The Nashville Predators finished their 3rd week of the NHL season with nine points in eight games, mostly on the backs of some pretty spectacular individual performances by guys that the Predators are paying a healthy sum of money.

The Preds now have the 2nd ranked offense in the NHL, thanks to guys like Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, and Roman Josi. Those three make up the top three scorers for the Predators so far and are getting the bulk of the attention and fanfare.

But it’s not just those guys doing all the work.

While Duchene and Forsberg are leading the Predators in scoring among the forwards, and while Roman Josi provides his usual consistency in the offensive end, Ryan Ellis and Kyle Turris are quietly putting up great numbers early on.

And if you watched the 2018-19 Predators, that has to be great to see.

Ellis and Turris were among the most regularly derided Predators skaters last season because, in most people’s opinions, their paycheck did not match up with their on-ice contributions.

This was especially true for Kyle Turris, whose 23 points in 55 games last year was arguably the worst season of his professional career. His $6 million contract, which he signed in a “trade and sign” deal with the Predators back in 2017, ranked 4th highest on the Predators last year, while his point total ranked only 13th.

Ellis was criticized for his lack of offensive output as well. Despite putting up a career high in assists (34), he scored only seven goals and shot a meager 4.7% on the year. Ellis’ cap hit was only $2.5 million last year, but he signed an eight-year, $50 million contract extension in August of 2018, making him the 3rd highest paid player on the team this year.

So one player who was making $6 million a year wasn’t pulling his weight, and another player who was about to make more than $6 million a year wasn’t either. It led to some frustration from the fanbase, from Preds media, and perhaps from the front office as well.

But through eight games this year, all of that is in the past.

Turris, Ellis standing out for Preds

First, the boxcar stats. Kyle Turris has three goals and three assists on 14 shots despite getting only about 13 minutes ice time per game. Ryan Ellis leads the team with 11 points, including a team high 10 assists.

Turris has played primarily in a bottom six role, though in last Saturday’s contest with the Panthers, with Filip Forsberg out of the lineup, Turris found himself centering a line with Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund. Turris scored a sensational game tying goal in the 3rd period (see below) and showed everyone why he deserves to get more top six minutes.

Meanwhile, Ryan Ellis has been excellent in generating offense with his partner Roman Josi. Not only does he lead the Preds with 11 points in eight games, he is tied for the league lead in primary assists (6) with Edmonton Oilers’ forward Leon Draisaitl.

Ellis has always been a great decision maker in the offensive end. His small frame means he doesn’t win many physical battles, but his hockey IQ helps him avoid from having to do so. He is great with the puck in all areas, but especially in getting passes on tape in the dangerous areas.

While it is still early (get used to hearing “it’s still early” until at least Thanksgiving), it’s great to see that two of the Preds’ highest paid players are starting to prove their worth to the team.

Get Them Digits

  • 600 – both Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith played in their 600th NHL games on Saturday.
  • 126 – the number of games in Milwaukee for Yakov Trenin before getting his call-up and NHL debut on Saturday
  • 29:09 – the time remaining on the pre-game clock when Matt Duchene leaves for the locker room, ending his meditative state on the Preds’ bench. He’s done this at every Preds game so far, and supposedly at every game in his NHL career. Now… what does it mean??

GIF Me That Good Stuff

Kyle Turris with a good early candidate for goal of the year right here.

Quote of the Week

“I was shocked. Even my voice was shaking. Couldn’t say anything… Couldn’t believe it. Excited.”

-Nashville Predators forward Yakov Trenin on getting the call-up to play in his first NHL game.

Let’s Do That Hockey

  • Tuesday October 22nd vs. Anaheim Ducks (7:00 PM; FS-TN)
  • Thursday October 24th vs. Minnesota Wild (7:00 PM; FS-TN)
  • Saturday October 26th @ Tampa Bay Lightning (6:00 PM; FS-TN)

Final Thought

It’s still early (see??) but the Nashville Predators might have quite the Sophie’s choice this summer when it comes to their unrestricted free agents.

Might we be looking at a swan song for one of Smashville’s favorite right wingers?

Here’s what I mean. Below are the nine unrestricted free agents this summer for the Preds along with their ages and current cap-hit for the 2019-20 season:

  • Mikael Granlund, 27 years old ($5.75 million)
  • Craig Smith, 30 years old ($4.25 million)
  • Roman Josi, 29 years old ($4 million)
  • Dan Hamhuis, 36 years old ($1.25 million)
  • Austin Watson, 27 years old ($1.1 million)
  • Rocco Grimaldi, 26 years old ($1 million)
  • Miikka Salomaki, 26 years old ($750K)
  • Yannick Weber, 31 years old ($675K)
  • Matt Irwin, 31 years old ($675K)

Right now the Preds only have around $22 million in cap space for next year (which will probably go up to $24 million or so with cap inflation). If Roman Josi signs an extension, he probably eats at least $9-10 million of that. Let’s assume the team doesn’t re-sign Hamhuis, Salomaki, Weber, or Irwin, just based on performance and fit on the team. And let’s also say they sign Watson to a similar deal, something like $1-2 million.

If we leave around $2 million for the free agent market, that only leaves around $10 million to sign Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith. Since they are both due pay raises, that won’t be enough.

If Craig Smith (one point in eight games) ends up competing with new winger Mikael Granlund (four points in eight games) for a new contract, based on what we’ve seen so far, that could mean we could be watching the final season of Craig Smith in a Preds jersey.

But remember… it’s still early.

— Cap information via CapFriendly. Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —


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