Goalie Gamble: Will the Predators Deal Saros as Trade Deadline Nears?

Nashville, TN – Predators’ star goaltender Juuse Saros, with less than two months until the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline, is once again again back in trade rumors around the league. The Predators are in a familiar position and poised to finish midtable in the Central Division for a fourth consecutive season and again have a draft pick outside the Top 15.

Earlier in the season, Barry Trotz made it unequivocally clear that trading Saros was not a consideration, but with how the Preds season has been going, the possibility of a Saros trade seems more possible now than ever. Saros has been integral to the Predators franchise, arguably more than any player over the past few seasons. 

For Barry Trotz and the Predators’ front office, the big question centers around Juuse Saros’ impact on the team: Is his presence between the pipes a catalyst for the team’s success or a barrier to its progress? While Saros is among the league’s elite goaltenders, the question still remains – does he align with the Predators’ current and future needs? Does relying on a goalie of Saros’ caliber perpetuate a state of mediocrity, or is he the critical component in elevating the team beyond its current mediocrity?

Outside of their miracle Stanley Cup run in 2017, consistent inconsistency has been a theme in Nashville. The longer this currently constructed Predators team plays together, the more obvious it is this team requires a shakeup. 

When Trotz assumed his new role, he came out of the gates swinging by releasing Matt Duchene and trading Ryan Johansen followed by the signing of veteran leaders Ryan O’Reilly, Luke Schenn, and Gus Nyquist; it signaled to most fans that Nashville intended to compete rather than rebuild after missing the playoffs in 2023. With the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline looming, Nashville is in a familiar position, trying to find themselves in the playoffs, currently in the middle of a battle for one of the wild card spots in the West. 

If Nashville ever wants to transcend its current level of performance, management at least needs to consider a comprehensive rebuild. Trading Saros would signal a move in this direction. The Predators rely on stable goaltending to win and stay in games, and when they aren’t getting that, they struggle to stay competitive, and that is precisely what we have seen this season. When you look at Yaroslav Askarov, who is among the top goaltending prospects in the entire NHL, you will see that he is killing it in the AHL so far this season. The Predators will have to decide soon on the direction they want to go between the pipes; they can’t keep kicking the can down the road. Askarov deserves his shot in the NHL, and if he isn’t going to get that in Nashville, he needs to be shipped off while his value is at its pinnacle. Now, if the Preds view Askarov as the long-term answer in net, Saros is the one who needs to get dealt. Trotz could enhance the team’s prospect pool and draft capital in a big way by trading Saros and paving the way for Askarov to take over as the new full-time goalie in Smashville. As noted earlier, having two goalies of Saros and Askarov’s caliber is unnecessary. While most of the recent speculation has been about trading Askarov, the return Trotz would get for Saros would likely be much more substantial and guide this team into more of a rebuild, which might be what they need at this point. 

Considering these factors, which teams would have a strong incentive to pursue Saros? To trade for Juuse Saros, the Nashville Predators initially set their asking price last season at two first-round picks plus two premium prospects. This deal was presented to the Los Angeles Kings before the trade deadline and would likely be the same asking price this season if not more:

Toronto Maple Leafs:

The Toronto Maple Leafs are at a crucial crossroads under head coach Sheldon Keefe. The Maple Leafs are positioned firmly in their championship window and need to find that “missing piece” to get over that hump. With a dynamic offense with some of the best star power in the league and strong special teams, their Achilles’ heel lies in their goaltending, ranking near the bottom half in save percentage and goals against. The trio of Ilya Samsonov, Martin Jones, and Joseph Woll has yet to provide stability, and has created a glaring gap in an otherwise formidable squad. Acquiring Juuse Saros from Nashville would be a game-changer for the Leafs, offering the elite goaltending they have desperately needed. While costly, securing Saros could transform the Leafs from playoff hopefuls into powerful Stanley Cup contenders. 

Trade Pieces:

  • 2024 and 2026 First Round Picks
  • Matthew Knies LW (#1 Prospect)
  • Fraser Minten C (#2 Prospect)
  • Easton Cowan C/W (#3 Prospect)
  • Topi Niemelä D (#4 Prospect)
  • Roni Hirvonen W (#5 Prospect)
  • Nick Robertson LW (#6 Prospect) 

New Jersey Devils: 

The Devils have the NHL’s second-lowest team save percentage and surprisingly currently sit outside the playoffs. The Devils urgently need a solution to the dilemma of having a young, talented roster but a terrible goalie situation. Securing a superstar goaltender like Saros could be the final touch in completing the Devils’ roster. If they fixed their issues in net, it would instantly propell them into the ranks of serious Stanley Cup contenders.

Trade Pieces:

  • First Round Picks
  • Simon Nemec D (#1 Prospect)
  • Seamus Casey D (#2 Prospect)
  • Samu Salminen C (#3 Prospect)
  • Cam Squires RW (#4 Prospect)
  • Josh Filmon LW (#5 Prospect)
  • Ethan Edwards D (#6 Prospect)

Carolina Hurricanes:

It’s now or never for the Hurricanes to capitalize on their dominance under Rod Brind’Amour. They’re squarely in the middle of their championship window, and it seems inevitable they’ll go all in soon. Their biggest shortfall this season has been goaltending, with the Canes ranking bottom 5 across the NHL in team save percentage. The goaltender rotation has been the definition of inconsistent all season. Bringing in a top-tier goaltender like Saros would immediately elevate the Hurricanes from a good team to perhaps Stanley Cup favorites. 

Trade Pieces:

  • First Round Picks
  • Alexander Nikishin D (#1 Prospect)
  • Bradly Nadeau W/C (#2 Prospect)
  • Scott Morrow D (#3 Prospect)
  • Ville Koivunen W/C (#4 Prospect)
  • Aleksi Heimosalmi D (#5 Prospect)
  • Vasili Ponomaryov C (#6 Prospect)

Los Angeles Kings:

When you look at the Kings’ goaltender position, it has been a rollercoaster ride this season. Cam Talbot’s performance from October to December, marked by a save percentage over .920, looked enough to steady the ship and seemed like he was the answer between the pipes. Yet, the heavy dependence on the Talbot might have been overly ambitious. His decline in January, marked by a sharp decline is save percentage (.863), mirrored the Kings’ overall struggles. Failing to make the playoffs is unacceptable for the Kings, who entered the season with lofty expectations. The acquisition of Saros, thereby transitioning Talbot to a backup role, would immediately remedy their inconsistent goalie play. We all know the Kings reached out to the Predators last season about a Saros trade, and they might be desperate enough to do a deal this time around. 

Trade Pieces:

  • First Round Picks
  • Brandt Clarke D (#1 Prospect)
  • Jakub Dvorak D (#2 Prospect)
  • Alex Turcotte C (#3 Prospect)
  • Koehn Ziemmer RW (#4 Prospect)
  • Aatu Jämsen W (#5 Prospect)
  • Ryan Conmy RW (#6 Prospect)
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