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Canucks Expansion Draft Trade Targets: 6 Predators forwards that could be exposed

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That doesn’t include Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen...

Florida Panthers v Nashville Predators
Nick Cousins #21 of the Nashville Predators celebrates a goal against the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena on April 26, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

In the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, only one team elected to protect five defencemen.

However, after Vegas made a strategic effort to collect defencemen in that expansion draft, could teams be more willing to protect their defencemen in 2021?

One team that is likely to protect four — if not five — defencemen are the Nashville Predators. Here is their projected protection list, courtesy of Adam Vingan at The Athletic.

Forwards

  • Colton Sissons
  • Filip Forsberg
  • Luke Kunin

Defencemen

  • Roman Josi
  • Ryan Ellis
  • Mattias Ekholm
  • Dante Fabbro
  • Alexandre Carrier

Goalie

  • Jusse Saros

One of the more surprising decisions on this list was the choice of keeping 23-year-old defenceman Alexandre Carrier over 27-year-old forward Viktor Arvidsson. Here’s a short explanation from Vingan in his piece.

“Before this season, protecting Dante Fabbro was a no-brainer. Then Alexandre Carrier came along and made things more complicated.

The Predators are not ready to give up on the soon-to-be-23-year-old Fabbro, whose development hit a snag this season. Carrier, 24, was very impressive in a top-four role and is signed through 2023 for the bargain price of $733,333 per year.”

Although Arvidsson has a higher pedigree than Carrier (and Fabbro, for that matter), he’s battled through injuries the last three seasons and his production had begun to decline. He’s also signed for three more seasons at a $4.25 million cap hit.

Based on this protection list, the Predators are likely hoping that Seattle (or another NHL team via trade) eases their cap issues by taking a player with salary. Regardless, the Preds are likely to lose a good forward, so here are five intriguing ones that are projected to go unprotected in July’s expansion draft.

Carolina Hurricanes v Nashville Predators - Game Six
Nick Cousins #21 of the Nashville Predators celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Six of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on May 27, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

Nick Cousins

2020-21 Stats: 53 GP, 5-13-18

Contract Status: Signed for one more season at a $1.5 million cap hit (UFA in 2022)

Nick Cousins is a reliable bottom-six winger who’s had some spot duty as a centreman. He was on pace for 27 points over a full 82 games, which is better than any regular forward in the Canucks bottom-six. Hell, it’s basically the pace that Tanner Pearson was on (18 points in 51 games).

Trade Value: Cousins has been traded twice before in his career, once straight up for a fourth-round pick at the trade deadline, and prior to that where he was traded essentially for a fifth-round pick. Nashville surely values Cousins’ low-cost contributions, but he shouldn’t cost more than a fourth-round pick in a trade if another NHL team wants his services.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Nashville Predators
Viktor Arvidsson #33 congratulates teammate Roman Josi #59 of the Nashville Predators after a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena on April 13, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Viktor Arvidsson

2020-21 Stats: 50 GP, 10-15-25

Contract Status: Signed for three more seasons at a $4.25 million cap hit. (UFA in 2024)

After scoring at a first-line rate for three seasons between 2016 and 2019, Arvidsson’s production has dropped off. On a Predators team where seemingly no one could score earlier in the season, Arvidsson was part of the problem.

The Nils Hoglander-esque forward will be 28 years old this offseason. If he can still play like a top-six forward, his $4.25 million price tag doesn’t seem so bad. If he continues to regress though, this could be an anchor contract.

Trade Value: If the Predators were to trade Arvidsson, it would probably be in the mold of a Nate Schmidt, cap dump-type deal. However, the Canucks would probably have to get rid of salary themselves to make this deal work. Could a third-round pick and Antoine Roussel (50% retained by Vancouver) get the deal done? Probably not, but it’s a starting point if the Preds want to cut salary and/or don’t believe in Arvidsson anymore.

UPDATE: Viktor Arvidsson is officially off the market, after he was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings for a 2021 second-round pick (#40th overall) and a 2022 third-round pick.

Carolina Hurricanes v Nashville Predators - Game Four
Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators makes faces at his daughter Juni during warmups against the Carolina Hurricanes prior to Game Four of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on May 23, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

Calle Jarnkrok

2020-21 Stats: 49 GP, 13-15-28

Contract Status: Signed for one more year at a $2 million cap hit. (UFA in 2022)

While Arvidsson was part of a Preds forward contingent that underwhelmed in 2020-21, Calle Jarnkrok was actually one of the skaters who overachieved.

Throughout his eight years in Nashville, Jarnkrok has been a reliable bottom-six forward who’s good for about 30 points per season. This season, however, he was on pace for 21 goals and 46 points over a full 82 games. While that shouldn’t be the norm, the 29-year-old Swede is still an extremely useful NHLer.

