Trade Targets: Ryane Clowe and The Nashville Predators
On The Forecheck asked me to do a piece on the availability of Ryane Clowe. Here's a copy of the dialogue, along with a breakdown of whether or not the Predators would be a good fit for San Jose in the event Doug Wilson pursues a trade with them.
Ryane Clowe signed a four year $3.65 M per year contract this past offseason, and with the salary cap constraints the Sharks are dealing with currently, he's the most likely trade target if Doug Wilson is looking to make a big splash before the trade deadline. The rest of the potentials assets in San Jose make too little under the cap (Setoguchi, Pavelski) to expect much of a return in a one-for-one deal.
Clowe's skillset is across the board-- last season he was a power play specialist, notching half his goals with the man advantage, while this season he has improved his even strength numbers greatly. He's been criticized for not using his big body to park himself in front of the net enough, and while that is still an issue, he is an asset on the low cycle when he protects the puck, possesses a fair amount of vision, and has an above average set of hands in the passing game. Skating ability is decidedly below average, and it is frustrating when he carries the puck on the rush-- after entering the zone, he'll pull up above the circles and wait to hit a trailer driving to the net across the zone. More often than not it will result in a turnover or a broken play.
Clowe isn't perfect, but on a team like Nashville, he would see top-six minutes and a healthy amount of power play time. Will not kill penalties, and unlike former-Shark Milan Michalek, there will never be potential for him to begin to. I wouldn't call him porous defensively, but there is little to no upside to making a move for him if you are expecting a player who is able to play a strong two-way game. I'm not accusing him of floating or ignoring his defensive responsibilities, but I am saying that he will never be able to make a significant difference defensively.
Manny Malhotra has currently replaced him on the second line, bumping Clowe down to third line minutes with Jed Ortmeyer and Scott Nichol on the Sharks checking line. On a side note, I hate saying a word ("line" in this instance) three times in one sentence. It bugs me to no end.
The Sharks are looking for a solid defensive defenseman as they head into the stretch run, and by giving up on Clowe they would be acknowledging that they have the confidence in Manny Malhotra to play top-six minutes, as well as having the confidence in Jamie McGinn to fill his spot on the third line. It deprives the Sharks of a big body in their lineup, but since Clowe has failed to consistently provide the team with an effective presence in front of the opposing goaltender, it may not end up hurting them all too much in the long run. Regardless, it is a point that is worth making.
The Predators possess a nice crop of young defensemen Doug Wilson would likely be interested in, with Shea Weber, Cody Franson, and Ryan Suter being the three who would be in the talks.
Franson's injury today, along with his unproven experience, make him a non-starter in a year the Sharks are expected to make a run for the Stanley Cup. Wilson would not move Clowe for that piece, nor would I, unless the salary saved would allow him to bring in a forward like the Carolina Hurricanes Ray Whitney without depleting the NHL roster further. However, now we're just fantasy chaining. Rule that one out.
Weber and Suter are likely non-starters for Nashville, especially in a one-for-one deal. I have no idea what interest Doug Wilson has in either of these players, but I will offer my opinion.
The fact of the matter is that you can build a team around both Suter and Weber-- they are both young, premier defenseman, and ones who can make an immediate impact on the roster. You cannot build a team around Ryane Clowe. With the Predators currently in the hunt for a playoff spot they are definitely not in a sell-mode, and moving either of these two blueliners immediately opens up a hole in the defense-first system Barry Trotz has historically liked to run. The likelihood of this happening is nearly zero, unless Nashville would be interested in prospects and high draft picks being thrown into the mix with Clowe. But, as I mentioned earlier, the Preds are in a hunt for a playoff spot, and generating revenues from a playoff game is a huge plus for a team in a market such as Nashville. It's an opportunity they will not give up.
I won't bother to make an offer because of these facts, and highly doubt the Sharks and Predators will be dance partners before March 3rd.