The Nashville Predators restricted free agent pool is currently seven deep. What are the chances each of these players will be re-signed by the Preds during this off-season? Here’s how I think the situation could work out.
Pending Nashville Predators Restricted Free Agent Odds of Re-signing
Patric Hornqvist – 2:5
Nobody on the Nashville Predators’ roster has scored more goals over the last three years than Patric Hornqvist. Poile has already said that he considers the 26-year-old Swede a core player and wants to ink a multi-year deal with him. The only question is how much he will cost.
Roman Josi – 2:5
Another lock to be re-signed is Roman Josi. The 22-year-old Swiss defender stepped up to first-line duties this season. He not only held his own but actually improved on his performance from last season: his five goals and 13 assists in 48 games gave him two more points than he had in 52 games playing on lower defensive pairings in 2011-12. Like Hornqvist, Josi is a high priority for Poile.
Victor Bartley – 3:1
The Nashville Predators’ key weakness this season was a thin defensive corps hit by the loss of both Ryan Suter and Francis Bouillon. Victor Bartley, who nearly made the team out of training camp, was one of a handful of bright spots on the blue line. He shined once he was finally called up from Milwaukee halfway through the season. He posted seven assists in 24 games – his first work in the NHL – and meshed particularly well with Kevin Klein on the team’s second defensive pairing. The 25-year-old looks likely to land a full-time NHL job as a reward.
Nick Spaling – 4:1
Aside from Hornqvist and Josi, there’s no player on this list more beloved by Coach Barry Trotz than Nick Spaling. He works the penalty kill and has been a consistent presence on the team’s checking lines for three seasons now. And being a Trotz favorite means that his 20 points per season are more than enough to keep him on the ice.
Spaling seems a bit redundant on a team that already has Paul Gaustad, especially given that he’ll require a qualifying offer of more than $1.1 million per year when Goose already costs $3.25M. I think that’s balanced out by having the coach in his corner, though.
Matt Halischuk – 5:1
When his job was on the line – and it was on the line multiple times this season – Matt Halischuk stepped up his game. Whether it was putting up two goals and an assist in a three-game conditioning assignment in Milwaukee, shooting the puck 17 times in his last six full games, or scoring three goals and an assist in the last two of those, the 24-year-old forward showed that he’s a capable player when properly motivated.
Though he’s quite good at implementing Trotz’s dump-and-chase tactics, the coach doesn’t tend to use him much. Halischuk was the fourth-least-used player on the team among those who spent significant time with the Preds. I think the team’s familiarity with him is the strongest factor in favor of him earning a contract, even if it’s a short one that keeps his feet to the fire.
Bobby Butler – 6:1
After being picked up on waivers from the New Jersey Devils, former Hobey Baker Award finalist Bobby Butler scored three goals and added six assists in 20 games with the Preds. He’s a shooter on a team of passers and he works hard on the forecheck. He was also one of the most underused forwards on the team, averaging just 10:48 ice time per game – ahead of only Rich Clune. That’s not a particularly big surprise given that Barry Trotz had originally argued against signing Butler out of college when David Poile broached the idea back in 2010.
Probably the biggest thing working in Butler’s favor is that he would be a bargain signing, requiring less than $600,000 for a qualifying offer. He could shift these odds up a tick if he has a particularly good showing representing the United States at the World Championships.
Jonathon Blum – 8:1
Outside of a burst of eight points when he joined the team for 23 games at the end of the 2010-11 season, 24-year-old Jonathon Blum hasn’t been able to translate his success in juniors and the AHL at the NHL level. This season in particular was disappointing: he went pointless in his last 14 consecutive games, only contributed offensively in five of his 35 games played, and failed to record a single point on the power play all season.
This year, playing on a one-year contract at a reduced rate from his entry-level deal, Blum was on pace for 16 points in a full 82-game season. If he were more of a stay-at-home type of defender that would be fine, but the Preds hoped for a lot more offensive help when they drafted him in the first round. With Victor Bartley performing so strongly after joining the team, the only strong arguments in favor of Blum would be his low cost and the fact that the team’s defensive corps is stretched thin. I think Blum’s roster spot is likely to be filled by an unrestricted free agent signing.