What Would a True Nashville Predators Rebuild Look Like in 2023?

Dec 23, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) talks with center Matt Duchene (95) during the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) talks with center Matt Duchene (95) during the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

This question of to rebuild or not to rebuild has been hanging over the Nashville Predators franchise since the 2018-19 season when the Dallas Stars pulled off the first round upset in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That’s when the off ramp to rebuild was available for the Nashville Predators front office. You couldn’t have expected a rebuild following a President’s Trophy season and second round playoff exit. The time to do it was the 2019 offseason.

Instead, the Predators decided to stay “all in” by making one of the biggest offseason signings in franchise history, Matt Duchene. It’s been a mixed bag for Duchene in his Predators career, with him eclipsing 80 points just last season, but has regressed back to normal point outputs so far this season.

Before the 2020-21 season, the Predators pushed harder to stay relevant by signing veterans like Brad Richardson, Nick Cousins and Erik Haula, while losing Rem Pitlick. Another team that was painfully average but exposed once the playoffs came.

It’s looking increasingly likely that the Nashville Predators’ postseason streak will come to an end in 2023. They’ve made the postseason eight consecutive years dating back to when Barry Trotz was let go and Peter Laviolette came in.

So, if the Predators finally decide to rip the band-aid off in 2023, what will a rebuild really look like? And is it even possible to do that when looking at the team’s contract situations?

Nashville Predators Have to Commit to a Change from the Top Down

The 2023 NHL trade deadline is coming up on just two months away. The Nashville Predators currently have a 14.1 percent chance to make the playoffs according to MoneyPuck.com. Not insurmountable by any means, but many fans that I’ve came across aren’t interested in another first round exit.

Fans want a full house change from the head coach, to the general manager, and even to their franchise goaltender for some. Moving on from Juuse Saros in a trade would certainly kick a rebuild into full gear.

The trade deadline and what the Nashville Predators decide to do will give us an indication of where General Manager David Poile is steering this franchise next. He has said in the past that teams are always rebuilding and that it’s more of a retooling than rebuilding.

No matter what term you like, the Predators clearly are no longer close to being viable Stanley Cup contenders. I’ve written recently that missing the playoffs and getting a top-10 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft wouldn’t actually be the worst thing to happen for this franchise.

Unless the Predators have a long winning streak up their sleeve that gets them back into contention with teams like the Wild, Avalanche and Jets, then this front office has to be sellers at the deadline.

As much as it pains me to say this, Colton Sissons needs to be highly considered. He would be a very valuable deadline acquisition and his moderately cheap despite having a lengthy contract. His veteran leadership and two-way value would be enticing for a lot of shoppers at the deadline.

Mikael Granlund is another forward I would try to aggressively test the market with, but with two years left at $5M, teams might be weary of targeting a forward whose goal scoring has dropped off a cliff this season.

Dante Fabbro is an obvious trade option, and honestly you just take what you can get from him at this point and open up a spot for Jordan Gross to be a regular starter. He will be an RFA this offseason.

For the players who don’t get traded before the 2023 offseason, there aren’t a ton of unrestricted free agents coming up. Cole Smith and Mark Jankowski will be UFAs, and if you’re rebuilding, you’re probably moving on from them.

However, I’m not entirely opposed to keeping Jankowski around for a cheap and low-risk new contract. You need some veterans sticking around, and Jankowski has done some good things and is only 28-years-old.

Alexandre Carrier is the only other RFA among defensemen, and you definitely need to retain him into a rebuild.

Predators Will Have a Hard Time Moving Some Veterans

The caveat to all of this is that there are some veteran contracts that remain very difficult to move right now because these players just aren’t producing at the level they need to be to garner a healthy return.

For instance, Granlund would get some attention but nothing at the level of what you would like to receive in terms of high draft picks and coveted prospects that can facilitate a healthy rebuild.

Fabbro is in that same category of not having high trade value. He’s the most realistic and likely the first to go before the March deadline. That would be a start in terms of overhauling this roster.

Then you have your veterans like Duchene, Johansen, Ekholm and Niederreiter who you can try to move but again, their contracts make them hard to move. Also, you just signed Niederreiter over the offseason and he leads the team in goals, which isn’t saying much as one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL.

Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg are here for the long haul, as is likely Ekholm and Duchene.

This leaves the Predators in that window of being just good enough to remain in the middle of the pack, but nowhere near elite enough to viably compete for Stanley Cups in May and June where it counts.

Until some of these lengthy contracts dwindle down, it’s going to be hard to fully rebuild this team. Maybe you find the perfect couple of trade partners to unload a veteran or two, but in 2023 it looks like the Predators will remain in this no man’s land.

New Ownership from Haslam will Line Up with Sparking the Rebuild

That leaves you with Head Coach John Hynes and the front office with their only General Manager in franchise history, David Poile. Obviously if you make a massive overhaul of the roster, you also need to move on from Hynes and bring in a fresh outlook behind the bench.

Hynes has one more year after this on his contract he signed this past offseason. I remain skeptical that they fire him at any point during this season or in the offseason.

With that said, I would be fully on board with promoting Karl Taylor who has had enormous success with the AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals and developing prospect talent that is already making their presence felt in a positive way. Just look at Glass, Novak, and Carrier.

Don’t give us another recycled and failed NHL head coach. We beg you.

dark. Next. Roman Josi Becomes Preds All-Time Leader in Points

When the new ownership of Bill Haslam takes full control over the next couple of years, that’s when you can expect major changes. By then, many of these aforementioned contracts will be easier to unload. Who knows where this franchise will be in terms of results on the ice, but I’m hard-pressed to think it will be anything more than an average product at best.

Realistically speaking, a full on rebuild is probably a year away. Until you can move some major contracts like Johansen or Duchene, this team is stuck where they’re at trying to squeak out another postseason berth and hope for the best.

I’ll give the front office credit on this in closing; at least they’re giving young guys like Glass, Parssinen and Novak increasing roles and have also appeared to have drafted very effectively the past few years. That could make a possible rebuild a little less painful when it does come to fruition.