The Nashville Predators and David Poile made a big decision yesterday by trading Viktor Arvidsson to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a 2nd round pick in the 2021 draft and a 3rd round pick in the 2022 draft.

The trade was announced after much speculation that Arvidsson would be traded sometime this offseason. Rumors began swirling locally immediately after the Preds season ended and then continued in the national conversation earlier this week.

With the announcement of the trade, reactions among fans and current players were uniformly negative. This was not a popular move, by any stretch.

Filip Forsberg expressed his displeasure with the trade with this post to his Instagram story:

Ryan Johansen also posted a response on his Instagram account, which read as follows:

“Well this turned into an awful day pretty quick.. Not really sure what else to say.. but Arv I love you like a brother and I know one thing.. the staples center will be chanting arvy arvy a whole lot.. can’t wait to see you and Moa soon.”

The Predators fan base overall was also not pleased. Viktor Arvidsson has been one of the most popular Preds players over the last seven years. He’s had more success than most Preds’ forwards, scoring thirty or more goals twice in his career, plus his frenetic, high work-rate, “speed kills” style of play has made him standout among the other forwards.

But by setting the team up for future success, this was a necessary trade for David Poile and the Nashville Predators to make.

Arvidsson is not the same player he once was

For starters, the Viktor Arvidsson of 2021 is not the same Viktor Arvidsson of old. It’s been three seasons since Arvidsson broke the Preds’ single season goal scoring record (34), but it feels longer than that.

From a purely objective standpoint, Arvidsson has not produced like he’s capable of producing over the last couple seasons. After putting up consistent numbers in his first four seasons, his goals per sixty minutes has dropped dramatically since 2019:

Viktor Arvidsson
Via hockey-reference.com

Most of that is fueled by a drop in his even strength goal scoring production, which was up to 2.0 goals per sixty minutes in 2019, but fell to 0.7 goals per sixty minutes this past season.

Not only that, but watching Arvidsson on the ice, you can tell he looks like a different player. He’s a half step slower in transition and on the forecheck, plus he’s not been making smart decisions with the puck. His shot selection has been particularly poor, though for a guy that’s known for shooting the puck from every square inch of the ice, that’s probably not a fair criticism. He made his career with the Preds by shooting everything on sight, so it’s hard to blame him for going back to the well.

But the slapshots in transition from the circles are not going in. The back passes at the blue line are leading to turnovers. The lack of consistent net front play, something he was known for during the Peter Laviolette years, has declined rapidly under John Hynes.

Injuries piling up for Arvidsson

It’s important to point out one of the main underlying reasons for Arvidsson’s decline: an injury history that is almost certainly a byproduct of his style of play.

When you play the way Arvidsson does, you are more likely to sustain injuries that keep you out of the lineup. His number of games played per season has declined every year since his 2016-17 breakout year, though keep in mind that the 2020 and 2021 seasons were shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic. He’s missed a handful of games due to injuries every year and it seems like that has started to affect his play on the ice.

The biggest injury of Arvidsson’s career was undoubtedly this illegal and dangerous hit by Robert Bortuzzo back in November 2019:

Arvidsson missed a month of the Preds’ season due to the lower body injury sustained on that play. He looked noticeably slower for the rest of that season once he returned and never quite seemed to find his game.

His production suffered. Prior to November 24th, 2019, Viktor Arvidsson was a .36 goals per game scorer (108 goals in 300 games). After that? Only .22 goals per game (19 goals in 85 games).

Other injuries have crept up for Arvidsson as well, but that hit from Bortuzzo seems to be one of the catalysts for his career slowing down. It’s hard to blame David Poile for recognizing that and wanting to get what they can out of him before his production sinks even lower.

Poile increases salary cap room, improves Seattle draft flexibility

Perhaps David Poile’s number one goal this offseason was to improve the Nashville Predators’ salary cap situation. With only $18 million in cap room to sign over a dozen open positions, plus the need to give a bridge contract to restricted free agent goalie Juuse Saros, Poile had some work to do.

By trading Viktor Arvidsson, Poile frees up $4.25 million per year over the next three years, giving them nearly $23 million salary cap room to make the signings they need to make. It’s not a huge chunk of money, but it might be enough to accomplish what he needs to. Some have calculated Juuse Saros’ potential bridge contract in the neighborhood of $3-5 million per year, so in a way, it’s almost like the Preds are exchanging Arvidsson’s final three years for two or three more years of Juuse Saros.

I imagine most Preds fans would accept that trade off.

Another factor here is the Seattle expansion draft.

Talking about the trade on a local radio show, David Poile mentioned that Seattle was very interested in taking Viktor Arvidsson in the expansion draft on July 21st. While some of that could be gamesmanship from Seattle general manager Ron Francis, Poile could not afford to get nothing out of losing Arvidsson, the same way he got nothing out of James Neal in 2017.

There are still plenty of questions about Nashville’s protection strategy for Seattle. We still don’t know what Poile plans on doing with the Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene contracts. Will one or both of those players be protected now? Are the $4.25 million savings from trading Arvidsson enough to keep around some $8 million contracts? Or does Poile have another trade in the works to deal someone else to Seattle in exchange for taking a high salary contract?

The one thing we do know: with one less forward to protect, David Poile is now more likely to go with the the eight skaters protection route. This would ensure he keeps his defense intact without worrying about losing a top six forward for nothing, like what happened in 2017.

Preds build trade capital, secure future roster

Finally, the return for Viktor Arvidsson is a good one. Two picks, including a 2nd rounder and a 3rd rounder, should go a long way to fortifying the Preds’ prospect system. The Kings weren’t very good in 2021, so the 2021 2nd rounder is pick #40, which is great value. And since the Kings aren’t likely to be very good in 2022 either, the 3rd rounder should be a top 75 pick as well.

David Poile, by trading Viktor Arvidsson, has found a way to get the most out of a declining player, while also improving his strategic position in the Seattle expansion draft, and saving money in a tight salary cap situation, ensuring that he won’t lose key players to free agency.

— Featured image via James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports —