With the Stanley Cup Playoffs down to four teams now, the turbulent NHL offseason is about to begin, and it’s a critical one for the Nashville Predators.
Two years ago I would’ve never thought to be describing the Nashville Predators teetering on the line between being irrelevant or maybe remaining a consistent playoff contender.
This is undoubtedly going to be a tricky offseason for the Predators and GM David Poile, and the first big chip to fall could very well end up being Mikael Granlund.
Per a report from Adam Vingan of the Athletic, Granlund’s agent has said that they’ll be testing the free agency market:
Most of us saw this coming and it’s not surprising. Granlund will get some suitors, but I’m not so sure he’s going to get the flashy contract he really wants. His stock has plummeted, and now it’s going to take a team that thinks it’s a systematic issue on the part of the Predators, and not on Granlund.
If only we could go back….
It’s no secret that the signing of Granlund during the midseason of 2019 was a big swing and a miss from Poile. However, hindsight is 20/20 and at the time it looked like a solid move.
Granlund was flirting with nearly a point-per-game basis when the Wild pulled the trigger to make the trade.
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In the two previous seasons, Granlund came very close to the 70-point plateau, and at the time he looked like he was joining a very solid team that just needed a few pieces to get over the top to avenge their second-round loss the season before.
I’ll be the first to admit that I thought it was a smart move. I didn’t think the Predators were that far off, maybe even just one piece away, from getting back to the Stanley Cup Final despite the crushing second-round exit.
When Granlund came aboard the Predators were coming off a Presidents Trophy season and a heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the second round to the Winnipeg Jets. Confidence in this team was still soaring, and offensively skilled player like Granlund was an encouraging move to give the Predators an extra weapon for their top-six.
Not everyone was completely crazy about the move at the time because of the loss of Kevin Fiala. Fiala was a player that also had enormous potential offensively, but just wasn’t panning out in a Predators uniform.
Some think the Predators should’ve been more patient with Fiala, but most thought the move was better for the Predators than it was for the Minnesota Wild. For those people, including myself, we were wrong.
What’s our options?
It’s possible that Poile puts the fullcourt press on retaining Granlund. The stock for Granlund has plummeted, and he and his agent might not like what they see on the open market.
I’d be surprised if it happened, but don’t completely dismiss the notion that Granlund and Poile reconvene to make a deal that’s team-friendly and gives Granlund another chance to prove his worth in Nashville.
The more likely scenario is that Granlund finds the right fit elsewhere, even if it’s at a discounted price, and gets that change of scenery that he probably wants. It’s just never been a good fit for both sides, and it shows how free agency is never a perfect science.
That’s going to leave the Predators with a big void in their lineup in terms of their top-six.
Granlund was supposed to be an integral piece of the second line. With his likely departure, the Predators have to figure out who is going to take over that critical role to play with Matt Duchene.
The free roster questions don’t end with Granlund. I think Kyle Turris has a great chance to elevate back into the top-six after a Granlund departure.
Like it or not, the Predators are stuck with Turris and we have to hope he finds a way to get back to the Ottawa version of himself. He’s shown glimpses, and he’s a class act veteran that we know is going to give it his all as long as he’s a member of the Nashville Predators.
If Granlund does indeed go to another team, it might leave the door open for the Predators to work out a deal to keep pending free agent Craig Smith for a low-risk contract.
But Smith isn’t a second-line player anymore, so that doesn’t solve the problem of Granlund’s void left behind on the second line. It’s going to take a newcomer to the lineup to take that role and flourish quickly.
The hope is that Eeli Tolvanen is ready to finally take his NHL opportunity and become a full-time starter. A big step forward from him will somewhat alleviate the loss of Granlund.
Figuring out how to solidify the second line is going to be a major challenge in the offseason if the Predators are going to avoid slipping into the basement of the Central Division.
The Granlund move was a major miss by Poile, and now he has a tough challenge ahead of him to make up for it. He’ll have to shift a lot of pieces around to keep the Predators in the thick of a stacked Central Division that keeps getting better around them.