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You wanna get weird? Let’s get weird!
Hey y’all, it’s Eamon. Welcome to Fun Friday, a new little weekly piece where I explore fun, kinda silly Predators scenarios and ideas for your (and my) enjoyment. It’s been a bit of a slog to cover the Preds this year, and most of the things I’ve had to say about the team have been negative or pessimistic lately.
To be honest, as fun as it is to rain fire and brimstone and look at hockey ops decisions with a critical eye, I’d much prefer to talk about the positives surrounding this team and discuss some more enjoyable topics with y’all in the comments. So, expect to see this column every week with a new, borderline outlandish topic.
Today’s Fun: Offseason Trades
Today, I want to talk about something I was thinking about on a long car ride back to Auburn: wacky trade scenarios. The Predators have a lot of moving parts this offseason, with two likely departing forwards in Mikael Granlund and Yakov Trenin and a third UFA forward who the team may or may not bring back in Craig Smith. The Preds also have five picks in the first 75 selections, including the 11th overall pick and two high second-round choices (37th and 42nd overall), which opens up a lot of possible bargaining options for my brain to tinker with.
Nashville is attempting to rebuild the prospect pool on the fly, which I’m totally on board with, but in this case I may or may not forsake my ethos of “draft and develop” for the purpose of adding star power to a franchise that’s been lacking in that area for over 20 years. I’ll have a few sensible scenarios that could legitimately happen given precedent, but I want to focus more on a few of the more ludicrous ideas that came to mind. With that all out of the way, let’s get to the tools I’ll be using for these trades!
Eric Tulsky wrote an amazing article back in 2013 about the value GMs have to give up in order to trade up in the draft. While a lot of models attempt to gauge what GMs should give up for a better draft selection, based upon estimated value per pick, Tulsky wanted to see what kind of picks were actually being spent to move up, and what the cost was to increase your standing in the order by various amounts.
In his article, Tulsky details the model he created using 46 trades which occurred from 2006 to 2012, and displays the values he came up with for picks and what would likely have to be traded to equate them. As noted by Erik Fowle in his piece on the ideal San Jose Sharks draft strategy, this model has largely remained relevant when looking at trades fitting Tulsky’s original criteria, so I’ll be using it today when looking at relative pick value in trades.
Next, I want to be sure that the Predators aren’t totally destroying their draft capital value for the sake of adding high-end talent, so I’ll be using a few different write-ups on pick value models and looking at how they justify different ways of thinking about the draft. The links to them are as follows:
- Chace McCallum’s piece, from 2018
- Alan’s writeup for our sister site Raw Charge, from 2020
- Jonathan Willis’s composite breakdown of the many studies on this topic, from 2011
To save you all some reading, the collective strategy from all of these to maximize value boils down to this: you want to move up into the top five picks, refrain from trading up into the end of the first round, and attempt to avoid sacrificing second-round and third-round picks (which are relatively similar in true value) whenever possible. So, that raises the question: where do players factor into this?
Determining Crude Player/Pick Value
I went and looked at Byron Bader’s NHLe model, which I would highly recommend to anyone, and found that the strongest correlation with player draft pick location in the top 75 (the area I’m mostly concerned with) was Draft Year NHLer probability. Now, this is all very rough work and I’m certainly not a data scientist or anything, but I averaged out the NHLer probability over the span of the 2016-2019 draft classes at each pick location and used that as a foundation to compare raw prospect value to draft pick value. That way, I had a nice (but flawed) way of looking at prospects within Tulsky’s existing, legitimately-modeled system and seeing how they could be used to acquire high draft picks.
Let it be noted that this is a very, very stupid way of doing this for a multitude of reasons—most prospects from 2016 onward haven’t finished their development cycles, this is all based off of a correlation that may not even be all that significant over a larger sample size, and there may be more predictive lines of thinking. I’m mostly just using it as a tool for making some of my outlandish trades a bit more tempered in expectation.
Taking the above data set, I averaged the NHLer% averages by groups of 5 to level out pick value and help account for outliers a bit better.
