NHL Mailbag: Do the Predators need to go all-in?

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With the trade deadline now just 11 days away, teams are mostly trying to figure out who to keep, who to trade and how far they can reasonably go.

These aren’t always easy answers here, but you gotta look inward and see where you’re at. Especially at this time of year. The answers aren’t easy and neither are the decisions that spring from them, but that’s why GMs have seven-figure salaries I guess.

Anyway, here we go:

 Joel asks: “Should Laviolette and his staff be on the hot seat? The Predators are built to ‘win now’ and have been mediocre for months.”

I think “mediocre” is a bit of an overstatement but they definitely need to be better (they’re plus-12 in goals with the eighth-best GF% in all situations since the start of 2019). They’re 10-6-3, but 2-3-1 in the last six, which isn’t good. There’s no way a team that’s about to finish with 100-plus points is going to put the coach on the hot seat barring some kind of horrible postseason collapse, and even then…

I also got a question about whether Nashville should go “all in” at the deadline and I have to say the answer is yes. Their goalscoring rate is ninth in the league, but 15th in generating scoring chances. Specifically, the power play is the absolute worst in the league in scoring (just 2.8 goals per 60 somehow, worse than the 12th-best 5-on-5 scoring team), and third-worst in scoring chance generation.

So yeah, they need a guy who can put the puck in the net at 5-on-4, full stop. Is that Mark Stone? Is that Artemi Panarin? Yeah. The Preds, as you say, are in win-now mode so there’s no sense keeping the No. 24 pick or whatever it ends up being and Eeli Tolvanen for three years from now.

The Predators have been struggling lately, but they could still win it all. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
The Predators have been struggling lately, but they could still win it all. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Dylan asks via email: “Is there a worse contract in the NHL today than Jack Johnson’s?”

Milan Lucic has a much worse contract (because he has trade and demotion protection that Johnson does not) but your point is well-taken. Johnson has been on the ice for 47 goals at 5-on-5 and has been a huge drag on everyone he plays with. You can put some of that on how much he’s used pretty much only in defensive situations but mostly, yeah, he’s bad and he’s signed for ever.

Tony asks: “Does the Pastrnak injury force the Bruins’ hand to go get a winger before the deadline?”

I would think so, but Don Sweeney is acting like it’s not a big factor in his decision-making.

Much like the Predators, it’s win-now time, but maybe even more pressing because most of their core players are in their late 20s and early 30s. If you don’t get something out of the group in the next year or three, that’s probably it for this group.

So yeah, I’m more than willing to give up a first, Ryan Donato, and another youngish guy if it means I’m getting a high-end contributor, even if he is just a rental.

Dan asks via email: “Who would win a best-of-seven series, the Lightning or a team full of Johnny Gaudreaus?

Pretty easy way to answer this, in theory: Right now Tampa is sitting on about 158 goals above replacement from all players, leading the league by a margin of nearly 25. That’s equivalent to about 27 wins above replacement.

Of course, almost 137 goals of that comes from Tampa’s skaters. Gaudreau by himself has given Calgary 12.9 goals above replacement, good for 21st in the league. That’s roughly equivalent to Nikita Kucherov’s output. If you have 18 Gaudreaus on the roster and everyone was getting equal ice time, instead of a mishmash of everyone the Lightning has, you would theoretically have about 232 goals above replacement, equal to 40 wins.

So we’re talking almost 95 goals of difference — 16 wins above and beyond what Tampa has gotten from its incredible roster. Such is the power of elite players. Maybe you put in some wiggle room since defense is different from forward, and center is harder to play than wing, but it’s not enough of a step back to cost the Gaudreau Gaudreaus 16 wins. Let’s call the Gaudreaus plus-80 GAR.

The problem, of course, comes down to the fact that Tampa has the eighth-best GAR number from its goaltenders, as they have prevented 21.3 goals above replacement, or about 3.7 wins so far this year. Johnny Gaudreau, of course, is a well-below-replacement goaltender because he is not a goalie at all. The question is whether Johnny Gaudreau and his backup, Johnny Gaudreau, is going to cost you 60-something goals. It would be close, I bet.

So honestly, I’m gonna say this is mostly a toss-up leaning in favor of the Gaudreaus. Which, hey, that’s hockey.

Pat asks: “Could anyone beat the Lightning in a seven-game series?”

Yeah I mean that’s hockey too.  The latest numbers have the Bolts at about a 1-in-3 chance to get to the Cup Final 1-in-4 chance to actually win it. Those are, for the record, incredibly high numbers; the next-closest team (Toronto) is 1-in-5 to make the Final and 1-in-8 to win it.

Obviously your odds improve as you progress through the playoffs and potentially knock off the next-best team, but the fact is that in 3 out of every 4 runs with this group, it would not win the Cup instead. Hockey’s a game of bounces and sometimes they don’t go your way in four games out of seven.

That’s it.

Jarrod asks: “Could Toronto possibly ‘want’ to allow Marner to get offer-sheeted?”

No they would obviously match just about any offer for him barring, say, the league max, but first of all no one will offer-sheet someone from Toronto (since the Leafs can really throw cash at every mid-level RFA from now to the end of time) and no one will offer-sheet anyone period.

The idea here that you’d get a bunch of a team’s first-round picks is nice, but Toronto isn’t exactly in pick-accumulation mode anymore, and more to the point none of the guys they get from those drafts, or from trading off those picks, is going to be as good as Marner.

NJD asks: “What’s an AAV look like for Jeff Skinner?”

About $9 million. You hate to see it.

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Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.

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