Every year there’s a flurry of trade discussions in mid-December as teams try to bulk up in advance of the Holiday Roster Freeze.
Just a week ago the Nashville Predators looked like a team that might kick tires on adding a piece before the December deadline; they entered Thanksgiving winners of five out of six games with a four-game homestand in front of them. Then Nashville stumbled on home ice, picking up just one point in the four games. Now the Preds sit seven points out of a Wild Card slot in the Western Conference. Seven points is not insurmountable — the Preds have shown the ability to rattle off four/five game win streaks — but looking at the Western Conference and the teams the Preds are chasing… that gap in the standings just “feels” improbable. If Rinne were returning tomorrow maybe the mood would be different, but he isn’t, at least not yet.
So that brings us back to the December trade discussions. Quite frankly the market is pretty barren; there isn’t much on the market that really interests teams looking to add for this year.
Enter the Nashville Predators. If floated out on the market Matt Cullen could make a very interesting trade piece for teams looking for secondary scoring to help with a playoff push. He provides the rare combination of proven production and cap accessibility. Cullen’s track record shows he’ll net upper-teens in goals and high-30s to low-40s in points(he’s on pace to match those benchmarks again this season) and with so many teams shoehorned up to the cap ceiling, Cullen’s $3.5M cap hit is around the max many teams can afford.
That’s not saying the Preds “must” trade Cullen. He’s been a good fit for the team on the ice and in the locker room. And he’s under contract for another year, so if the offers aren’t there, if no one blows David Poile away, the team can easily retain him and continue building chemistry with Cullen and his linemate Nick Spaling and Craig Smith. However the cash value of Cullen’s contract rises next year – reportedly $3M this year and $4M next year for the $3.5M cap hit. In the current market, $4M is nice shopping cash for the free agent market.
So if the Preds COULD take advantage of the sparse market to bring in early round draft picks or top prospects AND at the same time create some extra spending money for the summer free agent frenzy… that has to be an enticing option to at least explore.
It’s not throwing the white flag up on this season, it’s just good roster/cap management… looking at the best ways to put the organization in the strongest position to win, be it this year or next year. And who knows, maybe Filip Forsberg settles in on a wing with Spaling and Smith. Or maybe it’s Taylor Beck (impressive down the back stretch last season). Or Miikka Salomaki or Colton Sissions (both tied for Milwaukee’s team scoring lead). Or Austin Watson (2010 First Round pick and fourth on Milwaukee in scoring). The Preds have some young options who “could” reasonably click with Spaling and Smith were Cullen to be moved.
At the end of the day, it comes down to Supply and Demand… float Cullen out there now while the market is barren. Two months from now, more teams will have more players available and more buyers will have more available cap space opening up more players to discussion, further diluting the market with trade options and reducing the return on the trade market. Be proactive now and the return may be surprising – after all who around the league thought the Capitals would trade Forsberg last season?
What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Hit me up on twitter at @bowtiesports to discuss