Matt Benning, Defenseman
Predators made another modest, but effective, free agent signing with Matt Benning. This raises questions about who will start on the third pairing, and might likely mean that both Jarred Tinordi and Alexandre Carrier will initially not be starters.
Benning can definitely be an upgrade to either of those two, but I’m also a little reserved by the fact that the Predators won’t use one of their up-and-coming defensive prospects, like Carrier, to see what they have.
The Predators signed Benning to a two-year contract worth $2 million. If Benning can continue to develop his game in Nashville, then this pickup will look great in a couple years.
Benning was a pretty important piece for the rising Edmonton Oilers. He’s here to provide more defensive depth and make this team more formidable defensively. They’ve lost that edge since going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.
The offseason strategy has been clear for the Predators, and it’s to get younger and be a defensive-minder team. With the exception of Richardson and Borowiecki, the new arrivals on the Predators starting roster next year will predominantly be young and have minimal NHL experience.
Benning has a lot of upside and really needs to keep improving for this move to really bring back value. As for now, he should fit in nicely on the third pairing in 2021. Nothing to get overly excited about, but it does address a need.
Another move could be up the sleeve of GM David Poile, but he’s most likely done with all of the major moves. He didn’t make any big signings, particularly for the top-six, which is disheartening to many of the fans.
However, Poile is thinking about the long-term future and addressing defensive needs that had to be figured out. We’ll see if it’s enough to return the Predators back into a team contending for a division title. I’m skeptical that enough was done to do that.
The losses of Nick Bonino, Mikael Granlund, Kyle Turris and Austin Watson will be challenging to overcome, even if those players were constantly underperforming. This much roster turnover is going to provide some growing pains.
The moves that were just graded weren’t terrible moves, but didn’t make big splashes to instantly fix the problems. The pressure is largely going to fall on the top core that’s been together for several years, while also leaning on the upcoming prospects to show they’re ready for NHL-level hockey.
My overall grade for the Predators free agency moves comes in at a B-. They could’ve done a lot worse, but didn’t do anything to change the outlook much. They’ll remain a competitive team that hangs around that wildcard group, but the days of having Stanley Cup aspirations are gone until the youth of this team develops more together.