The Nashville Predators defence has been one of the best units in the league over the last three seasons. General manager David Poile was able to make a huge upgrade after dealing for P.K. Subban in June 2016. The talented Subban joined draft picks Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and, Mattias Ekholm to form of one the dangerous blueline groups in the NHL.
Nashville immediately reaped the benefits of the Subban addition by winning the Western Conference and reaching its first Stanley Cup Final. The Predators fell in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it seemed the foundation was set sustained excellence.
However, the Predators lost in seven games to the Winnipeg Jets in the conference semifinal in 2018. Nashville took another step backward after the Dallas Stars beat them in six games. One thing that was a common thread in all of this was the lack of offence.
Poile has come out and stated that he’s willing to make moves to bolster scoring and would be willing to trade defence to make that happen. One of the “Big Four” could be on the move.
Nashville Predators Defence Faces Decision
Nashville’s general manager has always been willing to make an unexpected move. Poile rocked the hockey world by dealing beloved captain Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for Subban. Weber was great defensively and had a great shot on the power play.
However, Weber couldn’t keep up with the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of the 2016 Western Conference semifinal. Poile had to change the makeup of his defence and took a swing with Subban.
Things have worked out well the first couple of seasons with Nashville making the Final and then winning the President’s Trophy in 2017-18. However, the Jets derailed the Predators chance at winning a crown. Dallas used its dynamic young defence to beat Nashville, which had a lethargic power play.
The Predators power-play went 0-for-15 in that series and summed up how dreadful it was for the entire season. Nashville struggled with the extra man despite having talented playmakers like Josi and Subban.
Poile might have to make a same big swing just like he did in 2016.
Who to Move
Subban holds the big contract at $9 million a year until the end of the 2021-22 season. The Toronto native is still one of the best players in the league, but his contract is a huge number on Nashville’s cap.
Ellis carries a nice-sized cap hit of $6.25 million until the 2026-27 season and could also be on the move. He is still a great defenceman as well, but that’s also a hefty cap number. The Hamilton, Ontario native does have a tradeable contract and teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings desire a top-four defenceman. All of these teams have young players with offensive potential.
Ekholm has a very friendly cap number at $3.75 million a season until the end of the 2021-22 season. He would have a moveable contract because of that friendly hit.
Josi is due for a raise from his $4 million deal that runs out at the end of next season. He’s the team captain and has been a bargain for Nashville.
Poile would have to do a lot of work to get a taker for Subban, so Ellis and Ekholm would probably be the players that would be moved. However, the Predators longtime general manager has made the impossible happen. A blockbuster involving Subban can still happen if a team is willing to part with a key forward.
New Blood on Defence
One reason Nashville might be willing to part with one of their better blueliners is the potential of Dante Fabbro. The former Boston University blueliner made his debut late in the season and head coach Peter Laviolette put him on the playoff roster.
The British Columbia native is a smooth skater and has shown ability on both ends of the ice. He was a solid player in college and there’s hope that can translate in the pros. His growth means the Predators might test the waters on a trade.
The Last Word
The Predators’ window for winning a title is closing, but Poile can extend it by making the right moves. It’s not just defence that could be on the go as Kyle Turris, Mikael Granlund, Craig Smith, and Nick Bonino could be on the block. The Predators might be in the market to get free agent Matt Duchene.
Nashville’s defence has been a strength the last few seasons, but it could look a lot different at the start of the 2019-20 season.
NASHVILLE, TN – APRIL 20: P.K.Subban #76 of the Nashville Predators slides into teammate Mattias Ekholm #14 as they try to defend against Marian Hossa #81 of the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on April 20, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)