Once this crazy season officially comes to an end, will the Nashville Predators keep the band together for another run at the Stanley Cup?
Or will the Nashville Predators be saying goodbye to some players and singing the blues? And let’s be honest no one likes the blues. Am I right? See what I did there?
We all remember the conversations that took place during the trade deadline almost a month ago. Who can the Predators trade to get the most bang for their buck?
The conversation leaned towards the Predators being sellers at the deadline. This would have meant getting rid of several players to reset the team so that they can make a run for the Stanley Cup next year or beyond.
This opinion mostly changed because the Predators began picking up points and moving up in the standings, to the surprise of many.
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Another opinion held by some fans and analysts was that management should have been buyers at the deadline. Adding a player or two in some key areas would have given the team more depth enabling them to make a run this year.
This route started being a viable option because the team was gaining momentum in the standings. But it would’ve been a risk to mortgage the future for what could’ve been fool’s gold in the end.
Another smaller group believed that management should leave the team as is and see what they could do under the new coaching regime.
For the most part, management went with this option, only adding defenseman Korbinian Holzer in exchange for Matt Irwin.
Whether the discussion leaned towards buying or selling, two Predators players stood out from the rest as trade worthy. The players most talked about were Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith. Both will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.
Let’s discuss each of these players and what it would mean if they stayed with the team or moved on to another. There is also another player we will discuss that has the potential to cause the fans heartache or jubilation at the end of Summer.
Mikael Granlund, aka “Granny”, was the most talked-about Predators player at the trade deadline. Granlund will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
Most thought that GM David Poile should’ve looked to trade Granlund. By not seeking to trade him before the deadline, the organization runs the risk of losing him altogether if he decides to test the trade waters.
Granlund’s gameplay picked up greatly once Coach John Hynes implemented his playing system. This fueled trade speculations and raised Granlund’s trade stock. Fortunately, the trade deadline passed and Granlund wasn’t traded.
After the deadline, Granlund managed to pull the team out of the jaws of defeat during one of the most exciting games in Nashville Predators’ history. He scored the game-tying goal against the Calgary Flames leaving .1 seconds on the clock.
He then hit the game-winning goal sending Bridgestone Arena into a frenzy and further cementing the fan’s love for this player.
It is safe to assume that Granlund’s agent will be negotiating a raise at the end of this season either with the Predators or with another team based on his recent resurgence. I feel that the Predators should try to do whatever they can to keep Mikael Granlund.
Another player’s name that came up during the trade deadline was Craig Smith. “Smitty” is also an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Like Granlund, the opinion was to trade Smith for whatever the Predators could get.
Also like Granlund, Smith’s game seemed to flourish under Hynes. He even managed his first career hat trick against the New York Islanders.
Once again, Predators fans rejoiced that the trade deadline had passed and Smith remained with the team.
Smith has been a Predator his whole career. He is known for his fast and tenacious gameplay.
While Smith probably won’t command as much cap space as Granlund, it would be tough to see this fan favorite in any other sweater besides the gold and blue. I feel that the Predators should try to keep Smith as well.
The mystery player mentioned earlier is our beloved Pekka Rinne. While “Peks” will not be an unrestricted free agent this year, his future is possibly up in the air.
Like Smith, Rinne has played his entire career in Nashville. He has had some amazing career highlights including winning the Vezina Trophy in 2018. This year, however, has been frustrating for Pekka and fans alike.
Until recently, Nashville’s gameplay has been spotty at best. Poor defense and lack of goal scoring have made Rinne’s job next to impossible.
Does some of the fault lie with Pekka? Absolutely. However, there have been several instances where he did all he could to keep the Predators in games but to no avail.
Enter Jusse Saros. The plan has always been to bring Saros along as a backup goaltender and eventually take over for Pekka as the starting goaltender.
Apparently, that time is now. Saros has been on fire recently, even recording two shutouts in a row.
Which brings us back to Rinne, who has the rest of this season and one more year on his contract.
With his playing time dwindling and the heir-apparent Saros surging will Rinne hang up the pads after this season? Or will he fulfill his contract and let Saros take the lead leaving Rinne in the backup goaltender slot?
There’s only one person who can answer and that is Pekka Rinne.
Okay. Here is my take on this whole thing. I am a glass-half-full kind of person. I love it when a band stays together and takes that one last shot at glory.
The Nashville Predators had a rough first half of the season and have gotten back on track as of late under Hynes. With this recent surge in gameplay, I fully believe that Hynes deserves a full year to try to win the Stanley Cup with this team and with these players.
The best-case scenario is that there will be enough cap space to give Granlund and Smith a raise. I really feel that, with time, Hynes can mold the entire team into a deep playoff contender.
Granlund and Smith have played integral roles in the team’s resurgence and will hopefully continue to do so.
Pekka is a whole other ball of wax. Pekka is a fan favorite and we all cringe when he has a bad game. We all want to see him do well. My hope is that he will carry on and continue to mentor Saros for another season, even if it means he becomes the backup goaltender.
This would give the fans another season to give him the send-off that he deserves. I guarantee that No.35 will be the first retired number hanging from the rafters of Bridgestone Arena.