stage is set for them to potentially be the biggest sellers at the trade deadline because of the ongoing rebuild and the number of key players that are on expiring contracts, including Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel. Not to mention any other veteran player that could potentially be available. The Senators are trying to re-sign both Stone and Duchene, but the longer it goes without a deal and the closer we get to the deadline the more likely it seems that one or both could be on their way out. The Senators need to find a way to recoup a first-round draft pick after sending theirs to Colorado in the original Duchene trade, and they should be able to get at least one or two if they send out their pending UFA’s. It will not be the potential Jack Hughes pick they sent away, but a rebuilding team without any first-round picks isn’t off to a great start.

2. Detroit Red Wings — Ken Holland started the rebuild, at least a little bit, last trade deadline when he sent Petr Mrazek and Tomas Tatar away for five draft picks. He could be doing even more this season with free agents Jimmy Howard, Gustav Nyquist, Thomas Vanek, and Niklas Kronwall all on the roster. Howard and Nyquist are by far the most marketable pieces that he has to deal from and could fetch him a decent return at the deadline. As tempted as the Red Wings might be to try and re-sign Howard given their short-term (and long-term) goaltending situation they should resist that urge and cash in on what has been one of the best seasons of his career. Or at least one of his best seasons in recent memory. A mid-30s Howard isn’t going to be the difference between a good Red Wings team and a bad Red Wings team next season, so they should try to get what they can right now and hope one of the contenders that is a goalie away (looking at you, San Jose) wants to take a chance on a deadline rental to put them over the top.

[Related: Five teams that should be calling about Jimmy Howard]

3. New York Rangers — The Rangers have been shipping out core players for more than a year, dealing away Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller since the start of last season. There will undoubtedly be more moves coming over the next two weeks even though they have put together a nice hot streak here recently. Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello both look like they could be on the move, but would it surprise anyone if they also moved some players that still had term left on their deals or years of team control? Like a Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov, or even maybe, if the price was right, a Chris Kreider?

4. Columbus Blue Jackets  — This is a totally fascinating team because I have no clue what they are going to do. The Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky contract situations mean that if they do something it is probably going to be massive. A potential playoff team shipping out top-tier players at the deadline would be huge news and significantly alter the course of several playoff teams and potential playoff teams. Or they could also keep them and load up around them for one more run, which would also be significant. Either way GM Jarmo Kekalainen has a chance to do something bold. Standing pat doesn’t seem to be an option. He is either selling or going all in.

5. Los Angeles Kings — Everything! Must! Go! The Jake Muzzin trade was a pretty clear sign that it is finally time to start looking for the future. They already sent away one pending unrestricted free agent on Monday by trading Nate Thompson to the Montreal Canadiens, and Carl Hagelin seems like he could probably be sent elsewhere as well. Their veteran players have some big contracts that might be tough to move, and I don’t expect them to even consider trading Anze Kopitar or Drew Doughty, but this still feels like a team whose complete teardown is imminent.

6. Florida Panthers — This is a team to watch because they are clearly trying to position themselves for a run at some big free agents this summer. There is the rumor that they are interested in trying to strike now and get Bobrovsky away from Columbus to sign him before he hits the open market, they are a potential landing spot for Panarin, and they have a few UFAs they can move for more draft picks, including Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan who were acquired in the big blockbuster with Pittsburgh. Will they ship out even more money in an effort to clear even more salary cap space? TSN’s Frank Seravalli mentioned the possibility of Jonathan Huberdeau on Monday, the type of move that would almost certainly indicate they would be all in on free agency.

[Related: PHT’s 2019 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker]

7. Boston Bruins — Simply put, they have to find some secondary scoring. All of their offense comes from the same five players — Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, and Torey Krug. They are all great, but five players alone producing offense will not get you very far in the playoffs. Especially against the teams they will have to face on their potential postseason path.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins — Jim Rutherford tends to strike early before the trade deadline, and he has done that with a few moves already this season (Tanner Pearson, sending Jamie Oleksiak back to Dallas, the big trade with the Florida Panthers) but I just don’t see him being done. He has never done. He is always tinkering with his roster and this roster right now, as currently constructed, is not where the Penguins expect it to be. Almost anything is on the table with this team.

9. Chicago Blackhawks — A lot of this is dependent on what they can do with some veteran players that have no-trade clauses, specifically Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, but there are a lot of bloated contracts here that they should explore moving. Not only Seabrook, but also perhaps Anisimov and Brandon Saad.

