The main action of the 2022 NHL offseason is behind us, and the Nashville Predators have been active since they were swept for the first time in franchise history back in May.
I don’t care how historically dominant the Avalanche were through their postseason march to a Stanley Cup, that sweep still stings. A heavy dose of humble pie, for sure.
As you likely know, the Predators have had their share of trades over the past two months, along with finally re-signing Filip Forsberg, and making a couple minor additions in free agency.
Genreally speaking, it’s been a rather successful offseason with still some room for wanting more to be done. Check out Max Greenberg’s offseason grades to get a full rundown on how the Nashville Predators have handled their offseason up to this point.
So now the literal million dollar question is, just how better have the Nashville Predators gotten this offseason? Have they improved enough to think they can actually be a threat in the postseason, or are they still a ways off from returning to 2017 glory?
Nashville Predators have made modest improvement
There’s no doubt that at the very least, the Nashville Predators have built off last season’s unexpected playoff berth and will once again be in the wildcard mix. It’s hard to say in mid-July if that will mean pushing for third or second place in a top-heavy Central Division.
One thing I will say is that the Central Division isn’t nearly as daunting to me as it was a couple seasons ago. If anything, it’s just extremely top-heavy with the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild being your perceived top-three.
Have the Predators done enough to be considered in that class? You can certianly make a strong case in the middle of the offseason to at least put them as the fourth-best team after retaining Forsberg, trading for Ryan McDonagh and making room for more young roster growth with the trading of Luke Kunin.
However, you can also say that the Predators didn’t do as much as they could’ve during free agency. With still a projected cap space of over $9.2M and some interesting free agents still available, this book isn’t fully written yet.
Let’s just say hypothetically that the Predators go out and sign a Phil Kessel, which is still entirely possible. How much more would that move the needle for the Predators? I’d say maybe enough to give them an extra proven veteran scorer than can make a difference in critical games.
There are obviously some trade possibilities still floating around out there, with Patrik Laine and Matthew Tkachuk leading the way as RFAs. Don’t count out the Predators from pulling off one more major offseason move to really boost this team back into contender status.
If nothing else significant happens to this Predators team for the rest of the offseason, then I’ll still have them pegged as slightly improved from where they were two months ago. Mainly due to solidifying the defensive core with McDonagh.
Futhermore, the trading of Kunin is addition by subtraction. As much as I appreciate the tenacity that Kunin plays with, he was hurting the team more than helping with so many unneccessary penalty minutes.
Although it will take a few seasons to reap the benefits, the drafting of Joakim Kemell could end up going down as the crown jewel of this offseason when we look back on it five years from now.
Even though it’s an odd addition to the team that no one saw coming, acquiring Kevin Lankinen as the backup to Juuse Saros at least gives the team a formidable one-two goalie punch.
It’s too early to accurately predict expectations for this team in 2022-23, but I’m going to do it anway. Unless they have another move up their sleeve, we should confidently expect another playoff berth next season and put their ceiling as second round or Conference Finals if they get hot at the right time.
Heck, you don’t have to have been a fan of this team for very long to remember them getting hot at the right time in 2017. We might have a team in a similar situation where they have the pieces to get hot at the right time and go on a streak. Sometimes that’s all you can hope for as a NHL fan.