The captain that steers the ship for the Nashville Predators is David Poile. He has an extremely tricky offseason to navigate through.
Many would argue the Nashville Predators have one of the best general managers in all of the sports, and certainly in the NHL. For the Predators, GM David Poile has masterfully constructed teams over the years that have gone further than preseason expectations. However, the Predators have been going in reverse the last two seasons, and Poile has to figure out a way to turn the ship around.
It may look somewhat bleak right now, but the Predators remain just a few pieces away from being one of the top Stanley Cup contenders again. One of those pieces might certainly be a major free agent, and that will mean taking considerable risks. That’s where Poile’s job gets tricky.
In recent memory, the Predators haven’t had to be major players in the offseason. They’ve felt good about the team they already had, and really just had to take care of expiring contracts for current players. Poile has done a great job with that over time, but now it’s time for him to land his big-time player in the offseason. Someone who can take over games and be the playmaker that can get this team over this plateau they seem to be stuck on.
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Going for Matt Duchene
Of course, the big one here is Matt Duchene. It’s all anyone can speculate about when talking about the Predators’ offseason. You’re ignoring the facts if you think Duchene isn’t a perfect fit for Nashville and where they need to improve. Their offense disappeared too often, relied on the top line too much and their power play was so bad I actually found myself sighing whenever the opposition took a penalty. Duchene helps in all of those areas and helps tremendously. But it’s not as simple as “yeah, he’s a great fit so let’s sign him.”
Poile is going to have to jump through some hoops to get this deal done. He’s also going to have to let a couple of players go that may be tough to stomach for some fans. P.K. Subban seems like the most likely player to go to make this deal become a reality. Subban has the highest cap hit, which will free up the most space. I’d absolutely take Duchene at the expense of losing Subban, but that means the defense does take a hit. That will force someone else to step up, like a Dante Fabbro.
A secondary player that might have to go could be a host of guys. Anyone from Nick Bonino, Craig Smith or Kyle Turris could see their time end with Nashville. Out of all those guys, it would hurt me the most to see Smith go. He’s a lifelong Predator and has come up huge in so many big moments. Kyle Turris makes the most sense to me in this scenario out of everyone, but I’m not sure a team would be willing to take his mammoth contract.
Duchene has always wanted to play for Nashville according to Elliot Friedman of Sportsnet. For this to happen, we’re going to have to say goodbye possibly to some fan-favorites. Fan-favorites don’t always win Stanley Cups, though. I’m just not overly confident Poile will be willing to make all of the moves necessary to make this deal happen.
Taking care of current players
I don’t envy Poile’s current tasks at hand one bit. Not only is he chasing what would be one of the biggest free agents in franchise history, but he has current key players to take care of too. Rocco Grimaldi is the big one that jumps to mind. No one saw him making this big of a leap last season. His numbers don’t jump out at you with just 13 points, but he became a full-time player and a key contributor by the time the playoffs arrived. He was one of the few bright spots in the first round of the playoffs against Dallas with three goals.
Grimaldi’s contract needs to be a top priority for Poile. He’a rising star that is crucial to the team’s depth on the third and fourth line. That leaves less cap room for other free agents and makes it even trickier for Poile when it comes to landing a big free agent. I wouldn’t want to have any other GM making these calls as Poile has proven time and time again that he is a wizard with this kind of stuff.
Poile also has tough decisions to make with free agents Brian Boyle, Wayne Simmonds, and Colton Sissons. Letting Simmonds go is an easy choice to make, but the others are not as simple. Sissons should get his new deal worked out, but Boyle is a toss-up. You can make a case for keeping him or cutting your losses and letting the experiment die. Either way, now you’re seeing how much work Poile has cut out for him. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds in the coming weeks.
I see this all, unfortunately, shaking out with no deal made for Duchene. There are too many moving parts to make this happen. However, I do see some key additions being made from the offseason free agent pool, but more importantly a transformation into how the current roster plays on the ice. Different offensive philosophies will be put into place with new coaches on the coaching staff. This team will play much differently, especially on the power play. Will see new players join, and current players depart, like every offseason. But the biggest change we will see is the offensive and defensive philosophies on the ice when the puck drops on the 2019-20 season.