Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Look at the Predators Acquisitions and What they Bring to the Team

The Nashville Predators made three moves leading up to the NHL trade deadline, bolstering their roster for a playoff push.

Hal Gill was acquired  from the Montreal Canadiens on February 17th for forwards Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney, and the Predators second round pick in the 2012 draft. The Predators received a conditional fifth round pick in 2013 if Geoffrion plays 40 games for the Canadiens.

At the trade deadline, the Predators acquired forward Andrei Kostitsyn from the Canadiens for a second round pick in the 2013 draft and a return of the conditional fifth round pick that the team received in the earlier acquisition of Gill.

The Predators then acquired center Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres for their first round pick in the 2012 draft.

With these acquisitions, the Predators have shown that they are gearing up for a deep playoff run and have addressed some needs that the team felt they needed to fill. Let's take a look at what these acquisitions mean for the Predators.

Hal Gill

 With the addition of Gill, the Predators have an imposing physical presence on the blue line that brings a wealth of experience to the rink. Gill has a Stanley Cup ring from his days with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that experience will prove to invaluable to this young Predators squad. Gill is a veteran that is good in the locker room and solid off the ice, and I expect that experience in the playoff wars to be critical.

Gill will never impress with his speed, and the thunderous hits are few and far between. His ability to play with good position and to smother another team's forwards are his biggest strengths. He is a valuable member of the PK unit and is exceptional at blocking shots.

Three players will be the biggest beneficiaries of having Gill on the blue line. Roman Josi, his regular defense partner, will have more leeway to use his speed and offensive skills because Gill is a stay at home defenseman. Additionally, the veteran presence of Gill will benefit Josi in his development on the blue line, as the talented rookie will be able to draw on his partner's experience. The ability of this pair to mesh quickly has been a plus for the Predators and Josi in particular.

The other two beneficiaries are Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. The presence of Gill will allow the top D pair to shave a few minutes off their ice time, which will be beneficial to their play as the season winds down and the playoffs begin. Gill helps take some of the pressure off the blueliners and gives the Predators a strong shut down defenseman on the second pair.

Paul Gaustad

Predator fans may remember this exchange between Gaustad and Anders Lindback during the December 3rd game against the Buffalo Sabres. This occurred after the collision between Jordin Tootoo and Ryan Miller and the subsequent fight:

The fiery Gaustad told Lindback that he was coming for him. It is no secret that Gaustad was well respected and liked in the Sabres locker room, and this is one reason why. Gaustad is a warrior and willing to do what it takes for his team to win.

Gaustad will not score a tremendous number of goals. This season, he has 7G-10A for 17 points. What he brings to the Predators is a big body in the middle that is excellent defensively and on face offs. Gaustad is a shut down player that can match up well with an opponents scoring line. His size, 6'5' and 220 lbs, will help the Predators when they face teams that are bigger up front. In a conversation I had with Barry Trotz, he expressed to me the need to have more size up front and players that could battle with the big forwards that the Predators face in the Western Conference. Gaustad fills that role for the Predators and should help with the match ups the Predators will face in the playoffs.

The biggest beneficary of this acquisition will be Craig Smith, who can move from center back to the wing, where he has fewer defensive responsibilities and can be more creative offensively. Gaustad also the give the coaching staff the ability to move players like Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk up and down the line up for more favorable match ups.

Andrei Kostitsyn

The Predators visited the Montreal Canadiens again to pick up what is hoped will be another reclamation project that will pay scoring dividends. With the acquisition of Andrei Kostitsyn, the Predators have reunited him with his brother Sergei, whom the Predators acquired in 2010 from the Canadiens. Management hopes that Barry Trotz and his staff can work their magic with Andrei like they have done with Sergei.

Andrei is a wild card. He is a big body (6'0" 205) that has a heavy shot and can create offensively. His numbers in Montreal this season have not been impressive (12G-12A, 24 points), but he has shown flashes of offensive creativity and explosiveness. The hope is that he will settle in quickly and contribute offensively for the Predators. His size allows him to match up well with the opponents that he will face in the Western Conference.

In addition to the acquisitions, the Predators said good-bye to long time Predator Jerred Smithson, who was shipped to Florida for a 6th round draft pick. Smithson was a gritty, defensive forward that excelled in a shutdown role and was good in the face off dot. Gaustad effectively replaces Smithson and is better in the face off circle and with his offensive production.

In the background of these trades is the impending negotiation of a new contract for Ryan Suter, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. By now, everyone that follows the Predators knows that Suter has chosen not to continue negotiations until after the season. Money is not the issue for Suter, but instead, according to Suter, the efforts of the team to win the Cup, or at very least to go deep in the playoffs. By making these acquisitions, the Predators have made a statement that they are willing to do what it takes to do just that- make a strong run for the Cup.

The question that no one can answer?

Is it enough?

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