Wild West: General Manager Ratings – Nashville
In part nine of our look at the Western Conference GMs, we will look at David Poile who has been an NHL GM for almost 38 years. I'd almost forgotten that he was the GM in Washington from 1982 to 1997 and has been the GM in Nashville since they started as an expansion franchise in the 1998-99 season.
We skipped Bill Guerin in Minnesota because his resume is very limited as he has been on the job less than a year.
5: below average
7: above average
8: top ten
Overall ratings should be based at seven being average, but the biggest takeaway should be how each GM compares to the others.
Bob Murray – Anaheim: 7.85
John Chayka – Arizona: 6.62
Brad Treliving – Calgary: 7.5
Stan Bowman – Chicago: 7.6
Joe Sakic – Colorado: 7.55
Jim Nill – Dallas: 7.225
Ken Holland – Edmonton: 6.925 (post-2009)
Rob Blake – Los Angeles: 7.025
GM – David Poile, hired June 9th, 1997
The first category, winning:
Regular-season record: 821 W 633 L 60 T 91 OTL 70 SOL 0.554 Winning %
Best result and playoffs: The best regular season was in 2017-18 when the team had 53 wins and 117 points but lost in round two of the playoffs. The Predators made it to the Stanley Cup finals in 2016-17 only to lose in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nashville was not benefitted the same quality of players that Vegas was coming into the NHL and David Poile had to rely on a roster of NHL rejects in the first few seasons and not surprisingly they struggled not making the playoffs for their first five seasons. Including this season, they should make the playoffs for the 13th time in 16 attempts since 2002-03.
The Predators have only had three coaches in 21 seasons and that includes Barry Trotz for the first 15 seasons.
Since the 2005-06 season, Poile has given Nashville an opportunity to be competitive almost every season. They have just never been able to get over the hump and win the Stanley Cup and their window is closing, so Poile will need to do something to keep this team competitive.
Winning rating: 7.6
Their defense and defensive prospects have been the envy of the league for quite a few years and most of them were from the draft. This is a GM that drafted, Pekka Rinne (258th overall), Dan Hamhuis, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Seth Jones, and Samuel Girard. Not a bad building block on the back end, to keep or use in trade for other positional players.
It is not unusual for teams that have great success on the ice to have the opposite success in drafting and you can certainly see the effect it has had on Nashville post-2009. The big hits at the draft are fewer and farther between and other than 2014 have been very average, if not below. I don't think there is any question that Poile and his staff were excellent in this category until 2009 (drafted Ryan Ellis, Craig Smith, Mattias Ekholm, and Gabriel Bourque that year), but I want to focus on 2010 till now in detail and come up with an overall drafting score.
From 2010, Poile has only had six first-round picks to play with and most of those (other than 2013 at 4th overall) were in the lower half of the round. Austin Watson picked at 18th overall in 2010 has been a useful addition to the Predators roster but typically a player in his role can be added in the 2nd to 4th rounds. The team did not have a 1st round pick in 2011 or 2012, but did moderately well in 2012 with Colton Sissons in the 2nd round at 50th overall but were unable to sign Jimmy Vesey after picking him at 66th overall in the 3rd round. 2013 saw the team with the 4th overall pick and they used it on Seth Jones who has become a very good defender with Columbus. The team also picked Juuse Saros in the 4th round 99th overall who has seen his playing time increase with the decline in the play of Pekka Rinne.
2014 was a good draft year, with Kevin Fiala at 11th overall and Viktor Arvidsson at 112th overall in the 4th round. They will surely regret trading Fiala to Minnesota as he looks like he will be a point-per-game player sooner than later. 2015 saw the team without a 1st round pick again but Yakov Trenin (2nd round 55th overall) made his debut in the NHL this season and played 21 games and had six points after posting 35 points in 32 games in the AHL.
Poile went back to building the back end in 2016 by picking Dante Fabbro at 17th overall and Samuel Girard in the 2nd round at 47th overall. Fabbro had an underwhelming rookie season this year with only 11 points in 64 games, but still has plenty of offensive potential, while Girard was traded to Colorado and has flourished.
In 2017 the team has two prospects with potentially high ceilings in Eeli Tolvanen drafted 30th overall and David Farrance drafted 92nd overall in the 3rd round. Tolvanen hasn't progressed as well as hoped and has two full seasons in the AHL of 35 and 36 points. At 21 years of age, next season will be huge for him. Farrance had an excellent season with Boston University and posted 43 points in 34 games as a defenseman. As per Dobber Prospects, his game is still raw but the potential is there to become a top-four addition to the NHL team at some point.
2018 was a bit of write-off as the team only had four picks and none higher than 111th overall in the 4th round. It is unlikely to produce any NHL players.
In 2019 the team drafted Philip Tomasino at 24th overall and he is currently the 2nd or 3rd best prospect that the Predators have in their system. He posted 100 points in 62 games in the OHL as an 18-year-old. Dobber Prospects describes him as a speedy hard-working two-way player. The other intriguing prospect from this draft is Egor Afanasyev who they picked at 45th overall in the 2nd round. He is a big skilled winger who led his team in scoring in the OHL with 67 points in 62 games this year.
