We wish we were talking about next round’s playoff opponent, but instead it’s time to dive into how to fix the Nashville Predators quickly for next season.
Changes are coming for the Nashville Predators inevitably, but how drastic those changes will be remains to be seen.
There’s no way the Predators and GM David Poile stay the course for next season. New arrivals are coming, and some departures are coming as well. It’s going to leave room on the starting roster for new players to get their NHL opportunity.
Most of the changes that are coming for the Predators will probably occur from within. It’s going to be difficult for the Predators to be highly active in the free agency market due to their current cap situation. There’s not a ton of room to be aggressive.
However, I do think the Predators will have room to be conservative in their approach for a free agent or two.
The top target needs to instantly boost the defensive core with a chippy veteran who can provide some offense and match well with Mattias Ekholm.
Quickly addressing the defense
Ekholm is a feisty defenseman that can score, but is most valuable by getting into passing lanes, laying out the hits and making it hard on opposing offenses to get cooking.
More from Predlines
- Nashville Predators 2023 Training Camp Spotlight: Kiefer Sherwood
- Captain Candidates if Nashville Predators Didn’t Have Roman Josi
- The All-Time 25 Games or Less Nashville Predators Lineup
- Nashville Predators 2023 Training Camp Spotlight: Cody Glass
- Joakim Kemell Flashes his Offense in Nashville Predators Loss to Tampa
The Predators need a defenseman on the free agency market that can match Ekholm’s play on the second pairing, while allowing Dante Fabbro to move to the third pairing and continue to develop.
This isn’t an indictment on Fabbro. For the most part he’s showing a lot of promise as a future regular on the second pairing, but I’m not so sure how far his ceiling goes past that.
For the Predators to be a more complete defensive team going into next season, an additional veteran on defense should be targeted.
This all really depends on how much money the Predators free up with their own free agents. I think Craig Smith is a goner.
Smith has had a respectable, storied career with the Predators, but it’s time for him to seek out a final NHL destination and for the Predators to move on with a mini rebuild.
If Smith’s contract falls off the books, that leaves Mikael Granlund. He’s more of a wild card as to whether or not the Predators re-sign him. He’s going to be too expensive for my taste most likely, but let’s wait and see what Poile thinks.
There’s some other lower-tier free agent defensemen coming up with Yannick Weber and Korbinian Holzer. Dan Hamhuis has already announced his retirement. That’s three defensive spots likely being vacated.
Free agent options
If the Predators want to go all in for a defenseman with their offseason spending money, Tyson Barrie is one to be interested in. He’ll be expensive, however, and somewhat of a risk as his numbers have slumped recently.
Barrie would instantly provide veteran leadership and make the Predators’ top-two defensive lines among the best in the NHL.
Getting Barrie is probably far-fetched, but Poile is a creative mastermind when coming up with deals like this.
T.J. Brodie of the Calgary Flames is another grind-it-out defenseman who won’t command as much money and is a more conservative target in free agency.
Both of these guys will get several suitors interested in them, including some major markets. They’d instantly help the Predators become a much better defensive team, but realistically speaking it’ll be tough to pull off.
The Predators need more “locker room first” kinds of guys. This team just seems to lose focus at the worst times, and you can never overlook the importance of bringing in veterans who can stabilize a roster.
If the Predators really want to stick with a cheaper, but effective option, then Dylan DeMelo of the Ottawa Senators is one of the best options out there. He’s just 27-years-old and could very well have his best hockey ahead of him. He’d be a great option to pair with Ekholm, and move Fabbro down with Jarred Tinordi.
I’ll be very surprised if one of the aforementioned defenseman aren’t high targets for the Predators in the offseason. It doesn’t mean they’ll be successful in signing them against other suitors, but they have to be aggressive in this area.
If the Predators don’t bring in a free agent defenseman, then I’m afraid we’re going to see more of the same next season defensively with continued struggled on the third and second pairing.
Unless Fabbro is ready to take the next step quickly in his development, which means bringing more offense to the table, then the Predators will be towards the bottom in terms of defensive efficiency and penalty killing once again next season. This will just make it even harder on goaltender Juuse Saros going into his first full season as the starter.
Whether the Predators choose to go big or small, risky or conservative, they have to make some big moves on the defensive side this offseason.
Go get a free agent defenseman to stop some of the bleeding. There are plenty of options to shop for after you clear out some free agents that are heading out.