10.  Washington Capitals — I can’t imagine the defending champs are happy with the way this season has gone over the past few weeks or with the current state of their defense. That has to be high atop their shopping list as they look to make a repeat run at the Stanley Cup. I can’t see them doing anything drastic, but they could definitely use a move or two.

MORE: Defense should top Capitals’ shopping list

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Fight: Tom Wilson ‘rains rights’ on Cole for hit on Kuznetsov

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Some say revenge is a dish best served cold. Others say living well is the best revenge. What about “beating someone in a fight, then doing an obnoxious-brilliant eagle goal celebration?”

OK, that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but that last route was the one the Washington Capitals chose in a 4-3 OT win against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

The most memorable span began in the third period. First, Avs defenseman Ian Cole delivered a highly questionable hit on star Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov. Tom Wilson did not take kindly to that hit, so he “rained rights” on Cole. Like, a lot of rights.

NBC Sports Washington has footage of the hit and the one-sided fight.

Kuznetsov went through concussion protocol, and at the moment, seems to be fine. He was certainly feeling good when he not only returned to the contest, but scored the OT-winner, and did his trademark cele:

If that didn’t sting Cole enough, Kuznetsov burned him big time after the game in giving his take on the check.

“I don’t know why he decided to make that hit,” Kuznetsov said, via the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan. “Maybe he was so mad he was playing in the D-zone all game. When you get tired, you get frustrated a little bit.”

Kuznetsov also provided a great line about going through concussion protocol. He’s almost as good at providing quips as he is at making plays.

(In case you’re wondering, the Avs actually generally won the possession battle, and Cole only looked bad relative to his teammates, at least going by Natural Stat Trick’s numbers. But, come on, a saucy zinger doesn’t always need to be accurate, right?)

This was Wilson’s fifth fight of 2018-19, by the way. Cole … should probably avoid fighting people like Wilson, if possible. Just a friendly suggestion.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ovechkin passes Fedorov as highest-scoring Russian NHL player

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At 33, Alex Ovechkin is really starting to collect impressive milestones. He added another remarkable one on Tuesday, as he scored his 1,180th point, breaking a tie with Sergei Fedorov for the most regular-season points by a Russian-born player in NHL history.

In a less customary fashion for Ovechkin, he reached this record with an assist, as he collected a secondary helper on a T.J. Oshie goal. This pushes Ovechkin to 644 goals and 536 assists, and he has time to add to that total against the Vancouver Canucks during Tuesday’s game, the 1,055th of his already-incredible career.

Refreshingly, while this was a secondary assist, Ovechkin had plenty to do with Oshie’s goal, as he created havoc in a way that — honestly? — feels more reminiscent of a younger Ovechkin, who was more “all over the ice” than the current, office-dwelling model.

Speaking of reminiscing, this milestone opens the door to look back at what Ovechkin’s accomplished so far, Fedorov’s arguably-too-easily-forgotten greatness, and even the brief time they spent together as Capitals teammates.

Yep, some of you probably forgot that Fedorov actually suited up with Ovechkin, but it happened. Fedorov played 70 regular-season and 21 playoff games for the Capitals between 2007-08 and 2008-09, beating Henrik Lundqvist for a game-winner that stood as his last NHL goal:

Ovechkin reached his new record in fewer games than Fedorov, but when you consider that Fedorov slogged through the worst of the “Dead Puck Era,” it really undersells just how great they both were during their peaks. Both players also piled up a ton of playoff games during their illustrious careers, so it’s fun to look at everything side-by-side:

Ovechkin: 644 goals, 536 assists, 1,180 points in 1,055 games.
Playoffs: 61 G, 56 A, 117 pts., 121 games.
Awards: Calder, Three Hart, Three Pearson, Seven Richard, One Art Ross, One Conn Smythe. One Stanley Cup.

Fedorov: 483 goals, 696 assists, 1,179 points in 1,248 games.
Playoffs: 52 G, 124 A, 176 points, 183 games.
Awards: One Hart, Two Selkes, One Ted Lindsay/Pearson. Three Stanley Cup victories.

Two incredible careers, and Ovechkin’s bound to join Fedorov in the Hall of Fame. It will be fascinating to see where Ovechkin’s numbers end up.

One thing that remains after all these years is swagger. Russian Machine Never Breaks notes that, in a Reddit AMA with Lars Eller, Ovechkin was asked which goalie was the toughest to play against, and part of his answer included ” … it doesn’t matter, I still score.”

Ovechkin finished the game with that one assist, while the Capitals managed a 3-2 win against the Canucks.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.