Predators not standing pat this summer, as P.K. Subban trade shows

Paul Skrbina
The Tennessean

David Poile's to-do list this summer includes one important don't. 

"We're not making a change for change’s sake," the Predators general manager said last week before the NHL Draft. "I want to be thought-out, to do things that are going to make us better, not just make a change just to say we did something."

That's not to say Poile will spare change. Not this summer. He proved that Saturday when he traded defenseman P.K. Subban to the Devils in a move clearly done to acquire salary-cap space.

A year after standing mostly pat with a roster that won the President's Trophy in 2017-18, the Predators repeated as Central Division champs in 2018-19 but stumbled in the first round of the playoffs, albeit like every other division winner, a first in NHL history.

The Predators' power play was the laughingstock of the league in 2018-19, finishing last at 12.9 percent; it was 0-for-15 during the postseason. The team's secondary scoring left a lot to be desired considering the top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson accounted for 76 goals, or 32.2 percent, during the regular season.

Not to mention injuries mounted, along with frustration. 

Going for it

Poile, the winningest general manager in the history of the league, also has seen the Stanley Cup elude him during his 36 seasons in that role.

He hinted immediately after the Predators lost in six games to the Stars that changes probably would be on the horizon. He reiterated that sentiment to The Tennessean in mid-June.

He said he's been in touch with most teams about his team's possible needs, done his due diligence. 

"We’re a really good team," he said. "There were some things we needed to do better last year that hurt us – the secondary scoring and the power play jump right to the top of the list.

"I don’t think we need a major overhaul. ... Unlike last year, if the opportunity presents itself, I think a couple of changes might be the right thing to do this year.

"It takes two to tango. We’ll have to see what’s presented."

And what happens with free agency. Teams are allowed to sign unrestricted free agents beginning July 1. And there is one in particular who has been on Poile's radar for some time – Matt Duchene. But there are others who could be good fits.

Trade winds?

Poile spoke recently, before trading Subban, about the possibility of trading Subban and said "anything can happen in this business."

Could Kyle Turris, who struggled mightily last season and will be a $6 million-per-year hit for the next five seasons, be dealt? What about defenseman Ryan Ellis, whose eight-year, $50 million extension kicks in next season?

Will Nick Bonino be here?

How much will captain Roman Josi's contract extension run the Predators? His deal expires after next season, and he could command in the neighborhood of $9 million per year. 

"That comes with a certain dollar figure that comes into effect a year from now," Poile said of signing Josi. "There's things that you can do this year. But when you do it you better take into consideration where you're going to be two, three, four years down the road. All of this goes into the thought process of what we may do or maybe what we can't do because of a certain roadblock that doesn’t work going forward.

"We've thrown a lot of ideas up on the wall in terms of our team, and a lot of it is internal, not necessarily making changes from outside the organization."

A bounce-back season from Turris, who was signed with the expectation of being a second-line center, as well as more production from Mikael Granlund would solve a good portion of the team's secondary scoring issues.

No summer vacation

Poile knows there's plenty of work to be done.

He knows he must explore all options. He must deal with the salary cap. After the Subban trade, the Predators are projected to have about $13.1 million in space next season. They made qualifying offers Tuesday to try to re-sign restricted free agents Rocco Grimaldi and Colton Sissons. Poile said he's spoken with unrestricted free agent Brian Boyle's agent but didn't sound sure a deal would be reached.

Some other deals probably could be in the offing, though. And it could happen soon. 

"It all usually happens in this window, and most of that’s going to happen in Vancouver (at the draft) or that first week in July," Poile said. 

Poile knows the power play must be fixed, which is part of the reason he added a third assistant coach to the staff when he hired Dan Lambert in June to run that unit and help with the offense.

He's shown he's not afraid to make shrewd moves. Case in point: Trading captain Shea Weber for Subban straight up during summer 2016. Moving Seth Jones for Johansen in January of that year. By 2017, the Predators were playing in the Stanley Cup Final.

Staying put

One thing Poile stressed that probably won't change is the coaching staff.

He said he was "very happy" with the job coach Peter Laviolette and his assistants did. That doesn't mean Poile is happy with the end result from last season.

"We had high expectations. We had a really good year," he said. "But it felt like nothing was quite good enough. … It seemed like a good year. The ultimate prize was to compete in the playoffs and to win playoff rounds and hopefully have a chance to win the Cup.

"You have to understand from our standpoint how upsetting it was that we didn’t win."

Poile pointed out that nobody is entitled to anything in the NHL. That the Lightning, whose 62 victories tied for most in league history, also suffered the same first-round fate as the Predators. 

"It’s a hard game. We all go through a lot of reflection whenever a season is over," he said. "That goes for me, everybody on the staff. You hope you change a little bit, come up with some newer ideas, maybe motivate a player here and there."

All while keeping in mind there's a don't on the to-do list.

Reach Paul Skrbina at and follow him on Twitter @PaulSkrbina.

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