In a perfect world, we would be watching the Nashville Predators in Edmonton, competing for the Stanley Cup. Now the window on that dream appears to be closing.
I’m always one who is in favor of keeping teams together. We grow to love the players and hope that they will find ways to be successful and create a dynasty. That isn’t happening with the Nashville Predators at this current time.
The Predators are entering a critical juncture as they try to avoid slipping into oblivion in the Western Conference. Many teams are showing vast improvement while the Predators have been going backwards.
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As I have often discussed, the Predators are facing a mini rebuild this offseason. They have seven free agents on the full-time roster.
We’re approximately three weeks away from the beginning of free agency. With the promised changes being discussed by General Manager David Poile, we should start seeing some player movement any day now.
Poile has said that the Predators’ prospect pool will be looked at very closely, and some could have legitimate shots at making the roster.
The feeling is, though, that at least two, possibly three, slots will have to be filled with veteran players acquired through free agency or trades. There is a catch, though.
Without re-signing any of the free agents, Poile will have about $9.3M of cap space, and I’m sure he won’t be willing to spend it all in this cash-strapped environment in which the NHL finds itself.
Looking towards trades may be tricky as well. If your name is JoFA, Duchene, Josi, Ellis, Rinne, or Saros, you are golden. If your name is anything else, all options are on the table.
The bad part about trades is that there is a limited number of players who have played well enough to offer any other team value.
Using the NHL’s regular-season statistic rankings, I have identified the three main Predators that could bolster another team next season and bring back value to the Predators.
This season was Calle Jarnkrok’s second-best season of his seven-year career with the Predators.
Jarnkrok scored 34 points (15 goals, 19 assists) and had a Corsi rating of 52.5. Had the season not been shortened, he may have had his best.
Out of 297 active centers in the NHL, Jarnkrok was ranked at No.72 this season, putting him in the top 24 percent.
Jarnkrok is ranked higher than Joe Pavelski, who is competing in the Stanley Cup Final, and his teammate, Granlund, who makes considerably more money than he does.
With Jarnkrok, a team would be getting a reliable bottom-six center who can make plays and score. He also brings tons of regular season and playoff experience to a potential team that may be looking for veteran for their depth.
Jarnkrok will be a free agent at the end of next season. His cap hit of $2M would be a bargain for some teams looking to add some experience to their roster.
Nick Bonino has remained a consistent and driving force for the Predators in his three years with the team.
This season Bonino scored 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists), all while centering a third line that was the team’s workhorse. A Corsi rating of 50.4 makes him a valuable asset to any team.
Bonino was ranked at No. 68 out of 297 active centers. This puts him in the top 23 percent for all centers. With the way the Predators were playing at the end of the regular season, his numbers probably would have climbed even higher.
Bonino would be an excellent acquisition for any team that’s looking for a bottom-six center with tons of experience and a Stanley Cup under his belt. A younger team would benefit from his leadership and knowledge.
On the flip side, it would be a tough loss for the Predators if Bonino was shipped off, meaning that the return would have to be fruitful.
Bonino is another player that will be a free agent at the end of next season. His experience, grit, and knowledge come at a higher price of $4.1M a year, but all of those things are invaluable to a team that needs to prop up their bottom two lines.
Mattias Ekholm’s production went down a bit this season compared to last season, but he was still in the top 12 percent of active defensemen during the 2019-2020 season.
Growing pains with rookie linemate Dante Fabbro may have contributed to the drop in Ekholm’s numbers, but he had a great year nonetheless.
He scored 33 points (8 goals, 25 assists) and had a Corsi rating of 55 while leading the Predators second defensive line.
Ekholm’s statistics placed him at No. 35 out of 303 active defensemen.
To put that in perspective, Tampa Bay’s Kevin Shattenkirk and Mikhail Sergachev, who are in the Stanley Cup Final, both had only one more point on the season than Ekholm.
Ekholm’s cap hit is a bargain at $3.75M for the production that the Predators get from him. On a team that doesn’t have a Josi or Ellis, Ekholm could move up to a first defensive pairing role if placed with the right partner.
Ekholm’s tough style of play and determination makes him a valuable trade asset for the Predators if they chose to go that route. Combined with the right partner, he could provide solid defense for a team that is lacking in that area.
Let’s also not forget that Ekholm looks like a likely player that might go unprotected in the expansion draft when the Seattle Kraken get to make their selections.
Only one person knows if trades will be the route that the Predators go in this offseason, and that is Poile.
Losing any of these players, especially Ekholm, would be detrimental to what the Predators organization is trying to accomplish with their offseason “everything is on the table” changes.
These three players are not why the Predators had the season that they had, and quite the opposite. Unfortunately, they are the players, not including the core team, who have any kind of value that other teams would be interested in.
For the Predators to avoid a drastic rebuild, trading one of these players to acquire more assets and free up more cap space might end up being the route Poile chooses to go.