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 again back in trade rumors. The Predators are poised to finish midtable in the Central Division for a fourth consecutive season and again select outside the top 10 in the first round of the NHL Draft.

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; he has always been a crucial part of this team and especially the last time they made a playoff appearance in 2021-22 until a late-season injury prevented him from playing, and Saros’ .918 career SV% is the highest in franchise history. 

For Barry Trotz and the Predators’ front office, the critical question centers on Juuse Saros’ impact: Is his presence a catalyst for the team’s success or a barrier to its progress? While Saros stands among the league’s elite goaltenders, the question 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 signing veteran leaders Ryan O’Reilly, Luke Schenn, and Gus Nyquist; it signaled that Nashville intended to strengthen rather than rebuild after missing the playoffs in 2022-23. 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 games, and when they aren’t getting it, 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 NHL, you see that he is excelling in the AHL. 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 proposed deal was presented to the Los Angeles Kings before the trade deadline and would likely be the same asking price this season:

Toronto Maple Leafs:

The Toronto Maple Leafs are at a crucial crossroads under Sheldon Keefe, positioned firmly in their championship window. With a dynamic offense with some of the best star power in the league and strong special teams, their Achilles’ heel lies in goaltending, ranking bottom 15 in save percentage and bottom 15 in goals against. The trio of Ilya Samsonov, Martin Jones, and Joseph Woll has yet to provide stability, creating 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 desperately need. 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 at .881 and currently sit outside the playoffs. The biggest reason they are outside the playoffs is the goalie performance of Vitek Vanecek, Akira Schmid, and Nico Daws. The Devils urgently need a solution to the dilemma of having a young, talented roster but a terrible goalie situation. Securing a premier goaltender such as Saros could be the final touch in completing the Devils’ roster, instantly propelling 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 midst of their championship window, and it seems inevitable they’ll go all in soon – perhaps this season. This second-place Carolina team boasts a Top-10 scoring offense, a top-5 power play, and a top-5 penalty kill. However, their primary shortfall this season has been goaltending, with the Canes ranking 30th across the NHL in team save percentage. The goaltender lineup of Antti Raanta, Pyotr Kochetkov, and Frederik Andersen has been the definition of inconsistent. Bringing in a top-tier goaltender like Saros would be pivotal and would immediately elevate the Hurricanes to a formidable position as 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 14-7-3 record and a .924 SV %, looked enough to steady the ship and seemed like he was the answer between the pipes. Yet, the heavy dependence on the 36-year-old Talbot, who has an extensive injury history, might have been overly ambitious. His decline in January, marked by a 0-6-2 record and .863 SV%, 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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