The biggest week of the offseason calendar is here for the Nashville Predators, a team in danger of falling into oblivion next season.
Offseasons are important for every team, but they’re amplified for teams like the Nashville Predators that are teetering between irrelevancy and sticking around in the postseason picture for 2021.
The 2020 NHL Entry Draft will finally be conducted Tuesday night, and the Predators have the 11th-overall pick in the first round.
The Predators also have the 37th pick in the second round (via the New Jersey Devils) and the 42nd pick in the second round.
Free agency frenzy will get fired up officially on October 9, and that figures to be a hectic day for the Predators as they have a few key players that have already announced their plans to explore the market.
Predators GM David Poile has come under scrutiny for no longer being the effective and masterful general manager that he was once viewed as. It’s always about “what have you done for me lately” in pro sports, and Poile is bearing the brunt of that in Nashville.
If Poile can piece together a strong offseason, including some fruitful draft picks in rounds 1 and 2, then maybe the Predators can hold off the rebuild and make another trip to the playoffs in 2021.
Predictions for the draft
There’s a wide range of predictions in mock drafts regarding who the Predators will take at the 11th pick. I still think they’re going for a high-scoring winger, which would go against their normal approach of stockpiling defensemen.
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I’ve always projected the Predators to take Seth Jarvis, a flashy scoring winger who most recently played in the OHL for the Portland Winterhawks and posted 98 points in 58 games.
Yes, you read that point total right and it’s not from a video game. Sean Leahy of NBC Sports projects the Predators taking Jarvis, and I’ve always agreed with that pick since the dog days of summer before the Return-to-Play even happened.
However, there’s a decent chance that Jarvis gets taken in the first ten picks, meaning the Predators might decide to go with a defenseman, which there are fewer of in the early portions of the draft class.
I’m hoping the Predators don’t go the defenseman route with that 11th pick. There’s just too much dynamic offensive talent at the top end of the draft class, and I’ll be disappointed if the Predators don’t come away with some sort of offensive weapon after getting ousted in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in embarrassing fashion.
Jack Quinn, a winger that’s also out of the OHL, is another popular mock draft selection for the Predators. I wouldn’t be mad at that selection at all as Quinn arguably has the best shot in the draft class.
The two picks in the second round will be almost as crucial as the 11th pick. This is where they might decide to take a goaltender to get into the pipeline behind Connor Ingram and Juuse Saros. It’s almost a 100 percent certainty that Pekka Rinne is heading into his final season in Nashville.
A strong draft may not be an immediate fix to the issues the Predators are facing, but it would definitely get them back into contention sooner rather than later, and keep them from really plummeting into the abyss where teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks reside.
Free agency expectations
It’s already well-known that Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund will test the market and aren’t returning. That leaves some major voids that will likely be filled with youth, with Eeli Tolvanen and Philip Tomasino next in line.
There’s reason to be excited about the youth shift, but I also think Poile has to remain open-minded about making a move for a free agent defenseman or forward. Maybe not a blockbuster deal, but something low-risk that can come in and provide some leadership in the bottom-six.
Colton Sissons is a long-time player in Nashville that’s might see his ice time blossom in 2021 as he has the opportunity to move up in the lineup.
Other pending free agents include Yannick Weber, Korbinian Holzer and Colin Blackwell. We have to hope the Predators figure out a way to retain Blackwell. Weber and Holzer just aren’t a good fit in the starting lineup. Cut your losses with those two.
Then you have the ongoing story of what to do with Kyle Turris. I see no scenario other than he stays in Nashville and gets a strong look at being on the second line with Matt Duchene. Who fills in the third slot will be up for debate.
This is going to be the most hectic offseason we’ve seen for the Predators in quite some time.
Usually the Predators go into the offseason feeling like they’re just a piece or two away, but now they’re more like a piece or two away from being one of the worst teams in the division. You can argue they already are.
There’s a lot of apathy surrounding the Predators currently as fans have become sick of the team falling short in the big moments, but Poile illustrated to the Nashville Post that he doesn’t feel like the team is that far off:
"“But we have to face reality that the trends have not been good here in the last two years. I don’t think that we’re that far off, but one of the best areas to improve is through the draft or promoting your younger players”"
Poile is up against a tough challenge, maybe his toughest in Nashville, but the man has the experience and intelligence to work out some creative deals that we may not even see coming. Let’s buckle in and see what happens this week.