Following the 2023 NHL Draft, David Poile retired after 25 years as the general manager of the Nashville Predators, putting a stamp on his Hall of Fame career.
Over the next few weeks, Nashville Hockey Now will reflect back on the last two-and-a-half decades, highlighting the good and not-so-great moments from Poile’s tenure as Predators GM.
When at the helm of an NHL franchise for as long as Poile, one is bound to make a few not-so-great trades.
There are often layers of nuance to evaluating any deal, but it’s typically bad practice to evaluate one by comparing a player taken with a draft pick to the player that pick was acquired for. While deals are typically graded hastily, absent of any further context, analyzing front-office decisions after the fact has the added value of hindsight.
Below are five Poile trades that didn’t exactly go as planned:
No. 1 – November 5, 2017
Poile misses on Matt Duchene, settles for Kyle Turris
During the fall following Nashville’s first and only Stanley Cup Final appearance, both Predators management and the roster sought to run it back. Only a few pieces were thought to be missing, so Poile gambled with mortgaging the future to fortify the present, sending center Vladislav Kamenev, defenseman Samuel Girard, and a 2018 second-round pick (which became Filip Hallander) to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris.
Turris’ performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Eastern Conference Final appeared to legitimize him as the offensive threat the Predators were missing, but he never became the bona-fide top center Poile had hoped he’d become, and he was a healthy scratch on several occasions as his time with the team winded down. In 182 regular season games, Turris accounted for only 29 goals, 67 assists and 96 points with a pedestrian single goal and five points in 19 playoff games.
After signing a six-year, $36M extension shortly after being dealt, Nashville bought out the remaining four years of Turris’ contract in October 2020, resulting in a $2M dead cap hit through the 2027-28 season. While Kamenev and Hallander didn’t amount to much in Colorado, Girard has developed into a great offensive defenseman who showed promise in the few games he played for the Predators prior to being dealt. Losing Girard while eating a decent amount of money to get rid of Turris makes this deal No. 1.
No. 2 – February 24, 2019
Poile sacrifices Kevin Fiala’s potential for Mikael Granlund’s track record
Again, context matters. Even after adding Nick Bonino and Matt Duchene, Poile was still searching for that “missing piece” and had finally ran out of patience with talented-but-frustrating forward Kevin Fiala, who never quite rose to his potential, topping out with 23 goals and 48 points in 80 games during the 2017-18 season.
After his departure, Fiala finally started to shine during his time with the Minnesota Wild, and he’s seemingly reaching new heights now with the Los Angeles Kings.
Granlund was a solid playmaker for the Predators, but he never met his expectations either after back-to-back seasons of 60-plus points with the Wild from 2016 to 2018. His best season in Nashville came two years ago with 11 goals and 64 points. He was traded at the deadline in March, ending his disappointing tenure with just 51 goals and 162 points in 268 games. The Predators took center Kalan Lind No. 46 overall with the second-round pick they got from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Granlund. Giving up too early on young talent like Fiala lands this deal at No. 2.
No. 3 – February 26, 2018
Poile arms division rival Chicago with a first-round pick plus a center prospect
Ryan Hartman was a solid depth player, but he was not worth surrendering a first rounder for, let alone sending such a premium pick to a Central Division rival like the Blackhawks.
In exchange for Hartman and a 2018 fifth rounder (which was used to take defenseman Spencer Stastney, our No. 10-ranked prospect in the Predators system), Nashville sent Chicago center prospect Victor Ejdsell, a 2018 first-round pick (which was used to take Nicolas Beaudin) and a 2018 fourth round pick (which was used to draft Phillipp Kurashev).
This was a classic “identity trade” that fans became accustomed to from Poile, especially during the post-2017 Cup run when he was trying to climb that final hurdle to get back to the Cup final.
Hartman never quite clicked with the Preds, skating in 85 regular season games and tallying 13 goals and 26 points over one-and-a-half seasons. The toughness and tenacity were definitely there — though his physicality did lead him to the penalty box in inopportune times — but Hartman never carved out a top-six role for himself as expected. Parting with a first-round pick for 26 points and very little production is why this deal ends up at No. 3.
No. 4 – June 18, 2007
Poile ships out a captain plus a fan favorite to reacquire his original first rounder
Following the go-for-it season of 2006-2007, where Nashville collected talented players like Peter Forsberg, Paul Kariya, and Alexander Radulov, the team entered a bit of a rebuild mode where Poile sought to return to his roots.
The development of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter led to the departure of fan favorites and solid players in captain Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell, who were sent to Philadelphia for the 23rd overall pick in the 2007 draft — a pick that originally belonged to Nashville but was traded to Philly for Peter Forsberg earlier that year.
The pick netted the Predators defenseman Jonathan Blum, who proved to be rather inconsequential to the team.
Timonen played five solid seasons in Philadelphia following his departure, proving he had plenty left in the tank. He and Hartnell played in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. Timonen later joined the Blackhawks and won the Cup in 2014-15.
This isn’t the worst trade by any means, but after sending away two point-producing players to swing on a possible hit in the draft was a gamble not worth taking. If I were Poile, I’d like a redo.
No. 5 – February 25, 2019
Poile gets burned after doubling down on grittiness
Poile’s third-worst trade also played a part in his fifth-worst deal. Pairing Hartman with a conditional 2020 fourth-round pick, Poile acquired physical forward Wayne Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers to add some extra toughness for the team’s anticipated playoff run.
Simmonds had been a beloved player in the Flyers’ organization and a physical presence who could score goals in the tough areas, which was much-needed in Nashville at the time. But the same analysis that applied to the Hartman trade equally extended to Simmonds, who was on the backside of his career, suffered numerous injuries and never found his footing in Nashville.
Poile had hoped that Simmonds would score the dirty goals and bring some much-needed tenacity to both the locker room and on the ice, but through 17 games, he only scored one goal and three points while adding two goals in four playoff games. Simmonds didn’t return to Nashville for the 2019-20 season and struggled to be a consistent nightly player.
This trade was bad purely because of the desperate nature of another deal seemingly forced in the name of “adding identity.”