For the first time since 2013-14, the Nashville Predators face the prospect of missing the Stanley Cup playoffs. With 23 points in 27 games as of March 12, the Predators sat 10 points out of the fourth and final playoff berth in the Discover Central Division. That's quite a decline for a club that won the Presidents' Trophy in 2017-18 with the NHL's best regular-season record.
That's generated speculation over whether they will become sellers by the April 12 trade deadline. On Feb. 20, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported hearing team captain Roman Josi, goaltender Pekka Rinne and defenseman Ryan Ellis were the Predators' only untouchables. Defenseman Mattias Ekholm and forward Mikael Granlund have frequently surfaced in recent trade rumors.
In his Feb. 16 "31 Thoughts" column, Friedman indicated the Predators had made centers Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen available in the past. However, moving their expensive contracts with so many teams carrying limited salary-cap space this season could be difficult. Both also underperformed before being sidelined by injuries, which should ensure they stay put for the remainder of the season.
Ekholm and Granlund may be the Predators' leading trade candidates, but they're not the only ones who could draw interest as the trade deadline approaches. Here's a look at the teams that could be the best fits for their top trade chips.
5. Dante Fabbro
Friedman's report on the Predators' trade deadline strategy raised eyebrows. He claimed they'd be willing to listen on almost everyone. That included Dante Fabbro, though Friedman subsequently admitted prying the defenseman from the Predators could be difficult.
Fabbro rose quickly through the Predators' blue-line ranks. The 22-year-old sophomore is a terrific skater and a good all-around rearguard who regularly plays among their top-four, averaging 19:15 of ice time per game. He's also in the final season of his entry-level contract with a cost-effective $925,000 salary-cap hit, becoming a restricted free agent without arbitration rights this summer.
If the Predators are considering a rebuild it would make sense to retain a promising, affordable young blueliner with upside like Fabbro. Still, it could be worthwhile for Predators general manager David Poile to at least listen to offers. Perhaps a first-round pick and a top prospect might interest him.
Fabbro would be attractive to most teams regardless of their status as playoff contenders. A rebuilding club with plenty of draft picks and prospects in need of blueline depth could come calling. The Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators all have the cap space and young assets to make competitive bids.