It's the best time of year!
In what came as a shock to many who follow Nashville closely, Predators GM David Poile shook up the defense just days before the regular season gets underway. Poile swung a deal with the Canucks, acquiring rugged defenseman Shane O’Brien in exchange for Ryan Parent and Jonas Andersson. Nashville also obtained minor leaguer Dan Gendur in the deal.
The initial reaction in Pred Nation was negative as some are still scratching their heads over this trade, which is very understandable. O’Brien comes in with a $1.6 million salary and a bit of baggage. However, this is a calculated risk by Poile that could pay off this season.
What was the Predators defensive core lacking before this trade? Toughness and maybe experience. Outside of Shea Weber, there was no mean streak on the back end. O’Brien (6’3”, 224) isn’t afraid to throw his weight around or drop the gloves – a combination that only Jordin Tootoo possesses on this team (yet even he has cut down on fighting in recent years). In a rugged Central Division and Western Conference, someone with the phsyicality O’Brien has is needed on your team (most notably in the postseason).
O’Brien has played in 299 NHL games… more than Kevin Klein, Cody Franson, and Alexander Sulzer combined. O’Brien can also log solid minutes if needed, something that could have been a bit of a concern/uncertainty with Klein, Franson, and Parent.
One of O’Brien’s biggest criticisms has been discipline; he has taken some costly penalties in the last couple years, which wouldn’t help a penalty kill ranked 29th a year ago. He also had an incident in April that caused him to be temporarily dismissed from the Canucks. If assistant coach Brent Peterson can take O’Brien under his wing and control his discipline, it will further improve the defense.
Given that O’Brien has just one year remaining on his contract and the combined cap hits of Parent and Andersson fall just shy of O’Brien’s number, this is a smart low-risk move by Poile. Andersson, 29, didn’t impress in the pre-season while O’Brien may be a short-term upgrade over Parent (who I thought had a solid camp).
It’s not like Vancouver is going to make the Preds really pay for giving up Parent and Andersson (like Atlanta has with Rich Peverley). GM Mike Gillis placed Parent on waivers immediately following the trade and Andersson will play in Manitoba this year. It was simply a salary dump by Vancouver.
Almost being lost in all of this, Bruce Garrioch first reported that Sulzer had been placed on waivers earlier today. If he clears, Sulzer is bound to start the year in the AHL, joining Aaron Johnson, who was assigned to Milwaukee this morning.
Given today’s transactions, Nashville’s blueline will look this come Saturday night (assuming no other moves take place):
Shea Weber – Ryan Suter
Francis Bouillon – Kevin Klein
Cody Franson – Shane O’Brien
The more I think about it, the more I like this trade for the Preds. O’Brien brings a dimension to the defense that wasn’t there before.
This now makes two trades in the last few months that have been out of the ordinary for Poile; the first one was the curious acquisition of the enigmatic Sergei Kostitsyn.
For more reaction to today’s happenings in Nashville, check out Preds On The Glass, On the Forecheck, Section 303, and Predlines.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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