One thing worth noting about Jarnkrok is that although he was largely used as a centre throughout his career in Nashville, he has been primarily used on the wing for the past couple of seasons.

Trade Value: Based on his career-best production and his ability to be a reliable, two-way, penalty-killing forward, you’d have to think the Predators would try to snag a second-round pick (or something of similar value) for Jarnkrok.

Florida Panthers v Nashville Predators
Yakov Trenin #13 of the Nashville Predators celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers during the third period at Bridgestone Arena on April 26, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

Yakov Trenin

2020-21 Stats: 45 GP, 5-6-11

Contract Status: Signed for one more season at a $725,000 cap hit. (RFA in 2022)

The 24-year-old Russian has looked capable in a limited fourth-line role. In the AHL, Trenin was named an All-Star in 2019, and he played more of a checking centre, penalty-killing role. Although he’s been deployed like a checking forward, Trenin has often been a winger, and hasn’t often killed penalties at the NHL level.

Trade Value: It feels like Trenin is due for an increased role next season, especially if the Predators are able to shed a hefty contract or two among their forwards. While that makes him a less likely trade candidate, his value on the market is probably something similar to Nick Cousins in the fourth to fifth-round pick range.

Chicago Blackhawks v Nashville Predators
Rocco Grimaldi #23 of the Nashville Predators watches the action against the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena on April 19, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

Rocco Grimaldi

2020-21 Stats: 40 GP, 10-3-13

Contract Status: Signed for one more season at a $2 million cap hit (UFA in 2022)

Another diminutive Predators forward with an offensive spark to his game, the 5’6” Rocco Grimaldi has carved out a nice niche as a scoring fourth-line winger. However, he may have fallen out of favour in Nashville, as he was a healthy scratch throughout the season and sat in the press box for all six Preds playoff games.

Trade Value: With a $2 million cap hit, Grimaldi isn’t the type of player you want to have in the press box. With that being the case, I wonder if Nashville flips him for a sixth or seventh-round pick just to get him off the books for next season. If that is the case, he’s another player who would immediately be better than almost any of the other Canucks bottom-six forwards from last season.

NHL: MAY 10 Hurricanes at Predators
Nashville Predators left wing Tanner Jeannot (84) is shown during the NHL game between the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes, held on May 10, 2021, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tanner Jeannot

2020-21 Stats: 15 GP, 5-2-7

Contract Status: RFA ($750,000 to qualify)

The most unheralded name on this list, undrafted forward Tanner Jeannot enjoyed a breakout season for the Preds organization.

After beginning the season in the ECHL, Jeannot got called up to the AHL and posted 21 points in 13 games. That had to be a bit of a surprise, considering that he had 31 points in 94 AHL games prior to last season.

That performance earned him a call-up to the NHL, where he scored five goals in 15 games. He even got some playoff games in ahead of more established forwards, like Grimaldi.

Trade Value: In a lot of ways, Jeannot seems like the Preds version of Zack MacEwen. However, Jeannot was trusted much more during his limited time in Nashville, playing in a heavy checking role while averaging more than 12 minutes per game. MacEwen, on the other hand, has averaged 8:50 in ice time during his NHL career with extremely sheltered usage.

Instead of trading for Jeannot, the Canucks might be better off signing him to an RFA offer sheet, slightly above market value. For any RFA signed to an offer sheet below $1,356,540, no compensation is required.

The Canucks need a few dart throws at players who can come in at a low acquisition cost, and a guy like Jeannot would fit that bill.

NHL: MAY 23 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round - Hurricanes at Predators
Nashville Predators left wing Erik Haula (56), of Finland, and defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14), of Sweden, are shown during Game 4 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes, held on May 23, 2021, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Notable UFA’s

Although the focus of this series is to focus on trade targets, let’s wrap up by looking at a couple of unrestricted free agents from Nashville.

Mikael Granlund: Probably too rich for the Canucks, but the elder Granlund is still an effective, middle-six, penalty-killing forward. He posted 27 points in 51 games while making $3.75 million last season.

Erik Haula: An effective third-line centre when healthy, Haula had a productive season for Nashville in 2020-21, posting 21 points in 51 games. He’s 30 years old and is coming off of a one-year, $1.75 million contract.

Poll

Which Predators player would you target this offseason?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Nick Cousins
    (36 votes)
  • 19%
    Viktor Arvidsson
    (57 votes)
  • 16%
    Calle Jarnkrok
    (47 votes)
  • 4%
    Yakov Trenin
    (13 votes)
  • 2%
    Rocco Grimaldi
    (7 votes)
  • 11%
    Tanner Jeannot
    (34 votes)
  • 9%
    Target a UFA (Granlund or Haula)
    (29 votes)
  • 23%
    Target Fabbro, Carrier, Sissons or another Pred via trade
    (70 votes)
293 votes total Vote Now