Nashville Predators Add Another Free Agent in Erik Haula

The announcement of next season’s start has caused a bit of a signing frenzy. The Nashville Predators once again added to their roster on Wednesday.

On the heels of the Mikael Granlund signing, the Nashville Predators announced that they have signed free-agent forward Erik Haula to a one-year deal worth $1.75M.

Haula and Granlund will be reunited in Nashville as they were teammates in Minnesota for four years.

The 29-year-old Finnish veteran has spent eight seasons in the NHL. His longest stint was with the Minnesota Wild, where he spent four years before being claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights in their expansion draft.

Haula spent a full season with the Golden Knights, but was traded after 15 games during the 2018-19 season to Carolina Hurricanes.

In turn, Carolina traded Haula to the Florida Panthers in February of 2020, where he only participated in seven games.

In 405 career games, Haula has scored 175 points (85 goals, 90 assists). While in Vegas, he put up career-high numbers by tallying 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists).

However, Haula’s production dropped off after his departure from the Golden Knights.

Haula’s Corsi rating was an astounding 61.3 while in Vegas. Even after the drop in production, his Corsi rating still hovers around 50.

Looking at Haula’s past numbers, it is evident that General Manager David Poile and Head Coach John Hynes are looking for a return to his past performance.

Where Does Haula Fit In?

With a glut of forwards in the bottom six, Haula’s place on the roster is a little unclear at this point.

By signing Granlund, one can assume he will reclaim his spot alongside Matt Duchene on the second line. Eeli Tolvanen’s performance in camp could seal his place on the second line as well.

A bottom-six role will likely be Haula’s landing spot. The possibility of a Haula, Rocco Grimaldi, and Luke Kunin third line is highly probable.

Since there are so many new faces in the lineup and so much uncertainty from last season, it’s hard to pinpoint precisely what the bottom-six l look like. Hynes will have his work cut out for him during the shortened training camp.

Where Do The Younger Players Fit In?

Signing another veteran forward, especially a center, seems a little strange at this point. Poile has preached about a youth movement since the team’s lackluster performance last season and in the playoffs.

Players like Tolvanen, Yakov Trenin, and Philip Tomasino have been high up on his list for quite some time.

With the recent signings, it appears that Poile may be moving off of his youth movement soapbox a bit. The acquisition of Haula and the re-acquisition of Granlund somewhat throws a wrench in those plans.

The more veteran free agents that the Predators acquire, the less likely it seems we will see some of the prospects in Predators jerseys on opening night.

Does the acquisition of Granlund and Haula mean a roster spot for Tomasino becomes unlikely? Also, as the roster increases, do the chances of eventually making it on to an NHL roster for players like Alexander Carrier and Frederic Allard decrease?

We also have to put the expansion draft on our radar, which will be coming up on July 21. Is Poile creating a smorgasbord of players from which the Kraken can choose?

Maybe Poile is creating a diverse list of unprotected players for the expansion draft to take the eyes off of the players he covets the most.

Welcome To The Predators

We really won’t know how the roster will shake out until training camp is over and we get that opening day line list. We can speculate all we want, but a select few have the answers, and that is the coaching staff and Poile.

Since Haula has been bounced around the league, some consistency with the Predators may be just what his career needs.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the Predators have undergone a mini-rebuild, and when you throw prospects into the mix, you have a team that is in flux.

Hopefully, the addition of some veteran players like Haula will help the team gel quickly because they have a tough test in a two-game stand against the Columbus Bluejackets starting on January 14.