NASHVILLE, Tenn. – David Poile remembers only too well not getting anything out of Ryan Suter in 2012 when the Nashville general manager couldn’t sign the defenceman to a new contract.
He didn’t let it happen again.
The Predators made their biggest move this season at the NHL trade deadline Wednesday sending David Legwand, known as the original Predator, to his hometown Detroit Red Wings for two forwards and a draft pick in June.
“I certainly didn’t like the fact going back a few years the Ryan Suter situation when we didn’t get anything for an unrestricted free agent,” Poile said. “I think we need to try to manage our assets as best possible and the fact that David was going to be unrestricted and we have no guarantee we’ll be able to sign him after the season, (trading) made a lot of sense for the organization and for the future.”
Suter signed with Minnesota in July 2012.
Legwand, who turns 34 in August, was the expansion Predators’ first pick in the 1998 draft as the No. 2 overall selection. He was tied with captain Shea Weber for the team scoring lead with 40 points. But his contract also is up at the end of this season, and Poile said he couldn’t give Legwand a commitment for the future.
The forward attracted attention from a few teams, according to Poile. Legwand was involved in the decision because he had to waive his no-trade contract.
“We probably found the best fit for David and gets to go play in his hometown for the Detroit Red Wings,” Poile said.
Nashville got forwards Patrick Eaves, 29, and Calle Jarnkrok, 22, along with a third-round draft pick that becomes a second-round pick if the Red Wings make the playoffs for the 23rd straight time, according to Detroit general manager Ken Holland. Legwand played in a franchise-record 956 games for Nashville.
Legwand gives the Red Wings someone to plug in as their No. 1 centre on a banged-up roster. Holland said Legwand likely will centre the top line with Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist on Thursday night in his Detroit debut after the Red Wings retire Nicklas Lidstrom’s jersey in a pregame ceremony.
The Predators had hoped Legwand could appear at their news conference, but the forward was busy packing for his trip to join his new team.
Coming into this season, the 6-foot-2 Legwand already was the Predators’ career leader in points, goals, assists, game-winning goals and overtime points. He also is Nashville’s post-season leader with 28 points, 13 goals, 47 games played and game-winning goals (3).
He played in all of Nashville’s 62 games this season and had 10 goals and 30 assists. Legwand also picked up two penalties in the third period of Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh, the first giving the Penguins a power play that they scored to take a 2-1 lead.
Legwand practiced Wednesday with the Predators, and Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he hadn’t talked to his forward about the trade deadline.
“He’s our first pick franchise-wise, and I know he loves Nashville,” Trotz said. “I know he knows the situation. He’s been a really productive guy in terms of being you know what you’re going to get every night every year from Leggy. He’s in that 40-50 point range every year, and he’s durable. He hasn’t missed very many games. … He’s got a lot of game left.”
This is the latest deadline move for the Predators who’ve usually been buying instead of selling. A year ago, they sent Martin Erat to Washington for forward Filip Forsberg after the veteran asked to be traded. They swapped for Paul Gaustad in 2012 only to lose in the Western Conference semifinals for a second straight season.
Now the Predators are six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 20 games remaining.
Poile said he can see Jarnkrok having a chance to make the roster next season. Jarnkrok has 36 points in 57 games with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, and the native of Galve, Sweden, recently was rated as the 41st best prospect connected with the NHL by The Hockey News.
But for now, Colin Wilson will take over as the centre on the top line with other forwards getting a chance. Poile isn’t ready to concede a playoff berth this season just yet.
“We have to see how we play in these last (20) games,” Poile said.