For a better visual of what all of that stuff I said above looks like, here’s that data set charted:
Aside from a blip or two, the trend matches relatively close to Tulsky’s pick trade value trend, which is what I was hoping for. I feel like this is a decent tool to use to evaluate the value of a developing prospect in trades. Speaking of that…
What Prospects Are Worth
By using this metric and comparing current Preds prospects worth by NHLer%, we can see how they would value in Tulsky’s model. Looking at a Top 25 Under 25 list I commissioned from our very own Eric D earlier this year (which he based purely upon ceiling), I went and compared every player’s NHLer% to the closest pick value they were worth. Here are the results:
Obviously, there are outliers here: Carrier isn’t worth a high first round pick by any extent of the imagination, and Afanasyev would probably command a second rounder by himself. But for a lot of these prospects, this is a solid reflection of what they would be worth.
Now, with all of the methodology out of the way, let’s get to the fun part!
Trade 1: Predators trade Frédéric Allard and the 11th, 37th, and 69th picks to LA for the 2nd overall pick
Look, I made you read through a bunch of stuff about numbers, so I might as well start off with a spicy one. The Kings have some potential star power in their prospect system with Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev at forward, and they have other nice pieces like Samuel Fagemo, Gabriel Vilardi, and Rasmus Kupari waiting in the pipeline as well.
Where their farm system (and NHL roster) lacks a bit of jolt talent-wise is on defense, and this draft is an excellent chance to add defensive depth and top end talent. Unfortunately, taking your defender of the future at second overall would be a bit of a reach, so the Kings might hear offers about trading down if they really like a defender who could fall into their lap there (such as a Jake Sanderson).
In this case, Nashville offers a solid, NHL-ready defender in Allard (who I feel has the ability to be a good #4 defender), the 11th pick, and two really good value picks in the 37th and 69th. By my estimations, this would be significantly surplus value for LA and an offer they probably couldn’t pass up. In return, Nashville gets the second pick, which they likely use to take…this guy:
Quinton Byfield is my second-favorite prospect in this draft, and he’s the only true center that would be available in the top three (some like Stützle as a pivot, but I’m not bullish on him there). At 6’4”, 214 lbs, he has an NHL-ready frame to go with stellar skating and skill. He might legitimately have a claim for the player with the highest ceiling in this draft, but he’ll absolutely require a year or two of development before he’s NHL-ready.
Still, the Predators would give their farm system a massive shot in the arm, open up trade possibilities (Byfield’s presence will eventually necessitate moving a center), and give Nashville fans their first prospect hyped as a “franchise caliber” player since David Legwand (let’s ignore that last part). The best part of all of this? Nashville still picks in the second and third rounds, and Allard is a player the organization has seemingly soured on. Wins all around.
Trade 2: Predators trade Kyle Turris and the 11th, 37th, and 69th picks to Carolina for Dougie Hamilton
So this one is a bit of a doozy to explain, but trust me, it all makes sense. We’ve seen in the past few years that Carolina is willing to take on salary dump players for the right price, and with the Canes having an interesting cap situation concerning Hamilton (they’ll have somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 million in space to resign him, Andrei Svechnikov, and both of their starting goalies), this is a pretty good return coming back.
The Preds would lose out on some nice young talent, but David Poile has made it clear that he believes this roster should still be contending for a Stanley Cup. Last year, the team had a glaring hole on defense all season in the fourth defender slot, and I’m still not sure if Dante Fabbro is ready to have that role in a productive capacity. By bringing in Dougie Hamilton (who was one of the best defenders in the NHL last year before getting injured), the defense would likely regain form as the best in the league.
Rolling out that top 4 in front of Juuse Saros with Fabbro on your bottom pair would certainly help the young goalie start out of the gate hot, and with Hynes’s dump and chase system not likely to change, I’d be leery of adding a high-value forward in this slot instead. In this scenario, Nashville lets Granlund go in free agency but resigns Craig Smith to his projected four-year, $4.6 million contract (although probably for less money, given the flat cap), leaving the team with around $9 million in cap space to re-sign Hamilton.
This trade would have seemed a bit more difficult to pull off a month or two ago, but TSN has Hamilton listed on their trade bait board, so it’s clear that he’s being shopped to some extent. Turris is also not a completely nothing player, which I’d hope David Poile realizes, so he’d be a bit different from the Canes’ acquisition of the totally cooked Patrick Marleau in years past.
