New Jersey and Nashville are two teams that are both coming to a similar crossroads. Both teams have a core player that will be unrestricted at the end of this season and neither has re-signed their player due to different reasons. Can these two teams solve one another’s problems? I think so. But it might require a little brass to do it.
In New Jersey, we have elite forward Zach Parise (42gp, 14G, 23A). He’s currently signed to a one-year, $6 million contract that will expire at the end of this season. He’s been a part of their core, but New Jersey has made a significant investment in Ilya Kovulchuk that might make signing Parise to large contract difficult. Money appears to be a significant issue. Parise has also said he wants to play for a contender- something Nashville fans have heard before.
In Nashville, we have elite defenseman Ryan Suter. His current contract ($3.5 million/year) also expires at the end of this season. He’s ingrained as a part of Nashville’s core along with partner Shea Weber (a RFA at the end of this season). Since the money for Suter (and Weber) is there and isn’t an issue, the sticking point here appears to be making Suter (and Weber) comfortable that Nashville intends to spend money across the entire roster in order to make every effort to contend for a Cup. In other words, Suter (sigh, and Weber) wants to play for a contender too and they would like to see some help brought in.
One additional item to consider is that both New Jersey and Nashville are currently in the playoffs and neither will likely want to make a decision to trade their player prior to the end of the season and risk missing the playoffs. Of course, if they don’t they risk losing them for nothing.
So how do these teams help one another? A simple swap will not make sense as it would do nothing to help the perceived money issue in New Jersey. Additionally, as I’ve opined previously, it would appear to be pretty difficult for Nashville to add an elite forward, keep the ones they have, and still sign both Suter and Weber while staying under the cap.
The answer lies in Nashville being willing to part ways with some of their roster players that they are going to have to give raises anyway. It’s those raises (like to Colin Wilson) that makes fitting an elite forward under the cap hard. Nashville has a significant number of players beyond Suter and Weber that have expiring contracts this season and will likely be wanted back: Jonathon Blum (RFA), Blake Geoffrion (RFA), Colin Wilson (RFA), Sergei Kostitsyn (RFA), Anders Lindback (RFA), and Jordin Tootoo (UFA) among those that have seen significant time in the NHL.
Nashville would need to utilize their assets and redefine their core to include that elite forward. That means moving some roster players and some that make a little bit of money. New Jersey would need to redefine their core to have one less elite forward and redistribute that money into other solid, NHL roster-ready players in order to continue their run to the playoffs this year.
With the basic parameters in mind, what kind of trade might make this a great match? Truth be told, there’s a pretty fair number of combinations dependent upon where New Jersey would like to focus their rebuilt core (forward, defense, or in goal). I would expect that Lou would listen to two or three roster-ready players with reasonable contracts (or RFAs).
For example, a Patric Hornqvist (41gp, 12G, 7A, 1yr @ $3.083 million left), Sergei Kostitsyn (36gp, 8G, 11A, RFA) and either a Jonathan Blum or Anders Lindback should get Lou’s attention for an unsigned Parise. Lou would get two 50+ point players that complement Kovalchuck well (perfectly actually), a solid defenseman likely destined for the top four and a potential starting goalie to replace Brodeur. The salary swap is about even after the new contracts for the RFA’s but it allows New Jersey to spread that salary across three/four roster players (and New Jersey would need to make additional roster changes to account for the contract limit). If that deal doesn’t work, build another around the parameters above.
Nashville gets their elite forward while keeping a good stable of forwards (Colin Wilson and Craig Smith) to complement Parise. They lose some very good roster players. They also take a major risk by obtaining an unsigned Parise. That said, if Parise (or Suter) walks at season’s end, Nashville will have a ton of money to hit the free agency market. They also have one of the best pipelines of talent on defense and in goal. They should be able to trust in their ability to fill from within.
It’s bold. It’s risky. It also appears to help both teams for this season and seasons beyond.
It’s time for Nashville to “wink” at New Jersey.
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About the Author: Nashville Predators Blogger, Software Engineer (C#.NET), Novice Woodworker, Southern Cook, Husband, Father of Two. You may contact me at David.R.Singleton AT gmail.com.