Nashville Predators: Make Room for Dante Fabbro on the Roster

An ineffective Nashville Predators defense is a big reason why they’re sitting at home earlier than expected. There’s a youngster who can remedy that.

It’s hard to find a whole lot to be excited about from the Nashville Predators’ short-lived playoff run. They were undoubtedly outplayed and outworked by the Dallas Stars. I knew the Stars would bring a tough battle to the Predators, but I never imagined them eliminated the Predators in six games. They do have plenty of pieces on this team that keep me optimistic, and the young Dante Fabbro is one of them.

The Nashville Predators have gone in the wrong direction over the last two seasons, and now they have to turn to some new faces to get this thing back in the right direction. The core of this team needs to stay intact and is still good enough to take this team to its first Stanley Cup. Some tweaks need to be made, and one tweak is seeing Fabbro’s role elevated. He passed the test of being ready for the NHL level. He adapted quickly in the midst of some intense playoff pressure.

How he performed

Fabbro only got four games of NHL experience before being thrust into playoff action. A lot to ask for from a rookie short of his 21st birthday. The result Peter Laviolette saw from his four games of NHL action must have been enough to put him in the playoff lineup. In those four games Fabbro held his own quickly, tallying a goal and registering a Corsi percentage of just under 52. Very impressive for such a young player.

Hope remains that the Nashville Predators have continued to build a strong farm system in Milwaukee with prospects who are ready to take some of the pressure off of having to make big moves in free agency. Fabbro is the centerpiece of that, alongside Eeli Tolvanen. These two figure to make big impacts on next season’s roster that David Poile said still has a “foundation of one of the better teams in the leauge”, per the Predators website. With that said, I expect a major player or two to be moved in the offseason. Possibly a Ryan Ellis or P.K. Subban. Both have moderate trade appeal to other teams and could help the Predators bring in another top-six forward and free up some money.

Fabbro played solid in the playoffs as well. He managed a plus-two on his plus/minus rating and played well defensively with five hits or three blocked shots. His game looked very comfortable and gives me confidence that he will become a major contributor to the Predators next season. His defensive linemate, veteran Dan Hamhuis, came away impressed with Fabbro’s play, per the Nashville Post:

He was composed out there, making plays in high-pressure situations. That’s the player he is and that’s why this team brought him here

Where he fits next season

First off, Fabbro is heading to the 2019 IIHF World Championships to represent Canada beginning May 10. An impressive accomplishment for the youngster. It will be interesting to see how he performs in a tournament that has plenty of Predators representation in it. This is a great thing for Fabbro as he’ll continue to keep his game sharp over the offseason and develop even more before his next season with the Predators.

The biggest key to Fabbro’s role on the team in 2019-20 is if any of the top four defenseman are going to be moved. P.K. Subban has been a focal point of trade rumors, as has Ryan Ellis. Both bring much different variable to the table when it comes to possibly unloading them for a top-six forward. First off, Subban would be the easiest player to move and has a $9 million cap hit next season. Moving him would free up the most money, and it’s nice to know that Fabbro is ready to move up if a slot comes open. However, moving Subban isn’t something I can get on board with. This isn’t a scenario of addition by subtraction. Subban still has Norris Trophy capabilities and brings too many skills to the game to unload him.

I can get much more on board with finding a suitor for Ellis, and I do think there will be some interest out there. His cap hit is smaller than Subban’s at $6.25 million, but his contract runs much longer. I believe he’s hit his ceiling in a Predators uniform. Occasionally helping on the power play, but otherwise just a middle-of-the-road defender. If the Predators end up moving on from Ellis, I like Fabbro moving up to essentially take his spot on the depth chart. It’s going to take Poile working his magic, as he usually does, to move either one of these big contract without shaking up the roster too much.

Fabbro’s emergence as a player who seems ready for the NHL quicker than expected frees the Predators up to be more aggressive this offseason. They have ten games of tape to go off of to feel confident in elevating Fabbro’s role. If he hadn’t looked ready for the NHL level in his ten games, then this would complicate things much more than they already are for Poile. I’m fairly confident that a top-six defender is leaving the Nashville Predators, and that will give Fabbro a much bigger role on this team. I’m excited and optimistic to see him full-time. At least we can mark this young and talented player as one reason to be optimistic about the future.