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Does Yonkman’s recall mean Hamhuis is gone?…

Nashville Predators goaltender (and social media counterpart) Dan Ellis tweeted late Tuesday morning that “it’ll be good to see those guys (Willie and Yonks) again. It’s been a while.”

Translation: Rookie center Colin Wilson and AHL veteran defenseman Nolan Yonkman have been recalled from the Predators minor league affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals.

Wilson makes sense. Marcel Goc is out and Wilson can fill the void there. Not to mention he’s been a tear lately at the AHL level, prompting Preds fans to ask for his recall by the gross. Yonkman, however, is a completely different story and one that should raise some questions. Namely about Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis.

The Predators official statement says that defenseman Cody Franson has been put on injured reserve but they’re already functioning with six blueliners in Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Hamhuis, Kevin Klein, Francis Bouillon and Alexander Sulzer. Yonkman makes seven healthy defensemen on the NHL roster around a time where trades need to be made before the final playoff push.

The future of the Nashville blueline rests on the shoulders of Jonathon Blum, Teemu Laakso and Ryan Ellis, so one would natually assume that one of those three would be recalled. Blum may have 25 points for the Admirals so far this season but he still needs to get bigger and faster. Laakso, who actually spent seven games with the Preds last season, has only played in 18 games this year for Milwaukee and is nowhere close to ready for prime time NHL minutes. Ellis is still with his junior team, the Windsor Spitfires, and isn’t available for call-up until their season is over.

Milwaukee Admirals captain Nolan Yonkman while playing for the Washington Capitals back in 2006.

Enter Yonkman.

He has three NHL seasons under his belt—- let me rephrase: he has 50 NHL games under his belt. He’s played most of his professional career at the AHL level where he’s logged 384 games, including being the Admirals team captain. If this was a band-aid move, the Preds would be more likely to call up a guy like Blum or even Robert Dietrich, both of whom have a more offensive upside than Yonkman. But that’s not the case. Nashville is going for experience with this transaction, which leads to the only logical conclusion: a trade has been made or is really close.

Enter Hamhuis.

The 27-year old defensemen already has 458 NHL games on his resume and is considered to be a top 2 blueliner on most teams around the league. Of course, he’s also about to become a UFA on July 1 and, therefore, has become the focus of trade gossip over the past few weeks. When at his best, Hamhuis provides a stable, veteran, physical presence in his own end. Yonkman is the best defenseman in the Nashville system that fits that mold.

A mold Nashville would only need to fill were Hamhuis to be out of their lineup for any reason.

The official Nashville Predators twitter account mentioned that Hamhuis’ wife is about to deliver a child and, because the team is on the road during questionable weather conditions, Yonkman has been called up as a precaution. While that’s a logical scenario, one would still wonder why Blum or Dietrich wasn’t recalled instead. Especially if it’s “just a precaution” and they don’t expect to the recalled defenseman to actually play.

The trade deadline of March 3 is fast approaching but, as we’ve seen over the past two weeks, teams are motivated to get deals done before the Olympic Roster Freeze takes effect on February 12. General Manager David Poile knows that the Preds need scoring. He also knows Hamhuis won’t be back next season and thus is forced to deal him in order to get something in return.

If and when Yonkman plays in a game, it will be the first time he’s worn a Predators sweater in an NHL game.

Of course, he also has a two-game point scoring streak on the line as well. (He had three assists in his last two NHL games that took place back in April of 2006).

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