February 28, 2012
Intimidating Predator: Paul Gaustad
This is Paul Gaustad. He's one of my favorite current players, probably because he reminds me a lot of Joel Otto. Like Otto back in Calgary, Gaustad is a perfect third line centre. He excels at faceoffs and is intelligent in the defensive zone. He is a strong penalty killer. Offensively he is limited (0 goals in 38 career playoff games is alarming) but it is his willing physical game that everyone likes about him. On his best days he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. And at an intimidating 6'5" and 225lbs he is a guy you do not want to anger. He is a very tough and unpleasant player to play against.
Everyone was expecting Buffalo to trade Gaustad the trade deadline. After all he is an unrestricted free agent this coming summer. And there was lots of interest from the Western contenders, which was driving the price through the roof.
Not too many people were expecting Nashville to land him. In order to do so, they overpaid. A first round draft pick for a 3rd line rental with 0 goals in 38 playoff games is a bit much. But Gaustad might very well be worth it, especially given a different set of dynamics at play in Nashville.
The Predators need to win now. Their team is just as likely as any other to come out of the West, and by adding physical warriors like Gaustad and Hal Gill, perhaps they can win an extra round or two. They need to make headlines in order to re-sign franchise player Shea Weber and also Ryan Suter. In many ways, the future of this team depends on these playoffs.
Nashville also had to outbid Detroit, San Jose, and possibly Vancouver. In some ways it was as important to Nashville that those teams did not get Gaustad as it was for the Predators to get him. Gaustad's size and grit could have made an even bigger impact on more skilled teams like the Wings and Sharks perhaps even more so than the Preds.
Winning the Stanley Cup is a tall order. Nashville has taken a nice step in acquiring Paul Gaustad and Hal Gill. In doing so they are sending a great message - to the opposition, to their season ticket holders and fans, and to Shea Weber and other free agents - that the Predators are very serious about winning the Stanley Cup.