Predators: Picking Which Free Agent Addition Makes Biggest Impact

Vegas Golden Knights center Nick Cousins (21) pushes Vancouver Canucks left wing Antoine Roussel Mandatory Credit: Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Vegas Golden Knights center Nick Cousins (21) pushes Vancouver Canucks left wing Antoine Roussel Mandatory Credit: Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /

A busy free agency period for the Nashville Predators will make for an entertaining open to next season, but who will have the biggest impact?

It was no surprise to see the Nashville Predators so active in free agency once it finally got underway, and now we’ll have to see if those moves result in the team staying in the postseason picture.

For the Predators to avoid missing the playoffs in 2021, it’s going to take some big returns on the new additions that were made. They have some big skates to fill most notably with the losses of Nick Bonino and Craig Smith.

Other losses in free agency have been Kyle Turris, Mikael Granlund, Colin Blackwell, Yannick Weber and Korbinian Holzer. To add to that, Dan Hamuis announced his retirement.

With all of those losses, the Predators made some key additions through free agency, while not really making any big splashes. Here are the main additions from free agency, with more to come possibly:

All of these guys figure to be in the starting lineup on opening night of next season. But some are going to be leaned on more so than others, and they all bring different skills to the table.

Myself and Predlines contributor Rich Howe have differing opinions on which of these five free agency additions will have the largest impact next season.

Rich Howe goes with the bruiser, Borowiecki

There has been something missing from the Nashville Predators organization for quite some time, which is the element of physicality. Most would agree it has been missing since their 2017 Stanley Cup run.

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This problem has gotten worse as the seasons have gone on to the point where fans could see that the Predators were getting pushed around and that their fire had disappeared.

General Manager David Poile saw it as well. After the Predators’ lackluster performance in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, he decided to make changes that would get them back on track and help them regain the title of “hardest working team in the NHL.”

In my mind, and as it turns out in Poile’s mind, the first thing that needed to be accomplished was shoring up the defense, especially the third pairing. It’s no coincidence that some of the first free-agent signings during this offseason were defensemen.

Poile wanted to add toughness to his team, and he has accomplished that during free agency by signing Borowiecki. He’s as tough as they get, and he’ll add a gritty element to a team that needs it.

Signing Borowiecki instantly made the Predators’ defensive core better and drastically improved the team’s physicality.

Borowiecki is a hard hitter who is always looking to keep his opponents in check. While he is not a dirty player, he does have that grit and hard-hitting presence that that the Predators have been lacking. He doesn’t back down from anyone and handles himself well on and off the ice.

I placed Borowiecki on the third defensive pairing with Benning. This gives the Predators depth on all three defensive lines, which is massive to get this team back to be a respected one defensively.

You could even make a case for placing Borowiecki with Mattias Ekholm on the second defensive pairing. This would give the Predators a very tough second defensive pairing and allow Dante Fabbro more time to mature as a player on the third pairing.

There may be an adjustment period for the Predators next season. Depending on the length of next season, they may have to adjust quickly.

Moving the team to a more defensive style of play may take some time and getting used to, but the addition of Borowiecki is an excellent start to the process and he’ll make a huge impact right out of the gate.

Chad Minton goes with tenacity and Nick Cousins

I like the Cousins signing more than any other free agent addition because he brings a little bit of everything to the table. It gives Head Coach John Hynes flexibility in the lineup with this addition.

Cousins can play winger or center, and he brings both offensive and defensive elements in his game. He’s knocking on the door of being a 30-plus point scorer and just needs the right situation to accomplish that.

When you look over the career numbers for Cousins, he’s a guy that blocks shots, wins faceoffs, drives the net, makes hits and entering the prime of his career at age 27. A better and more dynamic version of Austin Watson.

In games with both Montreal and Vegas last season, Cousins averaged just 13:31 of ice time. I think he’s in line to get considerably more than that in a Predators lineup that just went through a lot of roster turnover.

Cousins recently described his game as one that brings a lot of different qualities, per Brooks Bratten of the Predators’ official website:

"“I can bring a little sandpaper, a little grit, but at the same time, I have some skill, I can make plays and I like being around the net. I’m a versatile forward that can play all three forward positions”."

These types of players can find their footing quickly with new teams because they do a little bit of everything. I think we’re going to instantly see Cousins’ tenacity and aggressive style of play. He’s going to draw penalties, crash the net and create havoc for the opposition.

I originally agreed with my fellow colleague that Borowiecki will make the biggest positive impact because he fills such a major need. However, I’ve come around on Cousins and how many different ways he’ll benefit the team.

I’m interesting to see where Cousins initially lands in the starting lineup, but the third line looks most likely. But he’s the type of hard-working player that I could see catching the eye of coaches and earning himself a spot on the second line with Matt Duchene.

If Cousins can surpass 30 points, and be the agitator that Poile says he is, then we’ll all be very pleased with this addition. With increased ice time, I see Cousins finishing above 30 points and becoming  fan-favorite with his tenacious style of play.

Must Read. Why the Predators Need a Breakout Season from Colton Sissons. light

We may disagree on Borowiecki or Cousins on the most impactful player, but we’re both pretty confident that these two will play major roles on the team.

It’s also important to note that Kunin has the opportunity to earn himself an initial spot on the second line with Duchene and has a lot of upside.

When the Predators open up training camp, hopefully sometime in December, we’ll have our eyes all over these new additions to see who is taking charge early on.