After loading up with yet another marquee deal earlier this season, in the form of Kyle Turris, the Nashville Predators remain on the hunt for a winger to complement their now dangerous depth down the middle.
But as prices remain high for true game-changers up front, it appears the Predators may opt for a different route to bolster their forward corps before the 2018 post-season begins: apparent Olympic phenom Eeli Tolvanen.
“He has been a splendid story for the Finnish team,” Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston said of Tolvanen during the Headlines segment of Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. Tolvanen dominated to the tune of a four-point stat line in his Olympic debut on Thursday, before following up with two goals in his second go-round one night later.
“And what he is, is an interesting choice for the Nashville Predators, who own his rights — a first-round draft pick from last year.”
Prior to his international breakout, Tolvanen’s name was among those floated hypothetically as part of the likely package needed to lure the New York Rangers into a deal for veteran Rick Nash, whom Nashville has reportedly been keen on.
However, the 18-year-old Finn appears to be doing his part to convince the Predators brass he’s worth holding onto — and perhaps even bringing into the fold sooner than later.
“He’s the sort of player that, with prices so high on rentals, most teams would be looking for when they’re looking for a top prospect. I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Johnston said. “Nashville sees him potentially as the solution to their problems. We do know they want a scoring winger. That’s what they’re in conversations for, mostly, on the trade market.”
Tolvanen has suited up for 47 games in the KHL this season, amassing 17 goals and 34 points for Jokerit Helsinki. As soon as the KHL post-season concludes in April, the young winger will be eligible to venture west.
“He is able to come over after his KHL season,” Johnston said. “There has been dialogue between the Predators and his camp during the year about the possibility of him signing his entry-level deal once Jokerit is out of the playoffs. And don’t be surprised if he’s the addition to the Predators once we get to playoff time, not another player at the deadline.”
Looking to follow up on their 2017 Stanley Cup Final appearance, which saw Nashville come two games short of their first championship, the Predators currently rank first in the Central Division and second overall in the Western Conference.