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As you likely know by now, the Predators acquired hulking defenseman Hal Gill and a conditional 5th from the Montreal Canadiens for Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney, and a 2nd rd pick, a little earlier this afternoon.
Some quick analysis on the trade, its components, and what it means for the Predators, going forward:
First, the trade itself wasn’t completely unexpected. David Poile and Barry Trotz have made no secret that they were looking for a veteran defenseman with some size and experience to help stabilize the bottom four. Yes, the bottom four. There is a predictable faction, mostly outside of Nashville, that see this as a harbinger of a Suter or Weber trade. Fortunately, I or any other reasonably-not-a-moron fellow could tell you that this move fills an existing need–it doesn’t create a surplus.
Gill could play on either the second or third pair, and will likely spell Suter and Weber somewhat on the first penalty kill unit. Everyone’s favorite whipping-boy Kevin Klein has played reasonably well this season, but outside of him, the defense is plagued by questions of size, consistency, and experience. If you add the combined height and weight of Bouillon, Hillen, and Ellis– you have a player that’s roughly the size of Hal Gill. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but the defense lacked size. In addition, while Ellis and Josi have been mostly steady, I worried that their inexperience would start to show more and more as they were placed into high pressure situations in the playoffs. This takes a little responsibility off one, and likely allows the other to either a) develop in a higher-minute situation in Milwaukee or b) be included in a trade for an impact forward. And if Ellis or Josi is traded–I’d imagine the emphasis would be on “impact.”
Additionally, I suspect this means the end of Jack Hillen’s turbulent stint as a Nashville Predator. Designated healthy scratch over the past few weeks when everyone else could go, I suspect you’ll see him on waivers as early as tomorrow morning.
There are two options for how Gill could be used, as I see it: paired with Klein or paired with Bouillon. In the first option, it allows Josi to fall back into a role that might be better suited for his experience level. On the downside, that pairing has played pretty well together, and it’s really the third pairing that’s needed size and help. If you play him with Bouillon, you limit Gill’s even strength time and put him in a situation to succeed, while also keeping a pairing that HAS worked out together. You also give Bouillon a chance to get back to a level of play that we’ve seen previously, but not this season. The cost of this strategy is that Josi, who has suffered from infrequent but usually-painful brainfarts, continues to play pretty big minutes. It will be interesting to see what Trotz and crew do.
As for what we gave up–the pick is the most painful part. It’s a high pick in an okay draft, but with Nicklas Grossman fetching a 2nd and 3rd from Philly yesterday, the market was pretty well set. As I stated earlier on Twitter, I’m not sweating losing Blake Geoffrion. He’s a nice kid, and a great story. I hope that he succeeds and continues to reflect positively on his hometown and family history, but as a prospect he’s not a big loss. He’s struggled to score even at the AHL level, and if he does make it to the NHL, it will be as a dime-a-doze bottom line forward. In other words– the kind of player that our system is practically overflowing with. I suspect that if his hometown was Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan–no one even knows who he is.
Robert Slaney was a toss-in, in the Franson\Lombardi deal. Not likely to ever be an AHL regular, let alone NHL. I suspect we were just trying to dump a contract to keep ourselves comfortably below the 50-man limit.
We also received a conditional 5th, with the pick coming to Nashville if Blake plays 40 or more games in Montreal, next season.
All in all, Gill is a guy that I hoped we would be able to pick up. He fills the need for size, he’s won a cup, and he has a reputation for stepping up his game in the playoffs. He should stabilize our bottom pair, which has been a weakness all season. The Predators’ penalty kill should also benefit, as this is where he excels.
Should be a perfect fit.