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Yaroslav Askarov Making Trade Deadline Interesting For Predators



Photo of Yaroslav Askarov courtesy of the Milwaukee Admirals

Two weeks out from the March 8 trade deadline, there’s an overwhelming feeling that one of the Nashville Predators goaltending trio will be sent packing.

When the season began, general manager Barry Trotz remained steadfast that meeting with Juuse Saros’ agents and hammering out a contract extension during the offseason was at the top of his to-do list.

But Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently reported the odds Saros gets traded are now closer to 50/50, likely prompted by the expected price it would cost to sign the 28-year-old Finn to a contract extension and the breakout season being had by top prospect Yaroslav Askarov.

“I think Askarov’s play has absolutely changed the equation,” Friedman told 102.5 The Game. “There’s nothing else for him to do [in Milwaukee]…you reach a point where you say, ‘What are we doing with this guy in the American Hockey League? He has earned his opportunity.’ I think Askarov is getting there. … Based on everything that he has done this year, it’s time [to call him up], and I do think that has changed the equation.”

Askarov, who’s widely considered the top goaltending prospect in the world, is also the hottest goaltender in the AHL.

He’s won his last 14 starts and posted five shutouts with a .940 save percentage and a 1.60 goals-against average. The 21-year-old Russian ranks second in the AHL in both GAA (2.06) and shutouts (5), third in wins (21) and fifth in save percentage (.923).

Askarov is also responsible for 13 wins during Milwaukee’s 18-game win streak, which is the second longest in AHL history. Many believe he’s there’s nothing left for him to accomplish in the minor leagues, and Trotz appears to agree.

“I think the next step for [Askarov] is to get him more NHL games, to be around Saros, to be in a high-pressure environment, which they have in the American Hockey League…but [we need to] get him meaningful games up here,” Trotz told 102.5 The Game. “He’s had some down there, but he needs some up here, and if they have to be in a playoff race, that would be fantastic.”

Of course, that plan is predicated on there being an NHL roster spot for Askarov to take, which won’t happen as long as both Saros and Kevin Lankinen are still in the picture.

The Predators have received trade calls on both goaltenders, but with Saros’ astronomically high asking price, it’s more likely that Lankinen, who’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, is flipped to a goaltender-needy playoff contender, clearing the way for Askarov to get some more NHL starts under his belt.

“I really have to look at the group,” Trotz added. “… But Askarov — the more games he can get here, the more time he can spend with guys like Saros and Lankinen, it’ll only enhance his ability to fully adjust to the NHL.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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