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Time to go shopping, Mr. Poile

Now that the Nashville Predators know that Steve Sullivan won't be riding to the rescue this season, the focus shifts to GM David Poile, who needs to bolster the team's offensive attack. There have been long stretches on more than one occasion this season where the offense struggles to produce more than 1 or 2 goals a night, and another two-week drought like that could drop the Preds perilously far behind the other Western Conference playoff contenders.

So what kind of deal would Poile be looking for? If the prognosis is indeed for Sully to return for next season, then perhaps the sweet spot here is to look for a pure "rental" player, an upcoming free agent that Nashville has little to no intention of re-signing, and would cost the least in trade compared to a productive player signed to an extended contract. Defense and goaltending are basically well-stocked, so the need to be addressed is up front. It's time to round up the usual suspects... please note of course that I have no idea who Poile is talking to, I'm just taking a look around the league and offering up my humble two cents.

PENDING FREE AGENTS

Mats Sundin (45GP, 20G, 29A); He's an upcoming free agent and no matter where (and if) he goes, it's likely that he'll head back to Toronto this summer to finish out his career. Sundin has a no-trade clause, but if Peter Forsberg agreed to come to Nashville, it's not outside the realm of possibility for Sundin to do so as well. It's far more likely, however, that the Maple Leafs captain will insist on a more prominent Stanley Cup contender than a team fighting to make the playoffs, like the Predators are.

Michael Ryder (39GP, 6G, 9A); This is a bit of an odd case. Ryder scored 25, 30, and 30 goals in his first three NHL seasons, but has suddenly gone dry this year, so much so that he's been a healthy scratch and has been demoted to checking-line duty. His shooting percentage, which ranged from 11.6%-13.5% in those first three seasons, has sunk to 6.3% in this campaign. He's an upcoming free agent, and given his production so far he might be a comparative bargain on the trade market, but it's basically a gamble that in a new lineup his goal-scoring touch would return. If the price is right, this could be a savvy pickup.

Sergei Fedorov (44GP, 8G, 17A); With Columbus a legitimate playoff threat I doubt they'll move Fedorov, but if anyone would seem to be a good fit for the Barry Trotz system it would be this two-time Selke winner. The conventional wisdom is that GM's don't like to trade within their own division, but in the modern NHL, there's not much difference between intra-division or intra-conference trades, so as long as it doesn't involve a key player going the other way that Nashville would have to face several times a year, that shouldn't get in the way of a trade.

Ladislav Nagy (37GP, 9G, 17A); in the seasons immediately prior to and after the lockout, Nagy played at roughly a point-a-game pace, but has failed to live up to that standard since. He was picked up last spring for Dallas' stretch drive, but chipped in only four goals in 25 games, and has put up only modest numbers in Los Angeles on a team that scores a decent amount, even if they can't stop their opponents.

Radim Vrbata (43GP, 18G, 15A); Phoenix, like Columbus, finds itself in the thick of the playoff chase this year, and even if they fell back, I would think they'd try hard to lock up this young Czech, who they acquired in trade last summer, with a new contract.

Cory Stillman (45GP, 20G, 22A); Carolina got off to a good start but they've been stumbling lately, and every team in the Eastern Conference has games in hand on the Hurricanes, so they're quickly running out of time to right their ship. If, over the next few weeks, the playoffs slip out of reach, perhaps Carolina might deal the veteran sniper.

Miroslav Satan (44GP, 10G, 13A); Satan in the Bible Belt? I bet that would prompt a few interesting letters to the Tennessean! This is another situation where the widespread competition for playoff berths has restricted the number of teams that would be considered sellers on the trade market. The Isles currently sit 7th in the East, and wouldn't give up this four-time 30 goal scorer unless hope for the postseason was truly gone.

Martin Straka (29GP, 8G, 10A); Straka's a fine offensive threat, and I suspect his future in New York is somewhat tied to that of Jaromir Jagr. Jagr's heated up since playing alongside Straka recently, so the Rangers would be hamstringing themselves if they let Straka go.

Vaclav Prospal (46GP, 19G, 26A); Tampa Bay is a franchise that needs to break out the dynamite and get down to some serious restructuring. Prospal is in the final year of an affordable ($1.9 million) contract, and he can play left wing or center, which fits nicely with the Predators current roster (where Dumont, Erat, and Radulov all are better suited at RW).

Marian Hossa (44GP, 19G, 23A); I initially didn't include Hossa in this list, but after prompting from one of the members of the Predators Message Boards, I decided to correct the error. Basically, despite all the current talk going on I highly doubt that the Thrashers will dump this franchise player. Atlanta still needs some playoff success, and with them contending for the Southeast Division title, they have every reason to stock up for a postseason run, not sell off commodities for future value. Even considering the "we can't sign him long-term so trading him is better" angle, it makes more sense to hang on to Hossa for the duration. Without him, they likely won't make the playoffs. With him, they've got a chance to make it through a round or two, with the attendant millions in postseason profit providing greatly flexibility to either sign Hossa in the summer or pursue a free agent replacement.

NON-FREE AGENTS TO CONSIDER

Martin St. Louis (45 GP, 17 G, 36A); He's a former Hart-trophy winner who would certainly add zip to the offense, and while he's got three more seasons left on his contract, what makes that attractive to a team like Nashville is that his cap hit ($5.25 million) is higher than what he'll be paid for the duration of his contract ($5 million in 2008-9, then $4 million the last two years). For a team that would prefer to keep the payroll low but still must meet the NHL's salary floor, that's an enticing situation. The buzz-killer here is that the Lightning need a #1 goaltender, and that's not what the Predators can offer in exchange.

Olli Jokinen (46GP, 22G, 21A); Supposedly Jokinen and the Florida front office are not on the same page, which has led to trade speculation for quite a while. While the price would be steep for the 29 year-old Finn, he's a flat-out stud centerman, and would make a landmark acquisition. His contract runs through the 2009-10 season, but at a reasonable amount ($5.25-5.5 million per year). This is the kind of player that you give up developing youngsters and draft picks for, a proven performer in the prime of his career.

Alexander Ovechkin (45GP, 34G, 21A); You mean those internet rumors from last week weren't true??? *SOB* But they cited "sources" for crying out loud! This one never had a chance, folks; I'm guessing someone overheard two kids in the hallway at the Sommet Center trading hockey cards, and ran with it as a potential deal.

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