Where to Slot Rocco Grimaldi on New-Look Nashville Predators

Rocco Grimaldi #23 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
Rocco Grimaldi #23 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The offseason roster changes for the Nashville Predators have been numerous. These changes broke up the hardest-working offensive line that the team had last season.

There’s no disputing the fact that the Nashville Predators had to make changes during this offseason. The team had gotten progressively worse since their Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2017.

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The Predators technically made the playoffs this season with an expanded field. However, they failed to make the traditional 16-team playoff field after losing their Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup against the Arizona Coyotes.

Last season they lost in the first round of the playoffs against the Dallas Stars. The season before that they went to a Game 7 with the Winnipeg Jets in the second round, but lost in heartbreaking fashion.

I’m sure you’re seeing a disturbing trend here.

It’s always tough to see some of our favorite players get traded or leave due to free agency. It’s even tougher to see the loss of players who made up one of the best offensive lines the Predators had.

Where will Grimaldi fit into the lineup?

The third line of Rocco Grimaldi, Nick Bonino, and Craig Smith was one of the NHL’s top lines last season.

According to MoneyPuck.com, this trio had a Goal % of 72.5. They had 29 goals for and 11 goals against while spending 401.3 minutes of TOI together.

The results spoke for themselves. When watching this line play together, it was easy to see that they were the hardest working line that the Predators had.

That was last season. The roster that will take the ice next season is significantly different. It’s totally anyone’s guess how Head Coach John Hynes will construct the lines behind the top line, which looks pretty set in stone.

The Predators traded Bonino to Minnesota for forward Luke Kunin and some draft picks. Smith entered free agency and landed a spot with the Boston Bruins.

The departure of Bonino and Smith will mean new linemates for Grimaldi. We have to hope this doesn’t slow down Grimaldi’s momentum that he’s been gradually building since seeing his role in Nashville grow.

In a recent article outlining possible lines for next season, I left Grimaldi on the third line and added newcomer Nick Cousins, and recently re-signed Yakov Trenin.

Grimaldi scored 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) last season while maintaining a Corsi-for of 51.7.

While in Montreal, Cousins’ Corsi raiting was a respectable 54.1. For Montreal and Vegas combined, he scored 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists).

Trenin saw limited time for the Predators last season. His Corsi rating was 50.1. Trenin tallied six points in 21 games. His best hockey on the NHL level is ahead of him.

Alternately, Bonino and Smith combined for 66 points (36 goals, 30 assists) last season.

Big opportunity ahead for Grimaldi’s career

If Grimaldi, Cousins, and Trenin wind up being the third line next season, they will obviously have some big skates to fill. There’s most likely going to be some growing pains and a learning period in the early going of the season.

While it appears that the Predators are making a shift to become a more defensive-minded team,  it will take a large amount of effort on the parts of Cousins and Trenin to match the outputs of Bonino and Smith.

This would all hinge on whether Grimaldi is even on the third line. Before the trade deadline last season, Grimaldi signed a well-deserved contract extension for his hard work for the past two seasons.

Depending on who makes the roster after training camp or other free agent signings, Grimaldi could find himself on the second line with Matt Duchene.

A move to the second line would be a big step in the progression of Grimaldi’s career. Head coach John Hynes would do well to experiment with a line combination that includes Duchene and Grimaldi.

Needless to say, Grimaldi will have some adjustments to make next season, as well as some opportunities. This could be a chance for him to make a leap forward and become a leader on a team that will undoubtedly face some obstacles.

Related Story. Nashville Predators Get Defensive Jolt with Nick Cousins Signing. light

Whether on the third line or somewhere else, Grimaldi will put in the work and bring his best effort to fit in wherever he’s needed on a vastly different Predators team from when he first joined.