Poile went into 2010 scoring well above nine in this category, but this past decade hasn't been as successful.
Drafting score: 8.5
Trades made: 122
I'm going back as far as 1998, as I figure some of Poile's early trades really built the foundation for this club.
June 26th, 1998 – sent future considerations for Kimmo Timonen and Jan Vopat. Timonen went on to play top-four minutes in Nashville for eight seasons. A gift of a deal.
June 27th, 1998 – sent a 1st round 3rd overall pick in 1998 (Brad Stuart) and a 2nd round 29th overall pick in 2018 (Jonathan Cheechoo) for a 1st round 2nd overall pick in 1998 (David Legwand) and a 3rd round 85th overall pick (Geoff Koch) in 1998. It's hard to criticize a pick that ends up playing over 1,000 NHL games in Legwand, but his ceiling was lower than expected and he topped out as a 3rd line center. Stuart played over 1,000 games as well and Cheechoo had a 56 goal season and played over 500 games.
February 16th, 2004 – sent a 2nd round 45th overall pick in 2004 (Ryan Garlock) and a 2nd round 43rd overall pick in 2005 (Michael Blunden) for Steve Sullivan. I'm not usually a fan of a deal that sends high draft picks for an established 29-year-old player, but this one worked out very well for Poile. A healthy Sullivan was a big contributor to the Predators offense for five and a half seasons.
March 9th, 2006 – sent Kris Beech and a 1st round 23rd overall pick in 2006 (Semyon Varlamov) for Brendan Witt. To give up a 1st round pick for a sixth defenseman on a rental is a steep price. The Predators were bounced in the first round.
February 15th, 2007 – sent Ryan Parent, Scottie Upshall, a 1st round 23rd overall pick in 2007 (Jonathon Blum) and a 3rd round 84th overall pick in 2007 (Phil Desimone) for Peter Forsberg. Forsberg was already a broken golf-cart of a player at this point but did manage to play 17 games in the regular season and five more in the playoffs before Nashville was ousted. This was an extraordinarily high price for Forsberg, in the fact that Parent was a 20-year-old 18th overall pick with a high ceiling, Upshall was a 6th overall 23-year pick who went on to play over 800 NHL games as well as the 1st rounder and 3rd rounder that summer.
June 18th, 2007 – sent Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen for a 1st round 23rd overall pick in 2007 (Jonathon Blum). According to Capfriendly.com both Timonen and Hartnell were going to be UFA on July 1st, so this is actually not a bad return for both players that did end up signing with Philadelphia.
June 22nd, 2007 – sent Tomas Vokoun for a 1st round 9th overall pick in 2008 (Josh Bailey), a 2nd round 58th overall pick in 2007 (Nick Spaling) and a 2nd round 40th overall pick in 2008 (Aaron Ness). Vokoun was on top of his game when this trade happened but he struggled in the playoffs, but they knew Pekka Rinne was a year or two away from the NHL.
June 21st, 2008 – sent a 2nd round 46th overall pick in 2008 (Colby Robak) and a 3rd round 76th overall pick in 2008 (Mathieu Brodeur) for a 2nd round 38th overall pick in 2008 (Roman Josi). The club must have liked Josi enough to move up 8th spots and nab one of the best defensemen currently in the NHL.
February 10th, 2011 – sent a 1st round 21st overall pick in 2011 (Stefan Noesen) and a 3rd round 82nd overall pick in 2012 (Jarrod Maidens) for Mike Fisher. Once again, I'm not usually a fan of trades for 31-year-old veterans and giving up high picks in return. Fisher proved this wrong by becoming the heart and soul of Nashville for the next seven seasons. Ottawa was held ransom on this deal and it brought the price down quite a bit for Nashville as they were the only team he was willing to go to.
February 27th, 2012 – sent a 1st round 21st overall pick in 2012 (Mark Jankowski) for Paul Gaustad and 4th round 99th overall pick in 2013 (Juuse Saros). Essentially the same price they paid for Fisher the year before, but Gaustad was a UFA rental, who Nashville did re-sign. He was fairly ineffective in Nashville for his four seasons.
March 5th, 2014 – sent David Legwand for Patrick Eaves, Calle Jarnkrok, and a 2nd round 46th overall pick in 2014 (Julius Bergman). Poile convinced Legwand to waive his no-trade clause and received good value for the 33-year-old impending UFA. Jarnkrok proved to be the key to this deal and is a very important piece to the Nashville roster to this day.
June 27th, 2014 – sent Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling for James Neal. It is easy to dismiss the deal for Neal and look at the player he is now compared to Hornqvist, but Neal did score 23, 31, and 23 goals for Nashville in his three seasons there. Probably a small loss on this deal but closer than it looks.
February 15th, 2015 – sent Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic, and a 1st round 24th overall pick in 2015 (Travis Konecny) for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. Another 1st round pick sent for two UFA rentals in Franson and Santorelli and the Predators were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. These types of deals are costing them now.
January 6th, 2016 – sent Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen. The depth on the back end allowed Poile to target a big center in Johansen who was only 23 years old and had the potential to be a dominant player in the NHL. Johansen has been good but is now saddled with a very hefty long-term contract that he will have trouble living up to. Johansen hasn't scored more than 15 goals in his five seasons in Nashville. Jones is a top-pairing defenseman in Columbus and has flourished, and at only 25 years of age, he still has quite a few more years at the top of his game. At the end of the day, the trade did make Nashville a better all-around team.
June 29th, 2016 – sent Shea Weber for P.K. Subban. Early returns pointed to a big win for Nashville, but this has probably come back to even. I wrote a Frozen Tools article looking back at the deal in December 2019 here.
November 5th, 2017 – sent Vladislav Kamenev, Samuel Girard, and a 2nd round 58th overall pick in 2018 (Filip Hallander) for Kyle Turris. Not only did Poile give up two very good prospects and a high pick for Turris, he also extended Turris for an additional six years at $6 million AAV. One year into the deal and Nashville couldn't even give Turris away. Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm are all around 30 years of age and there is only Dante Fabbro (21) to fill the gap when these guys start to fade a little. Moving Jones and Girard will hurt than even more.
February 26, 2018 – sent Victor EJdsell, a 1st round 27th overall pick in 2018 (Nicolas Beaudin) and a 4th round 120th overall pick in 2018 (Philipp Kurashev) for Ryan Hartman and a 5th round 131st overall pick in 2018 (Spencer Stastney). This deal seems like a desperate attempt by Poile to find playoff chemistry, but overpaying for bottom-six forward in Hartman. A first-rounder for Hartman was insane then and it's insane now.
February 25th, 2019 – sent Kevin Fiala for Mikael Granlund. Another attempt for playoff success in moving a 21-year-old Fiala coming off a 23 goal year in 2017-18 for a seemingly more established 25-year-old Granlund who has struggled mightily in Nashville. Granlund has 17 assists in 80 games with Nashville after putting up 38, 46 and 43 assists in Minnesota the prior three years. This deal will haunt Nashville in the next five years.
June 22nd, 2019 – sent P.K. Subban for Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies, a 2nd round 34th overall pick in 2019 (Bobby Brink) and a 2nd round 37th overall pick in 2020. It is hard to believe that this is the return for a player like Subban and how far his value has come down when his salary is taken into account and the pressure for Nashville to get his money off their books. His struggles in New Jersey make the deal look a little better, but he should bounce back better than this season.
The pressure to get over the hump in the playoffs breeds horrible rental trades at the deadline and the odds of the deal looking good years later is very small unless you win the Stanley Cup. No one remembers the Predators getting to the finals and coming close outside of Nashville. The Forsberg deal alone gets Poile some major points in this category but he has slipped since and his deadline deals are coming home to roost.
Trade score: 7
Poile has signed 285 contracts to over $1.4 billion.
The Predators have bought out seven players, Barret Jackman, Eric Nystrom, Viktor Stalberg, Rich Clune, Hal Gill, Brett Lebda, and J.P. Dumont for a combined value of over $13.5 million. From an ownership standpoint, this number is not that egregious, and other than Stalberg, most contracts were not that expensive.
Nashville is going to be up against the cap and have some very long-term deals that might prove problematic in the next few years.
Some of the albatross contracts they have are:
Kyle Turris (30) – $6 million AAV signed until the end of 2023-24
Ryan Johansen (27) – $8 million AAV signed until the end of 2024-25
Matt Duchene (29) – $8 million AAV signed until the end of 2025-26
Ryan Ellis (29) – $6.25 million AAV signed until the end of 2026-27
Roman Josi (30) – $9.059 million AAV signed until the end of 2027-28
Colton Sissons (26) – $2.857 million AAV signed until the end of 2025-26
Turris was an awful contract, Johansen and Duchene will be an issue in a few years and Ellis will as well. The Josi contract is bearable because he was so underpaid with his previous contract of seven years at $4 million AAV.
The players agreed to some hometown discounts in prior years but Forsberg, Jarnkrok, and Ekholm won't in three years but credit has to be given to Poile in prior years.
With the moves to trade for established players and striving to win now, the Predators have moved from a team that was always comfortably under the salary cap to a team that will struggle to stay under it. If they don't win the Stanley Cup in 2-3 years, this franchise will be a mess or be blown up. When Forsberg's contract of $6 million AAV is up in 2021-22, it might be the line in the sand for this team.
Signings score: 7.1
A few years back, I would have considered Poile to be among the very best GMs in the NHL, but his armor is rusting a little.
Overall score: 7.55
As always, thanks very much for reading, and if you have any comments or suggestions please let me know below or follow me on Twitter @gampbler15.
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