Predators make the worst trade ever, or are they just saving money?

Earlier today, the Nashville Predators made what seems like a head-scratching trade at first glance by sending center Matt Lombardi and puck-moving defenseman Cody Franson to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Brett Lebda and prospect Robert Slaney. This is no doubt a win for the Leafs even if Matthew Lombardi never plays a game for them. They got a solid puck-mover in Franson which Toronto needs with Tomas Kaberle gone and Dion Phaneuf playing a more shutdown role now. Franson and John-Michael Liles are going to definitely bring an improvement to what was one of the worst PP’s in the league last season. They also dumped Brett Lebda who was probably the Leafs worst defenseman last year and Robert Slaney who is a 22-year old who has yet to even crack the Toronto Marlies AHL roster. Why in the world did Nashville make a trade like this? One answer; saving money.

When you’re a small-market team like Nashville, you need to penny pinch and that’s what GM David Pollie is doing here. In terms of the players cap hits, it doesn’t look my much but it is in terms of salary.

TOR:
Matt Lombardi ($7 mil over 2 years)
Cody Franson ($1.6 mil over 2 years)
Total: $8.6 mil for the next two years

NSH:
Brett Lebda ($1.4 mil over 1 year)
Robert Slaney ($600k over 1 year)
Total: $2 mil over 1 year.

2011: Leafs spend $6.6 mil more
2012: Leafs spend $4.3 mil more

Toronto isn’t planning to win this season (as indicated with the Brad Richards trade) but they have money to spend and are able to take some chances and cap space with deals like this. They get the higher end of the talent but they could have to pay Lombardi’s $7 mil salary for absolutely nothing if he doesn’t get healthy any time soon (and it’s looking like he will be out to start the year) but it’s not a big deal because the Leafs have a lot of money, where as the Preds do not. The bad part of this deal for the Preds is that they are stuck with Brett Lebda’s awfulness but something tells me he could see himself bought out because it won’t cost much and the Preds have some young defensive prospects like Ryan Ellis who they can call-up to play instead of him. There’s also the possibility of another trade in the works involving Nashville taking on a front-loaded contract because the Preds have to eat up some cap space without spending a lot of money.

It should be noted that Nashville is saddled by a couple bad forward contracts (see Erat, Martin; Legwand, David) and are due to give Shea Weber a big raise so they need to pony up some money. Although, Nashville may not be in as bad of shape as some other small market teams, they still need to save money and this is one way to do it.

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