The Nashville Predators play their final home game of the season tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Predators know it will be their last contest inside in Bridgestone Arena this campaign due to no postseason trip in the cards for 2014. With that somber thought, it’s time to look ahead to the offseason (by all accounts a vitally important one for the club).
And now, the concluding list of what could happen this offseason for the Predators.
Defenseman Mattias Ekholm walks:
Why it will happen: We detailed a couple weeks ago just how few contracts the Predators have coming off the books for next season. For a team that’s missed the playoffs for two-straight years now, Nashville will likely be handcuffed from making major changes (especially at forward) unless they get creative. Ekholm seems to have passed Victor Bartley on the defensive depth chart, but Bartley has another two years on his deal and Ekholm is a restricted free agent this summer. The Predators have four defensemen under contract for next year and depending on what they decide to do with Ryan Ellis and Michael Del Zotto, Nashville may save some money to use in free agency this summer and replace Ekholm with a Milwaukee Admirals call up.
Why it won’t happen: Of the three restricted free agent defensemen (Ellis, Ekholm, Del Zotto) Nashville will have this offseason, Ekholm has the cheapest price tag. The Swedish blueliner adequately fits into the Predators bottom defense pairing and has some offensive upside. If Ellis and Del Zotto aren’t going to graduate to a larger role on the blue line, than the Predators should save some dough and slot Ekholm as the fifth or sixth defensemen on the roster and move either Del Zotto or Ellis along.
Ryan Ellis and/or forward Colin Wilson are shipped to Toronto:
Why it will happen: Rumor has it a deal was on the table for Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri to become a Nashville Predator this past offseason. Reportedly, Nashville was prepared to dispose of two players they are tired of waiting on to progress: Wilson and Ellis. Plus, the offensive potential of Kadri would be a welcome addition in Nashville. Sometimes trades that reportedly “almost happened several times” final come through after both parties have time to re-think their position (e.g. Luke Schenn for James van Riemsdyk).
Why it won’t happen: Ellis is concluding his best season at the NHL level. The former first round pick has long been the victim of attacks against his size and defensive prowess, but this year the 23-year-old defenseman shook off a lot of the criticism and became an asset for the Nashville defensive corps. While Ellis had a good 2013-2014, Wilson had a very below average season. Toronto decides the disappearing act by Wilson this year (even with Ellis’ rising stock) isn’t worth moving Kadri along.
Mike Fisher announces the 2014-2015 season will be his last:
Why it will happen: Earlier this season, Fisher told the Ottawa Sun that he’s given some thought to hanging up the skates after his contract runs out at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 season. Fisher probably wouldn’t call it quits because he can’t physically keep up with other NHL players at the age of 35, but more because of the unique financial situation he has with country music star wife, Carrie Underwood. In essence, Fisher doesn’t have to try and stretch as much money out of his career as possible like most player do, and the couple may be starting a family as well. Always thinking of his team first, Fisher decides to give the Predators plenty of warning and unveils his retirement plans.
Why it won’t happen: First, Fisher might decide some kind of formal announcement of future retirement would only bring unnecessary attention to himself. Secondly, the Predators top line center did have another 20-goal season this year. Even though his role will diminish as the Canadian forward moves to the twilight years of his career, Fisher concludes he isn’t ready to move to the next step in life just yet.
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto re-signs:
Why it will happen: The 23-year-old blueliner was supposed to be a major upgrade in offensive ability and speed over the veteran defenseman Kevin Klein for which he was acquired. A restricted free agent, the Predators will have the first opportunity to re-sign Del Zotto and likely can do so a price of around $2.5 million per year. Especially if Trotz is out as coach, Nashville general manager David Poile will almost certainly give Del Zotto another season to prove himself. Also, Poile kind of needs to save face on the deal after giving up the dependable Klein.
Why it won’t happen: A healthy scratch three of the last four games, the Predators seem pretty content with playing defensemen Ekholm or Bartley over Del Zotto. Trotz seems to be frustrated with the former New York Rangers blueliner and it appears wouldn’t give him his vote of confidence if asked. If the trend continues of choosing Ekholm and Bartley over Del Zotto, Nashville will use that pair in the future and call Del Zotto a failed experiment.
The puck drops on the Predators home finale at 7:00 p.m. (CST).