With the rest of the 2019-20 NHL season at risk of outright cancellation due to the novel coronavirus, the Nashville Predators should start to look to the future.
Though for a while it looked like the season might be salvageable, the latest comments out of the NHL Commissioner’s office and the most recent trends of the pandemic itself, suggest that’s a lost cause. Even the Stanley Cup Playoffs are now in jeopardy, with the shutdown looking like it will last well into May and even June before the first wave is complete.
With that in mind, the Nashville Predators have little time to waste on getting prepared for the 2020-21 season. It might be here before they know it.
This summer will be an important one for the Preds. David Poile will have to make budget conscious decisions regarding his pending free agents at a key time in the franchise’s potential Stanley Cup window. Here’s a breakdown of every free agent with a contract expiring this summer along with their age and salary cap hit in 2019-20:
- Mikael Grandlund (F): 28 years old, $5.7 million
- Craig Smith (F): 30 years old, $4.25 million
- Dan Hamhuis (D): 37 years old, $1.25 million
- Korbinian Holzer (D): 32 years old, $850K
- Daniel Carr (F): 28 years old, $700K
- Troy Grosenick (G): 30 years old, $700K
- Colin Blackwell (F): 26 years old, $675K
- Yannick Weber (D): 31 years old, $675K
- Matt Donovan (D): 29 years old, $675K
- Freddy Gaudreau (F): 26 years old, $666K
David Poile will do his best to keep at least a handful of these guys around, particularly some of the cheaper options. Colin Blackwell has proven his value to the team, much like Rocco Grimaldi did last year, which earned him a contract extension a few weeks ago. There will also likely be an attempt to sign either Craig Smith or Mikael Granlund, but not both. That each will be due a pay raise, with not much money to go around, presents a difficult “Sophie’s Choice” for Poile.
The Preds are projected to have around $11.7 million in cap room for the 2020-21 season. With Granlund or Smith eating up somewhere between $5-7 million of that number, that doesn’t leave Poile with much wiggle room. He may enter free agency in July with less than $5 million in his pocket, so he has to be careful.
Guys like Hamhuis, Weber, Holzer, Donovan and Gaudreau are probably cap casualties. Carr might stick around, as long as it’s a two way deal. Grosenick, the Admirals’ starting goalie for that last couple seasons, might be gone too with the emergence of Connor Ingram.
Of course, Poile could surprise us all and opt to keep all $11 million for free agency. There are some interesting names out there, particularly on defense. Here are some notable defensemen that could be available for the Preds:
- Alex Pietrangelo (D): 30 years old, $6.5 million
- Tyson Barrie (D): 28 years old, $5.5 million
- Justin Schultz (D): 29 years old, $5.5 million
- Torey Krug (D): 29 years old, $5.25. million
- Sami Vatanen (D): 29 years old, $4.87 million
- T.J Brodie (D): 30 years old, $4.65 million
- Travis Hamonic (D): 29 years old, $3.85 million
Without looking at the specific “fit” for any of these players in John Hynes’ system, all of them would be an upgrade for the Preds. Particularly at the bottom end of the rotation, where guys like Hamhuis, Weber, and Jarred Tinordi have struggled.
There’s a chance David Poile could look to upgrade his forwards as well, but I will save that for another day. We’ve got plenty of time to cover this summer’s moves, for obvious reasons.
In any event, it’s time for the Nashville Predators look ahead to the future. The present is suspended and it’s not going away for some time.
Let’s Do That Hockey
This week the Nashville Predators would have faced the Chicago Blackhawks (away), Winnipeg Jets (home), Los Angeles Kings (home), Arizona Coyotes (away), and Colorado Avalanche (away).
I think it’s safe to call this the strangest Nashville Predators season in franchise history. So many unprecedented events all occurring during one season, capped off by the most unprecedented sports shutdown in the world’s history.
Consider that the following have all happened in the last six months:
- The Preds get off to the best start offensively in franchise history, scoring 38 goals in their first 9 games.
- Then they cool off dramatically and go on their worst losing streak in the Peter Laviolette era.
- Laviolette then benches his 4th highest paid player for seven straight games with absolutely no explanation.
- Meanwhile, David Poile signs Roman Josi to the biggest contract in franchise history.
- Roman Josi responds by having a Norris Trophy caliber season.
- The Preds finally unveil their Winter Classic jersey, which is an instant hit.
- Laviolette is accused of being “annoying” because he tells guys to fight and then Laviolette responds by saying that he’s never done that, despite evidence to the contrary.
- The Preds play in their first outdoor game, losing in abysmal fashion in front of 80,000 plus fans in the Cotton Bowl.
- Corey Perry tried to kill a Nashville Predators player. Ryan Ellis misses 20 games while Perry only misses 5.
- David Poile fires Laviolette, terminating a coach in the middle of a season for only the 2nd time ever.
- David Poile hires the 3rd coach in franchise history, instead of going with an interim.
- Pekka Rinne scores a freaking goal.
- The Preds give up 10 power play goals to the Canucks in 11 chances.
- The Preds go 4-0 against the defending Cup champs.
- David Poile makes no moves at the deadline (ok… he made one move).
- Filip Forsberg goes well over a month without scoring a goal.
- Pekka Rinne seemingly gives way to Juuse Saros.
- The Preds finally figure something out, get themselves into a playoff position, and then the league shuts down indefinitely.
That’s one hell of a roller coaster ride, folks.
As I mentioned before, it seems likely that this season is over. If that’s the case, I’m not sure you could have scripted a more bizarre, unpredictable season for the Nashville Predators. And while we all would love to watch them play it out and see if it amounted to anything, perhaps this is one season it would be acceptable to hit the “reset” button on.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —