These days the Nashville Predators front office can’t seem to do anything right, or at least that’s what a majority of fans will tell you, and that sentiment continued after news of re-signing Jeremy Lauzon.
In an attempt to solve their defensive depth issues that’s been plaguing this team for several years now, the Predators signed the 25-year-old defenseman to a 4-year, $8M deal with a $2M AAV, per CapFriendly.
It didn’t take long into this offseason for the Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile to make his first significant transaction, and it’s already getting blowback by fans and analysts alike:
It doesn’t get any better from the analytics crowd and the people who track all this data for a living, and way smarter than I’ll probably ever be:
The sarcasm is rich with that one.
Now to be fair, the responses weren’t all bad. Some fans appreciate the toughness and hard-hitting that Lauzon brings to the table, and his age will take him into the prime of his career during this modest $2M AAV of four years. That’s of course if he can stick around in the starting lineup consistently.
That’s the problem we’re hoping to solve with Lauzon, who was added at this past year’s trade deadline for a second round pick. Yes, another sticking point with Predators fans.
Nashville Predators Third-Pairing Woes
The fact of the matter is that the Predators haven’t had a reliable third pairing set of defensemen in quite a while. Like, you have to go back over a decade to find the last time the Predators had reliable defensive depth behind their top two pairs.
Go back to the 2011-12 season when Shea Weber and Ryan Suter were the top dogs, followed by an underrated Kevin Klein in his prime, and the then youngsters Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm entering the league. You also had veteran Hal Gill, Francis Bouillon and Jonathan Blum.
Do we really want to go back to shuffling around aging veterans to the level of Yannick Weber, Matt Irwin, Alexei Emelin, and Anthony Bitetto? No offense to those players, but this is why Lauzon has upside and this deal carries low risk, but some decent chances to be very rewarding.
First off, this contract will not be difficult to move if for some reason in year two it’s not working out. Let’s not get fixated on the four-year term with the AAV being so relatively cheap for a 25-year-old who has upside and has the necessary traits you want in a third pairing defenseman.
Secondly, you could really end up cashing in on this moderately cheap deal if Lauzon blossoms next season. When I say “blossom”, I mean he becomes a reliable penalty killer, plays effective defensive hockey, becomes more disciplined in the penalties department, and who knows, maybe even contributes a little offense.
Lauzon actually has a fairly decent shot on him. That’s just bonus points if he can sprinkle in a few goals. The main goal is for him to provide defensive stability to that unit.
How this Affects Next Year’s Roster
This almost certainly means that pending UFA Matt Benning will not return. Now I really liked what Benning brought while he was here, but Lauzon is a moderate upgrade worth the $2M over the $1M Benning was making.
It also means no more Ben Harpur, who is also becoming a UFA this offseason. So see? This Lauzon deal is already paying dividends and he hasn’t even hit the ice yet.
Ideally, I’d like to see Lauzon paired up with Mark Borowiecki, who was re-signed during the regular season to a 1-year, $900,000 contract. For comparison, Borowiecki was also making $2M per year when orginally signed by Nashville in 2020.
This can be a formidable duo if they can obviously keep the penalties in check. They’re going to commit their share of penaltues due to how they play, but if they can moderate the untimely, momentum crushing penalties then that will be beneficial for a Nashville Predators team that led the league in penaltie minutes and penalties taken, and by a wide margin to the next team.
If the coaches are doing their jobs and getting through to the players, including Lauzon, then we should see improvement in this area next season. It was a back-breaker far too many times.
The frustration is understanding because everyone wants Filip Forsberg to be re-signed, but it’s possible to seperate these two very different situations. Lauzon fills a need and it’s a very low-risk deal. We can all still remain worried and angry about the Forsberg situation at the same time.