A quiet offseason isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the Nashville Predators did make some noise by retaining a few of their own.
When you know that you already have a great thing going, sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone. The Nashville Predators fit into that mold as they’re navigating through the offseason quietly. However, taking care of in-house contracts remains critical.
Keeping the young core of the team together for the next several years is important to ensure the Predators’ Stanley Cup window doesn’t slam shut anytime soon. Just as fast as you rise to the top, you can tumble back down into oblivion. The Predators have to be careful to not let that happen.
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It’s fair to say that the Predators will remain a top contender in the Western Conference for many years if they take care of their own. They’re not in desperate need of making big splashes in free agency. That’s why GM David Poile’s decision to remain largely silent in the free agency circus is a wise move.
Predators are set at goaltender
An emerging problem in the foreseeable future was retaining Juuse Saros. The fact is that he’s met all the expectations to be the team’s future in between the pipes. Whenever Pekka Rinne finally calls it quits, the Predators need a solid backup plan. Saros is more than capable of fulfilling that role. Dare I say he may even win a Vezina Trophy himself in the not-so-distant future.
The Predators took care of a major offseason agenda item by re-signing Saros to a three-year deal, worth $4.5 million:
This re-signing comes as a major relief and looks like a bargain. Not being set at goaltender once Rinne retires would be disastrous for a team with so much potential. There’s also no guarantee that Rinne continues to elevate his game despite fighting Father Time. Now that Saros is locked up for at least the next three seasons, it keeps that Stanley Cup window open wide. Reliable goaltending is a must to remain a top contender.
Saros had a rocky start last season, giving up 13 goals over his first three starts. Those all come as losses, but take a look at how he rebounds from that. Over the remainder of his season, he gets 11 wins and takes just two more regulation losses. He also finishes with a save percentage of .925 and three shutouts.
Hartman is back for another year
Bringing back Ryan Hartman for at least another year means the Predators believe that he can bring even more to the table. It will be his first full season with the Predators. He was acquired by the Predators via trade from the Blackhawks in late February. Hartman wasted little time contributing as he tallied the game-winning goal in his first game with the Predators. You can’t script it any better.
Hartman fits into an already young and talented roster. He’s just 23 years old, and his best might still be yet to come. That’s why he’s worth taking a flyer on for another year. A smart move by the Predators with very little risk. Hartman brings tenacity and adds another dangerous scoring punch to a team already loaded with scoring threats. This makes the Predators one of the more balanced teams in terms of goal scorers.
The one-year deal for Hartman comes for just $875,000. Another low-risk deal that may end up reaping big rewards. Hartman could easily end up erupting into a top-tier player in the NHL at his young age. Even if he doesn’t, it’s fair to think he’s a solid second line type player for the next several years. This is another move to keep the core intact for the Predators to stay near the top of the league, and make another push towards a Stanley Cup appearance.
How long do the Predators have?
These two moves reaffirm my belief in Poile. He’s a shrewd operator that just needs to be trusted. Making big moves that grab national headlines are fun, but not always the best approach. Poile understands that he already has a great team that shouldn’t be messed with too much. This team came one win away from returning to the Western Conference Finals. Who knows if the Predators would have matched up better with the Golden Knights than the Jets did.
The re-signing of Saros and Hartman are low-risk deals with high ceilings. We’re not going into next season unsure of what the Predators are. That’s a good thing considering that they are widely considered one of the best teams in the league, even after falling well short of expectations. It’s because many see that this team has been built beautifully from the ground up. It’s Poile’s masterpiece that shouldn’t be tinkered with too much.
Realistically, the Predators have a couple more seasons at worst to stay near the top of the pecking order. After that, some tough decisions will have to be made with key personnel. That’s why the Predators have to get these smaller deals right. This offseason quickly turned from bland to successful after the Saros and Hartman deals.