Denis Gurianov Adds More Healthy Competition to Nashville Predators

Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators leans to see around Denis Gurianov #34 of the Dallas Stars during the second period at Bridgestone Arena on October 13, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators leans to see around Denis Gurianov #34 of the Dallas Stars during the second period at Bridgestone Arena on October 13, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

Denis Gurianov joins the Nashville Predators as another free agency pickup this offseason, and will battle for a starting spot somewhere in the bottom six when training camp rolls around.

Just a month ago no one was sure just how active the Nashville Predators would be in free agency and if they were just going to choose the route of playing a young roster in 2023-24.

The starting lineup was pretty easy to set until free agency opened up and the Nashville Predators signed three 30-plus year-old veterans in Ryan O’Reilly, Luke Schenn and Gustav Nyquist.

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Gurianov, although not a threat to the young core that the team is invested in, will make things more interesting in training camp. He’s being brought in on a bargain deal at just one-year for $850,000 AAV.

A former 20-goal scorer who has hit a rough patch in what is still a young NHL career, Gurianov is going to be hungry to prove himself and earn more ice time on what is going to be a very different Nashville Predators team from 2022-23.

I’ve gotten pushback recently on a tweet I put out there regarding Philip Tomasino, who has one year left on his Entry Level Contract and has to avoid a slump in what will be his third NHL season.

What does this have to do with Gurianov? Well for one, very few players should feel locked into a certain line or spot in the starting lineup.

While Tomasino is and should be a lock for being somewhere in the starting lineup and probably will be in the top-six, there is more competition for players of all statuses to prove themselves. Gurianov is just another capable newcomer who can ascend up the lineup and is playing for a fresh start.

Tomasino started 2022-23 with the Milwaukee Admirals to the dismay of most of the fanbase after posting 32 points in 76 games during his rookie campaign. It was a pretty big shock, and a justified criticism of former Head Coach John Hynes, that Tomasino started in the AHL and only called back up due to so many injuries.

Tomasino increased his point-per-game output from his rookie season to his 31 games to close out 2023-24. He’s absolutely safe in the starting lineup this time around, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s very early in his NHL career and more competition for all of these players means they can’t hit a major slump.

On the flip side, if the Predators had chosen the route of not being too active in free agency, then this wouldn’t even be a topic of discussion for me. Tomasino, and others, would have no competition for roster positioning.

Which again, isn’t healthy for anyone. You want this extra competition for training camp, and Tomasino should be able to show these new coaches, including Head Coach Andrew Brunette, that he’s a top-six player and eventually deserves a long-term deal in Nashville.

I remind you, Tomasino will be an RFA in 2024.

As for Gurianov, he is much more capable than some of the other bottom-six options that the Predators were going to roll with, but I personally like Gurianov’s upside to have a bounce-back year with a new team and a new opportunity at age 26.

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Ultimately, this is great for the team and a low risk, high reward signing by the Nashville Predators to take a flyer on Gurianov.

Best case they catch lightning in a bottle and Gurianov finds another 20-goal season in his arsenal. Worst case, he fills into the bottom-six and provides more of a spark than that of a Cole Smith or Michael McCarron.

But again, this roster is far from being set in terms of line combinations and players being mortal locks to start on a particular line. That’s my basic point about Tomasino that he has more to prove heading into just his third NHL season, and will only be his second starting at the beginning of the season and not a mid-year call-up.

Healthy competition among teammates is a great thing for this ever changing Nashville Predators team, and Gurianov adds more of that.