As if 2020 couldn’t get any stranger, Mikael Granlund re-signed with the Nashville Predators after testing the free-agency waters. Will things be different this time around?
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It seemed like we would be seeing Granlund in a different jersey at next season’s start. There were a few rumblings of teams that were interested in acquiring the eight-year veteran, but nothing concrete.
When an actual start date for the season was announced, Granlund still had not signed with a team.
The Predators were in a similar situation as they still hadn’t signed a big name forward and were entering into territory that they hadn’t been in for quite a while.
General Manager David Poile had cleaned the house and was strolling the block with some cap money in his pocket. It was a foregone conclusion that a free agent top-six forward would be donning the navy and gold.
Time passed, and several players that would possibly fit the Predators’ mold had signed with other teams. Granlund also remained unsigned. After testing free agency, it began to appear that the grass was not greener on the other side.
Round One With Granlund
On paper, the trade that brought Granlund to Nashville looked to be a good one.
Granlund was entering his prime amid a 49-point season with games left on the board. In his previous season with Minnesota, he tallied 67 points (21 goals, 46 assists).
The Predators were losing a promising prospect in Kevin Fiala, but were looking to Granlund to help push them to the top of the Central Division.
In the 16 games left in the 2018-19 season, Granlund only managed 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists) for the Predators. In the playoffs, the Predators suffered a first-round exit at the hands of the Dallas Stars. Granlund managed a goal and an assist.
One could chalk up Granlund’s lack of production in 2018-19 to getting used to his new teammates. However, the season was over, and the team needed to get ready for the next season.
We all recall the up and down 2019-20 season. Several players struggled, including Granlund. Peter Laviolette mixed the lines up several times in an attempt to get some production out of the players with mixed success.
Laviolette’s lack of ways to motivate the team led to his dismissal. Several players, including Granlund, struggled under Laviolette’s system.
When Head Coach John Hynes took over, Granlund experienced a surge of sorts. It looked like Granlund finally found his footing with the team. He scored 11 goals under Hynes before the NHL paused the season but disappeared during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, only registering one assist.
In September, Poile announced that Granlund would go to free agency. No one really expected him to go unsigned for as long as he did.
Second Chance For Granlund
On December 23, Poile announced that the Predators had signed Granlund to a one-year deal worth $3.75M. Granlund is no longer a free agent and is returning to a team with a new mindset and some new faces and an old friend in Erik Haula.
The Predators will need Granlund to get back to his production numbers from his Minnesota days. It would even be good for him to play as he did when Hynes took over as head coach. His offensive skills are still very strong, as you can see from JFresh Hockey’s analysis:
Granlund and Duchene spent a lot of time together on lines last season and found some success. If Tolvanen does makes the roster and gets on the second line, they could provide some of the much-needed scoring that the Predators need.
This second stint for Granlund could turn out to be beneficial for both parties as it’s a team-friendly deal and Granlund knows he has to produce.
Granlund gets to return to a team that he’s familiar with, but with a new defensive mindset. The Predators get a player with which they are knowledgeable and who is capable of upping his gameplay.
The signing of Granlund checks some boxes for all parties involved. It does, however, raise even more questions about the performance of the team as a whole.
Several Predators players have either left or been traded during this offseason. There will be lots of pressure and high expectations placed on the remaining players that struggled last season.
We can now add Granlund back to that long list of players who will need to step up next season if the Predators are to improve from being just a fringe playoff team. With this signing, we are no closer to figuring out how this team will perform once this season starts.