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Report: Predators struggle to avoid losing key player to expansion draft

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NBC SPORTS - After a painful defeat in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, the Nashville Predators might end up being one of the biggest losers of the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft, too.

On Friday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that Predators GM David Poile hadn’t enjoyed success trying to entice Vegas GM George McPhee to lay off one of his unprotected players. With the deadline looming in a few hours – it’s at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday – TSN’s Darren Dreger updates that Poile still hasn’t had any luck.

The Predators are almost certain to protect their outstanding defensive quartet of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm along with the rising to forward line of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, and Filip Forsberg. With that in mind, they can only protect one other forward, so it seems plausible that they’d risk losing one of James Neal or Calle Jarnkrok.

… Unless they could sweeten the deal for McPhee, which so far sounds unlikely.

It’s difficult to resist making this about McPhee getting “revenge” on Poile for the highway robbery trade that sent Martin Erat to the Washington Capitals and Forsberg to the Predators. Perhaps that has nothing to do with it … but maybe it has a little bit to do with it?

Tough calls

If Poile’s forced to choose between protecting Jarnkrok or Neal, there are reasons to consider both. Neal is a significant power forward who’s been reliable for at least 20 goals each season. His $5 million cap hit lasts through next season. Jarnkrok’s skills are a little subtler, yet he’s also locked up for quite some time at a cheap clip.

Naturally, Poile has a few more hours to adjust course.

He could trade one of Neal or Jarnkrok before the trade freeze to avoid losing an asset for nothing.

The Predators may also do something really bold to shake things up and instead protect only three defensemen, but it’s difficult to imagine the team making another franchise-defining move.

Even if they lose one of those players, the future still looks pretty bright for this franchise. Successful teams tend to lose supporting cast members, although the expansion draft would likely sting more than allowing a guy to leave via free agency.

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