Nashville Predators: Hard Decisions Ahead of Expansion Draft

Feb 13, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95) talks with right wing Viktor Arvidsson (33) during a stoppage in the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 13, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95) talks with right wing Viktor Arvidsson (33) during a stoppage in the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Over the past few seasons, Nashville Predators fans have become accustomed to asking themselves who they will play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, or even if they can contend for a Cup.

The Predators are in a current state of free fall, having lost six of their past eight and falling to just two points out of last place in the Central.

With the way the team has been trending since their Stanley Cup run in 2017, fans have begun asking themselves which key players are closest to being traded at the deadline and in the offseason.

And remember, there is an expansion draft coming up this offseason, which might be an opportunity to part with one of the core players. Teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender.

Should General Manager David Poile leave at least one of his more prominent players exposed? That’s the question I am about to answer right now.

The one exemption

Let’s get this out of the way right now; Roman Josi will be protected in the upcoming expansion draft.  One of the draft rules is that all players with No Movement Clauses must be protected, and unless Josi waives his, which is unlikely, he will be protected by the team.

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And he should be.  Even in a season in which the team is declining and nobody is playing particularly well, Josi is a cornerstone player who any organization would be honored to have.

And even in a full-scale rebuild, which the Predators might attempt at the conclusion of this season, a talented player and leader like Josi is worth hanging onto, and you certainly cannot afford to lose him for nothing.

Given the tumultuous nature of this season, there are very few certainties in regards to players’ futures on the team, but what is near certain is that Josi will be one of the players protected in the upcoming expansion draft.

Do not lose these guys for nothing

No player on the Predators’ roster has as secure of a future on this team as Josi does, but there are still a few who would could command some value on the trade market.  Those guys are Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm.

Forsberg has been one of the more consistent players on the Predators since his rookie season, and is on a good streak so far this year; recording seven goals and seven assists in 15 games.  His $6M per year contract runs through next season, and that is a very good deal that other teams might send the Predators a haul for.

Arvidsson has been a tough player to watch since the start of last year, as he has just not been the same since scoring 34 goals in 2018-2019.  That being said, the talent is still there, and there is a good chance other teams would have no problem picking up him and his contract, which is worth $4.25M per year through the 2023-2024 season.

Ellis has been another consistent player on the team and has helped to solidify him and Josi as one of the top defensive pairings in the NHL.  He took a discount by signing a $6.25M per year deal that runs through 2026-2027, and should only be let go via trade.

And Ekholm, while not quite the same player Ellis is, has also been a consistently good defenseman and is on a bargain $3.75M per year deal that runs through next season.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try and trade one or more of these guys at the end of this season, but it would be unwise to let them go in the expansion draft.

Who you could actually expose

By far the two worst contracts on the Predators right now belong to Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene.  And they are not just the worst on the Predators, they are currently two of the worst contracts in the entire NHL.

Johansen has been almost invisible since the start of last season.  With the exception of a strong performance in Edmonton last August, he might as well have not even been on the ice for several nights, and is making an alarming $8M per season through 2024-2025.

Duchene has shown some flashes this season and is tied for second on the team in total points, but that is honestly a testament to how bad the Predators offense is.  The bottom line is that he hasn’t lived up to his contract at all, which is also worth $8M per year, but runs through 2025-2026.

It will be tough to find trade suitors for either of these guys, which is why Poile should heavily consider leaving one, if not both of them, exposed for the upcoming expansion draft.

The Seattle Kraken might not even want anything to do with either, but that is where Poile should try to negotiate a “trade” so that they select one of them.

Other thoughts on the Expansion Draft

Juuse Saros will surely be the goaltender protected by the Predators in the expansion draft, as Pekka Rinne is a free agent after this year, and Yaroslav Askarov is ineligible due to draft rules.

Players such as Yakov Trenin, Eeli Tolvanen, and Mathieu Olivier will have completed two or fewer seasons at the end of this season.  Thus, they will be ineligible for the draft.

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If Poile decides to leave one or both of Johansen and Duchene exposed, he will likely protect one of Rocco Grimaldi, Colton Sissons, Luke Kunin, Calle Jarnkrok, and Nick Cousins.

Kunin would likely be protected in this case due to his age and potential, and Grimaldi should be under heavy consideration for the protection list because of his skill and effort.

Player such as Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula are also free agents and are unlikely to be protected unless they re-sign before the expansion draft.

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