The Nashville Predators added two players after the Olympic break to bolster the roster for a run at playoff positioning. Defenseman Dennis Grebeshkov was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers and forward Dustin Boyd was acquired from Calgary.
Grebeshkov was acquired for a second round draft pick while the Predators gave up a fourth round pick for Boyd.
Predator fans had hoped for a bigger splash from General Manager David Poile, especially after the acquisition of Grebeshkov on Monday. Many surmised that this was the trade necessary for the Predators to market D-man Dan Hamhuis, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The hope was that Hamhuis could be marketed for additional scoring up front.
Apparently, Hamhuis was shopped by the Predators, with Poile entertaining as many as ten offers during the course of the day on Wednesday. The offers for Hamhuis were not sufficient to induce a trade, and he remains on the roster and in the defensive mix as one of the top four defensemen.
Poile stated that he would attempt to assemble the best roster for the push to the playoffs and that Hamhuis was a known commodity that will continue to contribute to the playoff effort.
It remains to be seen whether a contract can be negotiated with Hamhuis after the season, but he has stated that he likes being in Nashville and would like to remain with the Predators.
The other Predator that was rumored to be on the trading block was goalie Dan Ellis. With the signing of goalie Pekka Rinne to a two year, $6 million contract, many assumed that Ellis would be on his way out. Ellis had gone as far as to say that he wanted to be a number one goalie and did not expect to remain with the Predators.
While much speculation swirled as to the fate of Ellis, the Predators chose to retain a very capable goalie that can step in and give the team quality starts. With the compressed schedule and the Predators playing 17 games in the month of March, it is critical that the team have two goalies that give them an opportunity to win each night. While the Predators risk losing Ellis to free agency in the off season, the risk of playing numerous games without a proven number two goalie was far greater for this team.
So what do the acquisitions of Grebeshkov and Boyd bring to this team?
Grebeshkov has played one game for the predators, and the first impression that he made was excellent. Playing against his former team, the Oilers, he contributed a goal and an assist and looked very steady on the ice. He was paired with Francis Buillon on the third D pairing, and the two exhibited good chemistry for the first time on the ice together.
Perhaps more importantly for the Predators, he brings a quality, veteran presence to the blue line. With Cody Franson still out of the lineup with a broken rib, Grebeshkov will be called upon to log some quality minutes. This will also allow the Predators the luxury of not rushing rookie Alexander Sulzer into playing critical minutes during this stretch run. In fact, the presence of Grebeshkov has allowed the Predators to send Franson down to Milwaukee for conditioning and playing time. Sulzer has also been reassigned to Milwaukee where he will get more minutes than he would with the Predators.
The acquisition of Boyd is a bit more of an unknown for the Predators. He languished in Calgary, where he spent much of his time on the third and fourth line and never really developed his game. Boyd is a versatile forward who can play any position up front and contribute quality minutes on the PK. He has 8 goals and 11 assists in 60 games for the Flames this season.
The Predators have a need for additional scoring, and Boyd is not the name that many Predator fans wanted to see coming to the team. However, Boyd can contribute solid minutes, and depending upon his position in the lineup, could blossom into a quality secondary scorer for the team.
The book on Boyd is that he needs an opportunity to develop his game, and the Predators are a team that can provide that opportunity. While not a headline acquisition, Boyd could prove to be valuable to this team.
The Predators made a run at Alexei Ponikorovski of Toronto, but failed to swing a deal. The fact that this team did not take draft picks for potential trades is indicative of the confidence that management and the coaching staff has in the players they are putting on the ice every night.
It is now up to those players to prove that confidence is justified.
The Predators have the pieces to make a strong run for playoff positioning. Proven veterans like Jason Arnott, Steve Sullivan, J.P. Dumont, Marty Erat, and David Legwand have to produce consistently for this team to be successful. They have 20 games to show that this confidence is well placed.
Two new players to be integrated into the lineup, additions that should add depth and quality to the lineup.
Twenty games to show that they can contribute and be productive.
Twenty games to prove that the judgment of General Manager David Poile is right.
It will be an interesting 20 games.