Howdy ya’ll. The NHL draft and free agency is upon us! With that in mind, it is time to take a look at what needs to be done in Music City.
Where to start? Nashville currently has 13 forwards under contract for next season, never mind the fact 30 goal scorer Patric Hornqvist isn’t signed yet. Hornqvist is an RFA who needs to be signed as quickly as possible. Someone will offer Hornqvist a stupid $4M contract if Poile doesn’t get him locked up. I fully expect Poile to get the job done and get the Super Swedish Viking locked up for three years on a $2.8M a year deal.
I think the toughest question for Poile to answer is the underachieving veterans that plague this team. Arnott, Dumont, Regular Season Legwand, and Erat all underperformed this season for the Predators. Not a single one of them had over 50 points and only Erat had more than 20 goals (21). For a group of forwards whose salaries are a combined $17.5M, they need to produce more points. Like I said in a previous article, Dumont and Arnott saw a 25% reduction in point total this season. That hurts a team like Nashville where scoring is at a minimum. Every player from Jason Arnott to Marcel Goc has to give their best effort night in and night out if the team wants to win. The fan base has certainly been questioning the heart of a few of the mentioned players. While it is hard to blame everything on the veterans, they are paid to score and they didn’t this season.
Sadly, Poile painted himself into a corner by giving all of these guys NMC or NTC. They are going to be almost impossible to move. Truly unfortunate because this team has to free up some space in order to shake up the team and keep their defensive core intact. Agaist all odds, I think Poile will move one of these players. Most people say it will be J.P. Dumont. J.P. was demoted to the third line most of the season so he seems like a likely candidate. I think Legwand is actually the safest of all the players after his spectacular performance. Hopefully keeps up that kind of production.
Other than the big forwards, Steve Sullivan, Marcel Goc, and Joel Ward will be returning next season. These three played very well this season, especially Marcel Goc who has a personal best 30 points last season with his new team. Goc was also a key faceoff expert as well as an excellent plus 10 on the season. You still have the core of Wilson, Tootoo, Smithson, Belak, and Spaling rounding out the forwards.
With all that in mind, I think Poile HAS to trade AT LEAST one of the veterans away and bring in some fresh blood in the top six. Nashville can’t afford to take on any big contracts, but Nashville has to get rid of some of their older players in order to get to the next level. It’s time we trade some of those top defensive prospects and get some offense in return. I could see Poni or Lee Stempniak as Poile’s main tarkets if he can move Arnott, Dumont, or Erat.
Projected Line Up
Sullivan Goc Hornqvist
Wilson Arnott Erat
Ward Legwand Spaling
Tootoo Smithson O’Reilly
Nashville only has three returning defensemen so far, including stars Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. The other defenseman is whipping boy Kevin Klein who recently signed an extention.
UFA Dan Hamhuis is considered to be the jewel of the free agent market. While Hammering Hamhuis is a valuable asset to the team, I think his time in Nashville is up. Hamhuis will be looking for a $4M contract, something David Poile can’t afford if he plans to sign the much more important Shea Weber next season. The other UFA on defense is Francis Bouillon. While most thought Bouillon’s tour in Nashville was a one year stop, the majority of fans want “Cube” back. I think Poile trades the rights to Hamhuis at the draft but signs Bouillon.
Dennis Grebeshkov is currently an RFA with a $3.1M price tag. Again, Poile can’t afford to keep Grebeshkov unless Grebeshkov will take $3.25M. If Poile can’t get a deal done, he will trade Grebeshkov’s rights at the draft.
The other RFA is Cody Franson whose rookie campaign was a considerable success. It is time for Franson to sink or swim at this level. I expect him to be a top 4 defenseman next year. I think Poile will be able to sign him for a $1.35M a year deal for two years. How can you let a guy go whose nick name is “Fruit Cup?”
I expect Poile to bring up Blum to play in the role Franson did last season to round out the defense.
Goaltending for the Predators is pretty straight forward. Pekka Rinne will be given the starting job and Dan Ellis will test the free agent market. I’m not going to comment on this much because I have a hard time being impartial towards the net minders, but I do know Rinne needs a solid veteran back up. I expect Poile to sign a veteran for about $650K. If they can’t find one, the will turn to Mark Dekanich. The 24 year old has put up some good numbers in the AHL. Hopefully he can be a solid backup at this level.
On a personal note, I really hope Ellis gets the starting job somewhere. He deserves it. I think his presence in Nashville will be missed more than Poile realizes. Wherever Elli ends up, I wish him luck.
The Predators hold the 18th pick of the NHL draft. This year is an even year for David Poile, which means he will address the teams need for a forward in the draft. Personally, I hope Poile trades up. This year’s draft is not very deep and Nashville needs an impact player as soon as possible. Anywhere between 5 and 15 should do the trick. Sadly, I think Poile will stand pat and take Howden, Etem, or Bjugstad.
I will have my final draft preview up before next week. Until then, take care Preds fans.
About the Author
Written by Chris Rydburg
Chris currently attends my Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He hopes to one day be a high school teacher.