It was the second period the Nashville Predators against the Calgary Flames when news broke of a trade. The Predators traded Max Görtz to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Andrew O’Brien. While this news raised a few eyebrows because of the teams involved in making the trade this was very much an AHL trade. The initial question one would ask is the simple one: why?
The short and sweet answer to this trade coming to be is the injury status of defenseman Adam Pardy. During Wednesday night’s game the veteran was trekking back in his own half when Patrick Brown of the Charlotte Checkers jammed his stick into the braking skate of Pardy as the two were racing towards the end wall. Pardy went down hard into the boards head and left side of the body first in a violent collision. Brown received a tripping minor on the play while Pardy left the ice after getting looked on and helped off the ice by head athletic trainer Doug Agnew. He would not return for the rest of the game.
It appears that the extent of the injury to Pardy was bad enough to force a trade within twenty-four hours of him going down. He is out indefinitely and joins the likes of Cody Bass (lower-body) and Miikka Salomäki (lower-body) in that respect.
Where losing Pardy hurts the most is up for debate. He was a tremendous veteran style defenseman that was doing great work with the Milwaukee Admirals since he was acquired in an AHL trade earlier in the season from the Springfield Falcons. He brought great depth to the team and filled a role that the team quickly lost when Matt Irwin made his claim to being with the Predators for the rest of the season. The other area where losing Pardy hurts next is that his veteran résumé also meant being a great depth option for the Predators to recall in moments of need – something that seemingly has happened far too often already this season. Pardy has been tasked to play four games this season with the Predators. Not too shabby for a guy that lost out on an NHL contract with the Florida Panthers in their pre-season camp, accepted an AHL deal, was traded to a new AHL team, and worked to earn the NHL contract from the Predators.
With all of that in mind the next question to me is the one that makes yesterday’s trade hard to understand. Did the Predators actually find a suitable replacement for Pardy with O’Brien? And the answer to that is an emphatic and capitalized NO.
O’Brien is 24-years old and was drafted by the Ducks in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Draft. He turned pro in the 2013-14 season where he split time between the Norfolk Admirals (AHL) and Utah Grizzlies (ECHL). That first pro season he saw the ice only 28 times and was in the ECHL for 24 games of that season. His last two seasons have seen him stay on the ice to a much higher degree and with only a single ECHL appearance: 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 121 games with 174 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of -13. This season he has played 10 games from the San Diego Gulls 32 games played and has 2 assists, 4 penalty minutes, and a plus/minus rating of -2. He has never played in the NHL.
What I see here then is that the Predators traded away a struggling prospect in Görtz for a struggling prospect in O’Brien. The difference is that at least Görtz in one previous pro season displayed excellent skill and is a forward capable of wracking up lots of points – he was the Admirals second leading scorer in his North American debut season a year ago with 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists) in 72 games. O’Brien has yet to do much of anything and, between his first pro season and current season, is struggling to even make the ice.
If the Predators wanted to replace Pardy and were willing to trade a prospect away within their own conference there were better options available to them to fill a veteran defensive void: Jamie McBain and Zbynek Michalek (Arizona/Tucson), Mark Fraser (Edmonton/Bakersfield), Chris Butler (St. Louis/Chicago), Maxime Fortunus and Mike Weber (Minnesota/Iowa), Brian Strait (Winnipeg/Manitoba), Vincent LoVerde and Zach Trotman (Los Angeles/Ontario), Cameron Schilling (Chicago/Rockford), Andrew Bodnarchuk (Dallas/Texas), and -even on the very team that they traded with- Nate Guenin and Jeff Schultz (Anaheim/San Diego).
Those were all equivalent or like-minded players that could fill into Pardy’s NHL/AHL veteran depth role and the opted to trade a prospect that showed great promise a year ago for none of those names and a player that features no veteran-like traits that could serve the Predators -and possibly even the Admirals- well for the length of the season. For the Admirals and O’Brien’s skate – I really hope I am massively wrong and the Predators get away with a solid talent heist. I just don’t see how it fits the criteria of what they were looking to fill for both the Predators and Admirals. The Admirals right now have someone who is doing what O’Brien has doing in his career and they picked him up on a PTO Contract from the Manchester Monarchs, Rick Pinkston. Is that equal value to Görtz’s potential or Pardy’s capacity to work between the NHL/AHL? No.
This feels like a knee jerk reaction made in the space of a day to fix a problem with something that could quickly become a new problem. Görtz’s struggles this season should not have made him fodder for such a woeful return. Everything from this point forward is dependent really on O’Brien being superior to the likes of a Pinkston or Jonathan Diaby. It should also get a serious nudge-nudge for Jimmy Oligny to get the NHL contract that the Predators should have given him after last season.
Ideally, P.K. Subban and Roman Josi get back for the Predators soon enough for Alex Carrier to make a return to the Admirals. Even more ideally the injury bug plaguing the Predators’ 2016-17 season goes away and never comes back. Petter Granberg would have been nice depth awaiting a chance to go back up after a good AHL run but even that isn’t attainable because in the moment he gets to the Admirals he gets recalled and hurt.
I do not remember the depth ever being so tested in my time following the Admirals these past five seasons. There are so many question marks that hang over the Predators and therefore their minor league affiliates. The biggest of which, if this injury bug continues, is what happens at the NHL Trade Deadline?
Trades are already happening now. They might feel minor on the Nashville scale but the repercussions in Milwaukee have been painful. Are bits and pieces going to be sold off to salvage a season or will everyone stand pat if returning healthy bodies act as newly acquired pieces? The past few weeks from an Admirals perspective has felt a lot like having a dark cloud hovering over the entire group. That cloud could be growing in the weeks to come.
What is your reaction to Max Görtz for Andrew O’Brien? Did the Nashville Predators get equal value for Görtz? Did the Predators really fill the void left from an injured Adam Pardy? Will this chain of moves for the Predators that are impacting the Admirals ratchet up come the NHL Trade Deadline?
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