David Poile insisted he would have been just fine if adding Brian Boyle earlier this month was Nashville’s final deal this season.
That didn’t stop the NHL’s winningest general manager without a Stanley Cup from making not one, but two deals at Monday’s trade deadline.
Poile swapped a pair of young forwards for proven scorers, sending Kevin Fiala to Minnesota for Mikael Granlund before acquiring veteran forward Wayne Simmonds from Philadelphia for Ryan Hartman and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2020. The Simmonds deal wrapped 3 minutes before the deadline.
“We’re in a position right now where we feel we have a chance to not only make the playoffs but win rounds in the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup,” Poile said Monday. “So we’re giving away, whether it’s your first-round pick or players like Fiala or Hartman, we’re giving up some future to try to get at it right today.”
The Predators reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 as the last team into the playoffs, and then followed up by winning their first Presidents’ Trophy last season. Yet Nashville lost in the second round to Winnipeg in seven games, and now the Predators find themselves second in the Central Division, a point behind the Jets going into Monday night’s games.
Simmonds will be a free agent this summer. But the 30-year-old forward, who played for Nashville coach Peter Laviolette with the Flyers, is four goals away from his sixth straight season with at least 20 goals. At 6-foot-2, he also adds needed bulk to a roster that also features the 6-6 Boyle and Cody McLeod, who were brought in Feb. 6 in separate deals.
“As we forecast and see how the playoffs are lining up right now, Winnipeg, St. Louis for example, those are not going to be easy series, but those are going to be series against some big boys and going to be some physicality in it,” Poile said.
Adding Granlund and Simmonds should boost a power play that has been the NHL’s worst at 12.6 percent and give Nashville more scoring depth to compete in the Western Conference. Granlund led Minnesota with 18 points on the man advantage, five better than Ryan Johansen in Nashville. Simmonds has five power-play goals, matching Filip Forsberg.
Poile also managed to keep top prospects Eeli Tolvanen and Dante Fabbro while hanging onto his first-round draft picks. Better yet for Nashville, Granlund, who has three goals and seven assists in his last 14 games, is signed through the 2019-20 season with an annual salary cap hit of $5.75 million.
Granlund, who turns 27 on Tuesday, was the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Oulu, Finland, with much fanfare. His skills and accomplishments for the national team were such that he once appeared on a postage stamp in his native country, but with the Wild he never took that step from productive top-six forward to All-Star-caliber player.
He had a career-high 26 goals and plus-23 rating in 2016-17 and a career-best 46 assists in 2017-18, but this season Granlund, like many of his teammates, simply hasn’t been as good. He has 32 giveaways, on pace for a career most, and his even-strength faceoff win percentage (45.0) is a career low.
Simmonds should join Nashville in time for Tuesday night’s game at St. Louis. Granlund’s fiancee was in labor Monday, and Poile said he told Granlund he will see the forward once all is settled with the baby.
Fiala, the 11th pick overall in 2014, had been seen as a promising forward. But after a career year last season, Fiala has just 32 points in 64 games and a minus-11 rating this season.
Nashville sent a first-round pick to Chicago at the trade deadline a year ago for Hartman, and the Predators signed him to a one-year extension last July. He will be a restricted free agent this summer. Nashville had hoped the 6-foot forward would be more productive after offseason shoulder surgery, only to see him manage just 10 goals and 20 points.
“We’re getting a young player with upside that can fit into our room and plays a gritty game,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said.