Nashville Predators: Team in place is built to contend for years to come

DENVER, CO - APRIL 18: P.K. Subban
DENVER, CO - APRIL 18: P.K. Subban /

As the offseason begins, the Nashville Predators can take solace in the fact their roster is built for years of contending.

The season is over.  It’s tough to say, but it’s true.  While four teams continue to fight for the Cup, the Nashville Predators will look back on a year of success and hope to pick up where they left off.  From a contract point of view, there won’t be much different from this year’s team compared to the next few years.

On the heels of an early exit in the 2018 playoffs, the Predators still have a reason for optimism.  The Predators have a core group of players–on both sides of the puck—signed through the 2020 season and beyond.  With only a few tough contract decisions in 2019 (Pekka Rinne and Ryan Ellis), the team is built to compete in the coming years.

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Forward focus

David Poile and the Predators have faith in their top line.  The JoFA line (Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson), who have each tallied 50+ points the past 2 years, is locked up until 2022.  They are the core the team is invested in.  The Predators first line should continue at the pace of 50-60 points a year, though it would be nice to see one of the players cross the 70 point plateau.  Next up is the line of Kyle Turris, Craig Smith, and Kevin Fiala.  They are exactly what you want in a second line.  Their point production wasn’t far off from the JoFA line with 40-50 points eachKyle Turris, however, is the only long-term contract.

Outside of the top two offensive lines is where things get a little muddled.  Aside from Austin Watson, and maybe Calle Jarnkrok, there is no true core.  The bottom lines tend to be reserved for free agents or development players (Colton Sissons, Eeli Tolvanen).  It would be wise for the Predators to settle on a third and fourth line for consistency rather than a revolving door. Nick Bonino is locked up for three more seasons, providing some stability now. However, the Predators informed Scott Hartnell he would not be returning.

On the other side of the puck, the defense is a defining aspect of the Nashville Predators.  The team has been a force on defense for a while now, enough so where they can depart with prospects (i.e. the Kyle Turris trade).  P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm are locked up.  While Roman Josi has two years left and Ryan Ellis has one, the Predators will need to keep both players signed if they want to remain contenders.  The third d-man pairing is usually a stop gate, and Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber have done a great job.  They both under team-friendly contracts.  Makes sense to remain consistent with that pairing as well.

Summer of 2019

The Predators will face their toughest decision in 2019 when Pekka Rinne‘s contract is up. Rinne is a core player as much as the top offense and defense line.  However, the Predators need a line of succession in goal when Rinne’s tenure comes to an end.  David Poile will need to focus on his play and his age next year, as well as what Juuse Saros can do.  Can the Predators trust Saros in a primary role?  Or do they stick with the tried and true veteran?  In order to compete, it’s possible the Predators keep both for a little while longer.

The other major question is whether or not to sign Ellis to an extension. Under his current contract, he is owed $2.5 million for another season. Certainly, he is worthy of a higher salary. Does it comes sooner or later, or does the team allow him to walk next summer?

Next: Time to part ways with Pekka?

Tough decisions are in order for the Nashville Predators.  Right now, the contracts are very team-friendly.  The core players have shown they can compete and win.   Keeping this core together will be vital for the Predators continued success.