Nashville Predators Can’t Hold off the Dreaded Rebuild Any Longer

Dan Lambert assistant head coach of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Dan Lambert assistant head coach of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images) /

One of the most dreaded words in sports is “rebuild”. But that’s what the Nashville Predators have to do, and it doesn’t mean they’re going to be horrible.

For some reason fans always associate a team rebuilding into a team that has no chance to have success. That doesn’t have to necessarily be the case for next year’s Nashville Predators.

The truth is the Predators have been pushing off this rebuild since after the magical 2017 Stanley Cup run. After that wild ride the last thing people were thinking of is a rebuild, and that’s.

With three-straight seasons now of going in reverse, it’s time for the Predators to make some rather big changes to the roster. This doesn’t mean burn it all down like people like to say, but this team does need to look very different when the puck drops for next season.

How a rebuild might look

The quickest way that the Predators can hope to get through a rebuild without plummeting to the bottom of the Western Conference is by elevating their prospects and hoping their development in the minor league ranks will translate to NHL success.

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The core part of this roster isn’t going anywhere. That’s your main guys like Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis.

There are other depth players that I also think will stick around for next season, like Nick Bonino and Kyle Turris.

However, some players that we’ve become accustomed to being in the starting lineup every game have probably played their last game with the Predators.

Craig Smith is the main one to come to mind, but you have a few others as well.

Smith is due to become an unrestricted free agent and I’m not confident that the Predators will be able to retain him. He’s been a regular in Predators lineup for nearly a decade now. He broke into the lineup playing 72 games in 2011-12 and has been a consistent 20-plus goal scorer since then.

Another key player that could very well be moved on from is Mikael Granlund. Another highly-skilled offensive player who just didn’t produce when it mattered most, especially in both playoff appearances.

If you let both Smith and Granlund move on then that will free up some cap space to make a move in free agency to hopefully help the defense, which will also have some departures in free agency.

Elevate the youth

It’s time to inject some young talent into the roster and begin to build this roster back up around the core. That means we should see some new players in the bottom-six next season, most notably Eeli Tolvanen.

Tolvanen was on the playoff roster but never got into the starting lineup. After another offseason of development in training camp, he should be ready to get a starting role for the first game of next season.

Rem Pitlick is another prospect who has a bright future and should get an opportunity to elevate into the lineup on a regular basis. I could see him on the third line next season with Bonino and Rocco Grimaldi.

The defensive depth should look different as well behind their top-four defensemen. I’m expecting a free agency addition to be made, and possibly move Dante Fabbro down to the third defensive pairing with Alexandre Carrier.

Fabbro needs to be on the third pairing going into next season, and the Predators need to find veteran on the second pairing to play along with Mattias Ekholm. That could offer a somewhat quick fix to the defense that had its issues this past season.

In this abbreviated offseason, free agency is due to begin quickly following the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final, which should be sometime in early October. Some free agents defensemen that I’d target for the Predators would be Dylan DeMelo of the Jets, Tyson Barrie of the Maple Leafs and Kevin Shattenkirk of the Lightning.

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There are a lot of veteran defensemen due to become unrestricted free agents that the Predators can sort through that can hopefully produce more of an offensive jolt behind Josi and Ellis.

We have to come to grips with reality that the Predators are not a Stanley Cup threat anymore. They can still remain a decent team that sneaks into the playoffs, but the hard truth is this team has to starting building itself back up around the top players of the roster.