At the end of last week we got a trade of note that signals to us an off-season of expected roster upheaval around the league is about to get going.
The Nashville Predators dealt Viktor Arvidsson to Los Angeles for second- and third-round draft picks. Arvidsson, sixth in all-time Nashville goal scoring, is in a similar position to other name players we might see get moved this summer. He's still in his prime years at age 28, on a good contract, but is coming off two down seasons and might have been left unprotected for the Seattle Kraken to scoop for free.
The Predators, too, have a clear need to shake things up. They hit their peak in 2017 when they reached the Stanley Cup Final, but haven't won a playoff round in three years and certainly weren't a lock to even make it there in 2021. Trading Arvidsson may just be the start of those changes.
"A lot of teams are talking to each other and trying to have a little makeover or make changes to their team and we're certainly one that wants to make a couple changes with our team," Predators GM David Poile told ESPN 102.5.
"Where we were a few years ago and where we are today is not exactly the same place," Poile continued. "I think we have to have some growth in our team and go in a little bit different direction. I'm not saying a whole bunch of changes, but I think it's time to make some changes and it's time for a couple of homegrown players like (Eeli) Tolvanen...he would be a prime candidate to take over for Arvi."
Poile also mentioned Philip Tomasino, a 19-year-old winger picked 24th overall in 2019, as someone who could work his way into a role next season. The Predators will continue on with some of the same players of course -- it's believed they'd like to re-sign pending UFA Mikael Granlund for instance. But the current formula wasn't working anymore.
"That was a really close team that grew up together and now they see the end," Elliotte Friedman said on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast.
Arvidsson is a player who, when healthy, has been one of the more consistent 5-on-5 goal scorers in the league. He probably won't be the biggest name traded this summer either, so this is just a taste of what's to come around the league.
"As someone said to me I think there's a lot of players on teams that after this hard year there could be some break ups here and there," Friedman noted.
WHAT THE KINGS HOPE TO GET FROM ARVIDSSON
Between 2016-17 and 2018-19, Arvidsson scored 64 goals at 5-on-5, which ranked ninth in the whole league. A negative turning point for him occurred in a December 2019 game against St. Louis when Robert Bortuzzo hit Arvidsson from behind into the net, which lead to an injury that sidelined Arvidsson for a month.
In the final 35 regular season games of that season Arvidsson scored just nine times and then he scored 10 goals in 50 games this season. The Kings, certainly, have made a low-risk bet that Arvidsson can return to a level closer to his peak.
And he's the perfect fit for them not just because of a relatively cheap contract at $4.25 million for another three seasons. The Kings will be looking to take steps out of a rebuild and position themselves to strike for a playoff spot when old divisions return in 2021-22. The Pacific Division in particular looks like one that could provide opportunities for a team like the Kings.
There's work to be done of course. Los Angeles ranked 27th with an average of 2.54 goals per game, so a healthy Arvidsson could give them a boost there. He'll also give them a bit more depth on the right side, and an option to move into a top line role, or on to a second line behind Dustin Brown.
For these reasons Arvidsson is a great fit on paper for the Kings, and with a ton of potential to be a home run pick up for them.
"They went hard after him," Friedman said on the podcast. "One of the things I'd heard was that Arvidsson had asked for a trade. Nobody would admit that to me."
"The Kings are going after it this off-season."
IS DUNCAN KEITH EDMONTON BOUND?
Nothing is guaranteed, but it appears as though Duncan Keith's time with Chicago could be nearing an end. The 37-year-old has a full no-move clause and so controls his destiny, but the Hawks are working to find him a fit in a western city.
"I do think Edmonton is very much a player in this," Friedman said. "I heard Seattle was also a very big player in this and they made it clear they wanted to be a big player in this. I had heard Seattle saw Keith as a guy who could be a great veteran to build a group around and to be their first captain, but I don't think it's trending that way.
"I think we're gonna see if Chicago and Edmonton can grind their way there. One of the biggest problems is that Edmonton isn't crazy about Keith at the full cap hit even though the cash is way down. And Chicago's whole plan for this is to create the room to go get a Seth Jones or Dougie Hamilton so they don't want to eat a lot of it or take money back that is going to ruin that plan."
Keith has a desire to be closer to his son who lives in western Canada and also to be in position to perhaps take another Cup run before his career ends. But he's not Norris Keith anymore, coming off a 15-point, minus-13 season and he still makes just over $5.5 million against the cap. The actual dollars owed to him over the final two years of his front-loaded contract, though, is just $3.6 million.
The Oilers may be able to offer the best combination of being close to home and providing Keith a competitive environment. With Darnell Nurse on the top pair, Keith could be a better fit in Edmonton as a second-pair defender in more sheltered minutes, but that role does not call for a $5.5 million cap hit. Not when Edmonton has a Nurse extension to worry about next off-season, and hope to still re-sign Adam Larsson before he hits free agency later this month.
Edmonton currently has $16.2 million in projected salary cap space with 10 forwards, seven defencemen and two goalies (not including Mike Smith) on the roster. A key for Edmonton to get this trade done may be for Chicago to retain some of Keith's cap but, again, the Hawks have designs on how to use the cap space they'd free up in this trade.
Interestingly, as the Hawks hope to target Seth Jones in trade this off-season his brother, Caleb, mans the blue line in Edmonton. Could a Keith trade to Edmonton involve Caleb Jones coming the other way and would that then entice Seth to be receptive to a deal to the Hawks and a possible extension?
"I have heard, although I haven't spoken to Seth Jones directly about it, I have heard that Chicago is one of the cities and teams that intrigues him," Friedman noted.
On top of all these considerations is the Seattle expansion draft. The Oilers already face some hard choices in terms of who to protect from the Kraken and bringing in Keith before the expansion draft on July 21 would require one space to be used on him.
"I've had some people who tell me they do think it's most likely that Keith ends up in Edmonton, but there are some hurdles that have to get done and it's not a guarantee," Friedman said.
HOW SIGNIFICANT WILL CHANGES BE IN TORONTO?
We know changes are coming in Toronto, but just how they go about it remains to be seen.
The bottom-six forwards will certainly need a shake up, though Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds are both returning. There remains hope that Zach Hyman returns, and that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' eight-year extension and $5.125 million AAV creates a path for that to happen. Will the top-six need a shake up anyway? With Morgan Rielly a year away from his contract expiring there is speculation if he could be the one to move.
There's a lot to watch here and every possibility the Leafs do something substantial.
"I think they're going to go out and try to get the best player who does what they don't have if they can," Friedman said on 590 the FAN's Lead Off. "I think they're going to try go get, whether it's a goalie, defenceman, or another forward, somebody who's the best available they can get their hands on and they'll all work from there. I'm really curious to see what that is and then I think a lot of the decisions about what they're gonna do with the rest of their lineup is probably after the cap considerations for someone they decide to go out and get."
It's now five years in a row that Toronto hasn't made it out of Round 1 and the Maple Leafs are owners of the NHL's longest Cup drought ever, surpassing the New York Rangers last week. You could look at Auston Matthews and William Nylander having three years left on their contracts and Mitch Marner and John Tavares with four years each remaining, and extract that the timeline for this team to win is at least the next two years before tougher decisions loom.
Does that mean someone like Marner or Nylander needs to get traded now to really give the team a new look? Not necessarily. But the feeling is growing that the Leafs could be busy this summer.
"I do think there's going to be changes," Friedman continued. "How many more shots do you have with this group on ice and around the organization? Does this not seem like the point where the Raptors traded DeRozan for Leonard? I think we're there. I don't know if they'll do something like that this year, but I think they're running out of chances to go out with this group."