After the wheeling and dealing was completed, David Poile stood in front of the local media and simply stated, “I am one happy general manager.”
It has never been Poile’s style to be active on the day of the trade deadline; he likes to maximize the time he has for the acquired players to be in the lineup. He was active today, however, and he sent a clear message to the rest of the league that this Predators team is going all in.
The first move of the day was acquiring Andrei Kostitsyn from Montreal, who the Preds believe will be a quality addition to the team’s secondary scoring unit. Just minutes before the deadline passed, Poile made another addition by grabbing Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres. Adding those two acquisitions on top of Hal Gill, who was obtained 10 days ago, Poile did well as this year’s trade deadline.
“I think what we’ve done here in the last 10 days is really take a good club into a team that has a chance to be a top team here in the National Hockey League,” Poile said today.
“We were looking for a big, strong, defensive defenseman and I think we got the best one of the guys who were traded in Hal Gill. We were looking for more scoring on our team and I think we got the best scoring forward that was made available in Andrei Kostitsyn. We were looking for a defensive penalty killer, hard-nosed center that could play up and down our lineup, and I think we got the best player in that area in Paul Gaustad.
“I think we covered all of the bases as to what was available to us.”
Minus Jerred Smithson, the Predators became a deeper team without having to give up anyone on the roster. To acquire Gill, Kostitsyn and Gaustad, Poile primarily parted with draft picks, which has to be viewed as a plus moving forward.
To acquire Gaustad (and a fourth-round pick) from Buffalo, Poile had to step up and trade away a first-round pick for the second year in a row. It was a tough decision, but one he felt was necessary to get a coveted player like Gaustad in a seller’s market.
“I had probably 15 phone calls with Buffalo today,” Poile said. “We paid a big price to get him, but it’s a specific player to play in a specific role. Everybody pays their prices at different times. Most clubs have paid big money on July 1st; we haven’t been too notorious in doing that. I feel good about paying a little bit more on February 27th with 20 games left to challenge for the Stanley Cup.”
Like Gill, Gaustad brings size and experience to the Preds’ third line. Gaustad, 30 years old, is ranked 10th in faceoff percentage in the league (56.8%), plays big shorthanded minutes and is an all-around upgrade over Smithson. He adds much-needed depth down the middle, something that every team needs come playoff time.
The Preds didn’t acquire a top-end forward that can score 30-40 goals – but that player simply wasn’t available (minus Rick Nash). One aspect that some are overlooking, though, is that they acquired two guys – Gill and Gaustad – that can shut down opposing top-end forwards.
Poile hopes beefing up the team’s depth will prevent a situation similar to last year where Ryan Kesler carried Vancouver past the Preds in the second round of the playoffs.
“Size is a little bit of an issue for us. I think with Gill, Gaustad – and even Kostitsyn has a big body – I think we’ve addressed that area,” Poile said. “You learn from your experiences, you look at your strengths and weaknesses, and I think we’ve plugged in some of the things that were probably missing last year when we went up against Vancouver.”
Will acquiring the trio of Gill, Kostitsyn and Gaustad convince Ryan Suter and Shea Weber to sign on the dotted line? Probably not. Not right now, at least. But Suter and Weber value playoff success over anything else, and Poile certainly boosted this team’s pursuit of its first Stanley Cup.
“I think the most important for them (Suter and Weber) and for us is what happens in the last 20 games and what we do in the playoffs,” Poile said. “By winning, everything will get taken care of. Let’s give it some time.”