Nashville Predators: Recent signings leaves room to fill gaps

Earlier this week, the Nashville Predators announced new contracts for two important players. Now, they are ready to move forward and fill the gaps.

Nashville Predators fans are still dancing in their Twitter timelines after news broke that Ryan Hartman and Juuse Saros had signed up for another go. The Saros deal, in particular, locks up the Preds’ goalie of the future for another 3 years at $1.5 million AAV. This could be an absolute steal if Saros continues his upward trajectory in net, especially with Pekka Rinne approaching the end of his deal.

Hartman signed up for another year at $875k, and the winger will be a restricted free agent next summer, as well.

Where does this leave Coach  Laviolette’s team?

Miikka Salomaki is the only remaining free agent from last year’s team that the Predators’ front office intends to bring back. The Predators are in great shape to lock him in and still have plenty of cap space to fill any remaining gaps in the roster.

Twenty-one of 23 roster spots are filled with an average age of 26.4 years old. Nick Bonino and Matt Irwin are the oldest skaters on the current NHL roster, at 30, and Pekka Rinne is the elder statesman of the team at 35 years old, pulling the average age up a bit.

Nashville sits about $9.6 million under the cap and only Rinne currently holds a no-movement, no-trade clause.

There is a lot to like about the talent of this team, but from a roster-building perspective, it’s pure gold. Pun intended. There is a lot of flexibility and excellent value up and down this roster and other than the $7 million cap hit from Pekka, there aren’t any bad contracts.

Next Steps

The team’s top priority for the offseason remains incomplete. Ryan Ellis needs to be extended, and I suspect he will be to the tune of somewhere in the range of $6.5 – $7 million AAV. Even if when he signs an extension, however, his cap hit for the 2018/19 season remains at the current $2.5 million. This means cap space sits at about $9.6 million to address other needs and resign Salomaki. If Salomaki signs at around $1.5 million, which feels a little high but still reasonable from my perspective, the remaining cap space sits at about $8 million.

There are 2 remaining spots open on the NHL roster. Should the Predators do some work in free agency to fill those spots or promote from within?

The hardest part in deciding the steps to follow after extending Ryan Ellis, is where to add the depth?

The depth chart at forward with the roster as it currently stands looks like this:

Forsberg-Johansen-Arvidsson
Fiala – Turris – Smith
Tolvanen – Bonino – Hartman
Watson – Sissons – Jarnkrok

On defense, the 3 pairings will be filled by combos of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ellis, Yannick Weber, Irwin, and Anthony Bitetto. Any further signings on defense will be in Milwaukee for most of the season.

Therefore, with $8 million in cap space and the names available via free agency in that salary range, Nashville is looking at mainly bottom 6 forwards to rotate in the press box.

Room for more?

Sure, Rick Nash is available, but he’s 34, is considering retirement (or at least a year off). Signing him will at least be a cap hit in the $6 million range, if a team gets him to sign on a bargain deal. Nash would be a nice offensive boost, to be sure, but the Nashville Predators finished 7th in scoring last season without a player of his scoring ilk. It just may not be worth it, though the name game would be nice.

Players like Joe Colborne or Chris Stewart could be names the Predators would entertain, though. Both are not too far removed from nice seasons and would likely come to Nashville at under $3 million.

Colborne is 28 and would provide another option at center. He had 44 points for Calgary in 2015/16 before falling off with Colorado in 2016/17 and suffering from injuries this past season.

Chris Stewart has been everywhere, it seems, but the big winger had 10 goals and 6 assists last season between the Minnesota Wild and the Calgary Flames. He’s a similar player to Scott Hartnell in some ways, but around 5 years younger. He could provide some nice veteran depth.

Options in Milwaukee for the remaining 2 NHL slots include players such as Yakov Trenin, Alexandre Carrier, Fredric Gaudreau, or Rocco Grimaldi. None of these players would move the needle much in terms of cap related issues but should provide some depth and injury cover when the time of need comes.

All in all, the Predators look to be in fantastic shape entering the new season. Expect to see a few Milwaukee signings and maybe a couple depth signings for the NHL roster, but nothing major. Enjoy your summer, Preds fans. The roster looks solid and healthy.