The Nashville Predators fell in Game 7 of the second round in the Stanley Cup playoffs, ending all hope for a chance at the cup.
The sting is still fresh for many of us, myself included. After a successful regular-season campaign, the poor performances we witnessed in the playoffs left many of us looking for answers. The question was simply, “how did this happen?” Was it winning the Presidents’ Trophy? As one well-versed in curses, no. The Nashville Predators lost in the playoffs because of how they played as a team.
Game 7 left us all feeling like Switch from The Matrix, saying “Not like this. Not like this!” And, just like that, the season was done. All hope was gone, and sad songs became the fragrance of Predators fans.
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Now, it is the offseason. Sad, but officially true. With it comes several questions that must be answered.
The unanswered questions
The most important question for all teams this offseason will be home much money they will be allowed to spend. The NHL salary cap for 2017-18 was $75 million, but will increase slightly this offseason. According to Sports Illustrated, the NHL cap will be $78 and $82 million next year. This gives the Nashville Predators between $13-$17 million in cap space. Certainly enough to address areas of need.
In terms of players, the Predators have three unrestricted and three restricted free agents. Mike Fisher is one of the three unrestricted players, and he will retire once again. The other to unrestricted free agents are Scott Hartnell and Alexei Emelin. Could the Predators use Hartnell? Sure, as a physical fourth line player. His role would be the same as before.
Retaining Alexei Emelin is another story. Reviews are mixed on his performance this season. There were moments of key plays from the 32-year-old defensemen. If he were to return, the salary would be a fraction of the $4 million he earned last year.
Then come the restricted free agents. There is no question the Predators will make Juuse Saros a solid offer. Outside of the first few games of the season, Saros was spectacular. Investing in him starts the transition from Pekka Rinne being the starter. Ryan Hartman and Miikka Salomaki are the other two players under restricted status. Their return is likely, but Hartman may have played his way out of bigger money. His playoff performance both helped and hurt the Predators. Is he worth an 82-game investment? With Salomaki, is there a place for him on the 23-man roster? Eeli Tolvanen is laying in waiting as the next star forward.
There are more questions to be answered as time goes by. Is Rinne still the starter next year? Will the Predators move a player such as Ryan Ellis to gain another scoring threat? Is Peter Laviolette the right person to coach this team to the Cup? We will attempt to answer these an more for you this offseason.