Trade 3: Predators trade Kyle Turris and the 11th and 134th picks to New Jersey for Ty Smith
If David Poile wants to free up cap space (an increasingly valuable commodity given the frozen cap ceiling) heading into this offseason, this wouldn’t be a bad trade to do so. The Devils once again will have a whole lot of cap space, making them an appealing trade partner, and they’d probably be willing to part with a top prospect in said salary dump if the Preds threw in a big enough sweetener.
Ty Smith is a good prospect and a guy I really, really believe in, and this gives the Devils plenty of incentive to move one of the best pieces in their farm system. The Preds have a bit to look forward to on offense in the pipeline, but there really isn’t a single plus defensive prospect aside from Jérémy Davies that the organization seems willing to play (Allard would be good if they believed in him).
Nashville sheds $6 million in salary and one of the most burdensome contracts in the NHL, and New Jersey gets more pieces to build towards the future with while moving on from a prospect that management reportedly isn’t sold on. Smith would inject life into the defensive prospect pool and could easily develop into a solid building block of this team’s future alongside Dante Fabbro and Philip Tomasino.
Trade 4: Nashville trades the 11th and 69th picks for James Van Riemsdyk and the 23rd and 53rd picks
The Flyers are in a cap crunch, and James van Riemsdyk has a lot to do with why. The veteran forward put up solid enough numbers these past two years, but his hefty $7 million cap hit and long-term deal make him a guy who’s likely going to get shipped out as soon as possible. He was listed as the number two player on TSN’s trade bait board, which clearly means Chuck Fletcher is attempting to shed his salary.
While Nashville may not be the most logical of landing spots for him, there are a few reasons why I think this trade could work. JVR had really, really good underlying numbers for most of this season, but he had rotten shooting luck; he still managed to almost score 20 goals and had 40 points in an abbreviated year. The year prior, he posted 27 goals and 48 points in 66 games, despite an injury at the beginning of the year sidelining him.
He has always been a strong threat on the power play, but his incompatibility with the Flyers’ system at 5v4 (mostly due to him and Giroux not matching up on handedness) has been a spot of concern for the Philly coaching staff. Nashville has three main needs at forward this offseason: a goal scorer, someone who can drive play, and a power-play threat. The Predators should also continue to look to add draft picks and draft depth to aid their pursuit of injecting the aging core with some youth.
The less fun consequences of this scenario are that Nashville likely cannot sign Craig Smith without making some other big moves to shed salary, something other teams may be reluctant to aid in given the current league economy. Still, this is a nice return for Nashville accepting a reclamation project who isn’t really even all that bad, and JVR would slot nicely into the net-front scorer role that Patric Hörnqvist vacated when he was traded.
Trade 5: Nashville trades Colton Sissons, Nick Bonino, and the 37th and 42nd picks to Florida for Jonathan Huberdeau
This trade has zero basis in reality. Here’s why I like it for both teams:
The Panthers were very, very bad at defense last year, especially among their forwards. Nick Bonino is coming off of a year where he garnered Selke votes and drove the best third line in hockey; he’s also got lots of playoff experience and grit, which coaches love. Sissons has that ridiculous contract, but he’s very good at defense by both the eye test and analytics and while his offense took a massive step back, he could regress back to league average and be a very solid player in the bottom six. The Panthers also get some nice value in the draft to help improve their murky pipeline outlook.
The Preds, meanwhile, add a star winger to pair with Filip Forsberg on the top line and hopefully carry Matt Duchene to the level of play David Poile hoped to get from him when he signed here. The team also gains a bit of salary control by dumping the absurdly long Sissons contract onto the Panthers and shedding another $4 million in cap space via Bonino.
Huberdeau is cost-controlled at just $5.9 million for the next three years and is only 27 years old, so the Preds get an extra $1 million in cap space and open up roster spots for the youth movement that should hit the team next year (Pitlick, Tolvanen, Tomasino) while getting more money to add depth and supplemental pieces to the team (signing Dylan DeMelo, bringing back Smith) or another big UFA name (Torey Krug, Mike Hoffman).
They also have a chance to keep their top pick because of Bonino’s value, which is pretty huge considering the lack of big prospects on the organization’s horizon. This one would never happen (it would be a bad look for Florida to trade a young stud in Huberdeau), but if it happened I’d be all about it.
That’s all for this Fun Friday; I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what you liked and what you didn’t.