In this week’s Predators mailbag we discuss Sam Girard possibly sticking around, whether or not this team is ‘bad’ and what to do up the middle.

The Nashville Predators are three games into their 2017-18 campaign and hold a 1-2-0 record. Already this season we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly and there are plenty of questions surrounding the club.

Let’s answer some of those questions in this week’s mailbag.

Let’s start things off with a rather general question: is this team maybe just bad? First we need to define bad and I think most would agree bad, in this case, is a team that wouldn’t make the playoffs. With that being said, I think there are two ways to answer this question. First, it’s far too early to tell. The second answer is simple; no.

There are 79 games left in the regular season and plenty will happen from now until April 7 when Nashville’s regular season comes to a close. As for the second answer of no and that this team isn’t bad, there’s far too much talent up and down the roster to label this team as such.

The Predators have shown flashes of good and bad through their first three games and while most would argue they’ve shown far more bad than good in those contests, it’s far too early to label this team. Let’s give them a couple of months at the very least. Nashville started last season 3-5-2 and we all know what happened after that.

I think meshing with one another is something every team has to deal with out of the gates every season. The Preds certainly still have very serious talent on their roster, but losing Mike Fisher to retirement, then James Neal to the expansion draft and starting the year without Ryan Ellis on the blue line are three factors that have to be taken under very serious consideration this early on into the season.

Nick Bonino is being relied upon heavily in his first year as a Pred, the blue line is a mix-up without Ellis and of course young forwards like Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson are being relied upon heavily to find the scoresheet. Things should fit with this team, but just like I said answering the first question, time will tell.

Sam Girard looked flat-out good during his NHL debut on Tuesday night against the Flyers as he recorded an assist in the win, but the 19-year-old and the Preds are in an interesting situation.

If Girard plays 10 total games in the NHL this season it would burn one year off of his entry-level contract. From the Preds perspective, that wouldn’t necessarily be the smartest move in terms of contracts. With that being said, Girard still has one year left of junior hockey, so if he wasn’t with the Preds he would be sent to his QMJHL club, the Shawinigan Cataractes, as opposed to AHL Milwaukee.

Ellis could be out with injury into the New Year meaning there is a spot for the taking on the Nashville blue line. It’s also worth noting that Roman Josi is day-to-day and didn’t play against Philadelphia on Tuesday hence Girard’s debut.

I don’t think the Preds will end up burning the first year off of his entry-level deal, but he may make that decision very tough. Peter Laviolette had this to say after his debut: “You have to give him a lot of credit because he showed up and played a pretty good game tonight. He’s a skill player, when you find yourself down by two goals, you need the guys who can create the most on the ice, the guys with the most skill, you’ve got to get them out there as much as you can; that had his number being called quite a bit.”

What’s a mailbag without a little bit of trade speculation?

I think it’s too early to say the Preds ‘lack’ a No. 2 center because Bonino has played exactly three games in a Nashville sweater. I also believe that Calle Jarnkrok has the ability to becoming a legitimate No. 2 center as well if he can find the right wingers. Both Jarnkrok and Bonino are two-way forwards that battle and the Preds could be in far worse shape when it comes to their No. 2 center.

Matt Duchene has been in the Predators’ rumor mill for years now and I do believe he gets traded no later than the trade deadline this season, but currently it sounds like the Avalanche want a king’s ransom for the speedy center, specifically a top-four defenseman and the Preds can’t part ways with one of their’s.

If I was drafting a team between those names listed in the question I would take Duchene, but given the current situation and just how early it is in the year things need time to fall into place. As for Alex Galchenyuk, the young forward has been dropped to the fourth-line recently and he too has been in the rumor mill for many teams for quite some time. He is a player that scored 30 goals back in 2015-16. The Preds of course have a trading relationship with the Canadiens after the Shea Weber for Subban swap. Everyone will have a close eye on the Habs and Galchenyuk for weeks to come.

Both Galchenyuk and Duchene are former No. 3 overall draft picks.

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