Even though the Nashville Predators have been aggressive in free agency, they haven’t done much to change the outlook on next season.
After a disappointing exit out of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers back in August, it became clear that the Nashville Predators are heading into a time of drastic changes that we haven’t seen from this franchise in a while.
Everyone was wondering how far Predators GM David Poile would go once the offseason to-do list officially got started. The Tampa Bay Lightning got crowned the Stanley Cup champs, and it was abundantly clear that the Predators wouldn’t be able to hang with them or the Dallas Stars in a seven-game series.
So this offseason has more implications than we’ve seen in recent memory for the Predators because we know how painfully average this team is. They’re teetering on mediocrity, but the general manager has that ability to make offseason moves.
How do we feel about what Poile has done so far? Well, it really depends on who you ask. Some think the Predators have addressed the necessary weaknesses and they can be competitive. But others feel that the team lost some key players and the team is heading towards a rough season.
Outlook on Predators hasn’t changed
Despite all of the moves, and there’s been a lot of them, the sentiment hasn’t changed on the Predators. They’re going to have a rough season next year that’s going to require patience.
Does this mean they’re going to be awful and not present exciting hockey? Absolutely not. In fact, I think they’ll be more exciting. But keeping up with a Central Division that keeps getting better around them will be a tough proposition.
We polled the fans on how they feel about the Predators post-free agency and it’s a split audience after over 400 votes:
— Predlines (@PredlinesNSH) October 12, 2020
I’m a little surprised that so many people think they’ve gotten worse. They’ve done nothing to magically make me think they’re Stanley Cup contenders again, but they’ve also made moves to address some key weaknesses.
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Some of the moves have been encouraging. The addition of Luke Kunin is a modest trade that means you’re going for youth over stature. Nick Bonino was one of the few bright spots of the Predators last season, but the team is clearly looking towards the long-term future with the influx of their prospects.
I like the addition of Kunin as much as it stinks to lose a player like Bonino.
Other additions the Predators have made largely focus on defense. They added Mark Borowiecki from the Ottawa Senators, and he should help boost a horrendous penalty kill that finished 29th last season.
The additions of Brad Richardson, Matt Benning and Nick Cousins props up the defensive prowess of this team even more going into next season, but there were no big free agency splashes. At least not so far.
Key player departures
With where the team stands right now, they haven’t moved the needle much when you consider the losses they’ve had to fill. When you factor in the modest additions they’ve made in free agency, you get a team that’s still very average on paper.
The loss of Craig Smith is the hardest one to fill. He was a tenacious player for the Predators since being drafted in 2009, and frankly I’m a little nauseous after thinking about him not retiring in a Predators sweater.
Losing Bonino also stings for the depth on the Predators. He was a catalyst for the third line and that will not be easy to replace. One of these newcomers will have to replicate that production to the bottom-six.
Then you have to factor in the losses of Kyle Turris, Austin Watson and Colin Blackwell. That’s a lot of turnover for your depth. The Predators are going to rely on their top line heavily to carry the offensive load, along with Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi and his linemate Ryan Ellis.
Poile has made some commendable moves on paper so far in free agency. The Turris buyout had to be done, and trading Bonino is understandable considering his trade value was high.
However, the team up to this point hasn’t made a big splash in free agency. Whether it’s for better or worse, they missed on Taylor Hall. Also missed on the hunt for other offensive forwards like Tyler Toffoli.
Check out what we wrote about Poile just after the Predators were outsted by the Arizona Coyotes in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in August:
We have to take our medicine and be prepared for a season full of growing pains. If it builds a solid foundation for the future through developing the prospects then I’m all for it.
Another move could come from Poile, but as of now the team’s outlook for next season hasn’t changed much despite all of the moves. They’ll be be on the fringe, but that Stanley Cup window has officially slammed shut. For some it was shut way before the offseason even began.