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Trade Talk: What Do Predators Do With Saros, Lankinen & The Defense?

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Photo of Kevin Lankinen, left, and Juuse Saros by John Russell/Nashville Predators

The NHL trade deadline is seven weeks away, and several Nashville Predators players have come up in trade whispers.

It’s already widely known that defenseman Tyson Barrie wants out of Nashville, and multiple reports have recently suggested there could be varying degrees of interest in both Predators goaltenders as well as some of their other roster defensemen.

Below are the latest updates on several of the Predators reported trade targets:

Juuse Saros

Despite general manager Barry Trotz’s multiple on-record statements saying his goal is to sign Saros to a long-term contract extension, some still believe there is an outside chance the former Vezina Trophy finalist could get moved.

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun is among them, stating Thursday that Trotz isn’t completely shut off to the idea of dealing Saros if teams are desperate enough to meet his outrageously high asking price, which sources confirmed to Nashville Hockey Now over the summer was multiple first-round picks plus at least two blue-chip prospects.

“Don’t throw a couple of first-round picks, which would be in the low 20s, at the Nashville Predators,” LeBrun said. “That’s not going to get Barry Trotz to blink. Let’s take L.A. as an example. If they threw in a name like Quinton Byfield as part of a package — that would get the attention of the Nashville Predators organization.”

Historically speaking, goaltenders — even elite ones — don’t typically fetch the kind of franchise-changing hauls that premier forwards or defensemen do. The reason the Predators are so bullish in parting with Saros is because of his proven track record as an elite goalie.

Since 2019, Saros has the third-most wins (127), the fifth-best save percentage (.917), the sixth-most shutouts (15) and the 10th-best goals-against average (2.66) among goalies to play in 150 or more games. Despite getting the fifth-lowest goal support (2.76 goals for per game) over that span, Saros ranks fourth in regulation plus overtime wins (121) and he has the second-most starts with a save percentage of .900 or better (150).

Some believe the Predators’ asking price for Saros is outrageous, but that’s kind of the point. Trotz thinks so highly of the 28-year-old Finn that he set the bar so ridiculously high he believes no reasonable GM would agree to it.

Kevin Lankinen

There is a goaltender on the Predators roster that Trotz would be willing to part with, however, and he would cost significantly less than Saros would because of his rental status.

Sources indicated to Nashville Hockey Now that Lankinen has been generating plenty of buzz on the trade market over the last few weeks, and there could be several teams calling to inquire about his availability.

Lankinen is 6-3-0 this season with a 3.12 goals-against average and .898 save percentage. The 28-year-old net-minder hasn’t been given easy competition either, as eight of his 13 appearances have come against teams ranked in the top 10 in goals scored per game.

While Lankinen may be gaining more traction as a potential deadline acquisition for a goaltender-needy team, the reality is if the Predators were to move him, it would be much closer to the deadline so 21-year-old Yaroslav Askarov gets as much playing time in Milwaukee as possible. However, from what I’m hearing, the Predators are more inclined to keep Lankinen than to trade him.

Tyson Barrie

Barrie hasn’t played in nearly a month while battling an upper-body injury, and the belief is his trade value, which wasn’t all that high to begin with once it was made public that his relationship with the Predators had soured, has taken a hit because of it.

Trotz has been working the phones and calling several teams to gauge their interest in the 32-year-old defenseman, but he admitted any potential deal is complicated by the fact that most of the teams interested in Barrie don’t have the cap space to pull off a trade right now.

There are two CBA provisions that factor into the Predators retaining any of Barrie’s salary to make a trade work. First, they could only eat 50% of his remaining salary, which is approximately $2.5M. Additionally, if they were to retain any of his salary, they would be at their limit of three salary retentions this season (Johansen $4M, Ekholm $250K).

Barrie is expected to be traded before the March 8 deadline, but this one could drag out for a few more weeks before any headway is made.

Alex Carrier, Dante Fabbro

This situation is one that appears to change on a week-to-week basis. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported over a month ago that he believed one or both of Carrier and Fabbro could eventually be traded.

But during his weekly radio appearance on 102.5 The Game on Friday, Friedman suggested that the Predators may have backtracked on their initial stance and they could now be inclined to keep them both.

“There was a time when I didn’t know if their future was going to be in Nashville — I’ve heard they’ve actually been pretty happy with the way those guys have played,” Friedman said. “…At this point in time it comes down to can you make a deal with these players? What does Nashville think? What do the players and their representatives think? And is there something to get done? If the answer is yes, I think it’s a possibility you see those guys stay. If the answer is no…then I think you move on.”

Sources told Nashville Hockey Now back in December that of the two, the Predators favored Carrier over Fabbro because they believe he meshes better with Andrew Brunette’s coaching style.

But Fabbro has played on Nashville’s top defensive pairing in nine of the last 10 games, eight of which he’s been partnered with Roman Josi.

This situation feels like it’s less one or the other and more a matter of if both can be re-signed for a reasonable price.

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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