The Nashville Predators Need to Add Scoring Depth at Forward

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VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 17: Nashville Predators Center Mike Fisher (12) watches the play against the Vancouver Canucks during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on January 17, 2017 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire)

The Nashville Predators’ scoring rates are a cause for concern this season. Lately they have turned their team play around after a slow start to the season. Backup Juuse Saros is providing security in net, and the return of P.K. Subban this past Friday will certainly give the team a boost. They are in decent shape, currently holding a wild card spot with 51 points in 46 games. If the St. Louis Blues continue to slump, the Predators should be able to piggy-back them into a divisional spot. But are they a real contender as many thought they would be? Not unless they add a scoring winger.

Historically, the Predators have never been a high-scoring team. Through the past three seasons, they have been consistent, though, hovering around 2.75 GF/GP. Common thought among the league is that the first team to three goals should win the game. The Predators have won despite this with solid defensive play and goaltending. Their goals allowed per game the past three seasons has hovered around 2.60 GA/GP. These numbers rank them among the top half in the league, but the lack of scoring hurts the team’s overall outlook.

Nashville Predators Team Scoring Summary

Year GF/Gm League Rank GA/Gm League Rank Differential League Rank
2014-2015 2.83 13 2.54 8 .29 9
2015-2016 2.78 12 2.62 12 .16 13
2016-2017* 2.74 14 2.61 11 .13 11

 

*Through 46 GP as of January 22, 2017 at 2:30 PM CST.

Current Scoring Leaders

Though the team may not score at a high rate, there are players who are scoring right now for the Predators. James Neal predictably leads the team with 15 goals in 37 games. In a healthy season, Neal should be good for 25-30 goals. Mike Fisher and Filip Forsberg are tied for second on the team with 12 goals each. Viktor Arvidsson, who was written about last week, has pitched in 11 goals. Defenseman Ryan Ellis rounds out the top five with eight goals on the season.  

Having four players with more than 10 goals is great for the Predators, but the issue is that the scoring drops off considerably from there. The top four scorers on the team account for 50 of the Predators’ 126 goals, or 40%. While Ryan Johansen leads the team with 32 points, he has only seven goals. It’s worth noting too that Fisher is shooting at a clip of 17.1%, which is likely unsustainable. Outside of the top two lines, the Predators’ scoring falls off substantially.

Losing Shea Weber’s slapshot on the back end hurts the Predators as well, especially on the power play. The Predators are currently cashing in on 17.7% of their man-advantage chances. In 2014-15 the team scored at 19.7% while a man up. P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, and the aforementioned Ellis pitch in, but the Predators could use another scoring winger in their lineup to add depth to the roster.

Kevin Fiala would be the obvious choice of the team, but his time in Nashville has been up and down. In 32 games with the big club this season, Fiala managed only six goals and nine total points. He has since been reassigned to the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL. The team needs a proven goal scorer if they hope to be a competitor. At the trade deadline, they could target several players to give the team a much needed boost.

Possible Trade Targets

Recently, TSN published a list of players with high potential to be dealt by the trade deadline. Two players in particular from this list that could help the Predators score are James van Riemsdyk and Thomas Vanek.

Van Riemsdyk, currently playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, is on a team-friendly contract. He carries a cap hit of $4.25 million, and has one year remaining on his contract beyond the 2016-17 season. He is 27-years old, so he has a few years remaining in his prime. Through 44 games with the Maple Leafs he has 16 goals and 38 points. He scored a career high 30 goals in 2013-14 as well. It is unclear how interested the Leafs are in dealing van Riemsdyk, but they could use help on defense. The Predators have an abundance of riches there, and might be able to tempt the Leafs to part with JVR. Should van Riemsdyk perform well for the Predators, they would have the option to resign him as a UFA or move him.

The Detroit Red Wings signed Vanek as a UFA over the summer after he was bought out by the Minnesota Wild. Vanek got a “show me what you can do” contract, signed for one year at $2.6 million. The 33-year old has 12 goals and 31 points for the Red Wings this season, finding some of his old form. The Red Wings will likely be out of a playoff spot come the trade deadline, and will be looking to rebuild. The Predators could offer the Red Wings draft picks or future assets to acquire Vanek. The Red Wings also need help on defense. Vanek would be an excellent, cheap rental to give the Predators a boost in scoring.  

Both of the players above would not only boost the Predators at five-on-five, but would add scoring to the power play. To acquire such a player, the Predators could deal picks in the upcoming draft or a defenseman. With the expansion draft coming, the Predators will have a decision to make in who they protect on the back end. Subban and Josi are the obvious choices and Ellis has made a strong case for himself. Instead of risking the loss of Mattias Ekholm, the Predators could deal him for some help up front. They would likely prefer to keep him, but this is an option, especially with Alexandre Carrier performing well in Milwaukee and 2016 first-round pick Dante Fabbro coming up the pipeline.

Depending on where they sit in the standings, look for the Predators to be a buyer at the trade deadline. They should target a cheap scoring winger to help them push for the Stanley Cup. They have prospects coming who remove the need for a long-term solution, but could use the help while they await those players. Adding either James van Riemsdyk or Thomas Vanek would instantly make the Predators a greater threat.

Statistics and data used are from hockeydb, eliteprospects, capfriendly and NHL.com.

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