The Nashville Predators are about to enter training camp with one of their biggest off-season questions still unanswered: will Roman Josi sign a contract extension and how much will he cost to keep around?
Training camp begins in two weeks and yet we are no closer to knowing if the team’s captain will be around after the 2019-20 season.
That’s not to say David Poile has been sitting around twiddling his thumbs all summer. First he helped improve the Predators awful power play by recruiting top assistant coach Dan Lambert to the coaching staff. Then, after trading away top defenseman P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils, Poile signed top free agent center Matt Duchene to a seven-year deal on July 1st.
So, no one could accuse Poile of not doing enough to improve the Predators. Which is good to see after the team’s lack-luster performance in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But it certainly sounds as if both Poile and Josi want to make a contract extension work. Poile mentioned as much several times in his various press appearances this summer. Josi recently made comments to Greg Hardwig of the Naples Daily News about wanting to work things out with the Predators.
“I’d like to stay in Nashville,” were his exact words.
So what’s taking so long? Here’s three theories.
It’s Summer… Roman Josi’s Busy
The first is that there really isn’t a delay, it’s just business as usual. It’s not unusual at all for contract extensions to take a while, especially when they involve such an important player for the franchise.
Take Pekka Rinne for example. When he became eligible for a contract extension in the summer of 2018, there was very little talk about Rinne not signing a deal with the Predators. It was a matter of when, not if.
And even when the 2018-19 season began with Pekka Rinne technically in a contract year, there was little ballyhoo. Everyone just kind of knew it would happen eventually.
Then, on November 3rd, his 36th birthday, Rinne signed a two-year extension worth $10 million. Just like everyone knew he would.
It seems likely that Roman Josi is in the same boat. Everyone knows it will happen, it’s just a matter of when.
(Just in case you were wondering, Roman’s birthday is June 1st, so we won’t get the same “birthday-contract” situation with Josi as we did with Rinne.)
Also, it’s important to remember that these guys have off-season lives, too. To that point, Roman Josi got married to Ellie Ottaway back in July. With wedding planning and honeymooning, it’s likely there’s been other things on his mind this summer.
The Money Issue
The Predators, for the first time in a while, are running into a bit of a money issue. With so many recent high value signings on the books, like Matt Duchene, Ryan Ellis, Ryan Johansen, and Kyle Turris, David Poile has a little less flexibility than he has in recent years.
In fact, the Predators will enter the 2019-20 with only around $1.3 million in cap space. This is a rather narrow margin for David Poile to work with. He usually enters the season with a comfortable margin of around $3-5 million, which is smart. You never know when you will need to spend that cash on a veteran free agent or have to eat some salary in order to make a trade.
But more important than that, the Predators have a lot of cash tied up in only a handful of players. According to Spotrac, the team’s five highest paid players, Johansen, Forsberg, Duchene, Ellis, and Turris make up 42% of the team’s entire salary cap.
Most conservative estimates have Roman Josi’s new contract putting him at around $8 million a year. I predicted back in May that it will be closer to $9 million.
If that happens, Poile will have only six players taking up over 50% of the team’s salary cap. That’s not usually a key to long term success, as that means role players and other regular contributors leave to go get paid elsewhere.
So while I think David Poile is being honest when he says they are doing whatever they can to keep Roman Josi around long term, he has a little bit less flexibility to actually make it happen. There’s only so much money to go around.
David Poile vs. Movement Clauses
David Poile is known around the league for his ability to avoid movement clauses in contracts. Apart from Pekka Rinne’s contract signed in 2011 (and the one signed in 2018), Poile has managed to build a roster with utmost flexibility by avoiding such anchors.
It’s been pretty remarkable to witness. He’s avoided movement clauses in some of his biggest signings, including those of Johansen, Forsberg, Turris, Arvidsson, and Ellis.
But then he had to give in a little bit this summer to sign Matt Duchene. Duchene’s contract has a modified no trade clause in its final three years.
Is it possible Roman Josi, and his agent, smelled blood in the water? Perhaps they sensed that a no movement/trade clause is back on the table based on the Duchene contract.
I don’t point this out to say that this means Josi won’t sign. I think he will.
But having to reorganize negotiations and rework a contract to accommodate something as important as a movement clause could take some time. Perhaps David Poile is merely trying to avoid the inevitable.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —