Free Agent Defensemen Nashville Predators can target in 2024 offseason

The Predators defensive corps is set to go through considerable changes this offseason, leaving the need to target a defenseman in free agency.
Carolina Hurricanes v Nashville Predators - Game Three
Carolina Hurricanes v Nashville Predators - Game Three / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

With Ryan McDonagh already traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Alexandre Carrier's future up in the air as an unrestricted free agent, it's unclear what the Nashville Predators defense will look like at the start of next season.

As we sit right now, the Predators have Carrier as a UFA, Tyson Barrie as a UFA and only four defensemen currently under contract into next season. That's not counting Spencer Stastney and Marc Del Gaizo who both have strong chances of being in the starting lineup and already have NHL experience.

It's still quite obvious that the Predators will have to go shopping for a defenseman this offseason, either through a trade or by signing a free agent. We're going to avoid going down the rabbit hole of a trade for now and instead look at the market for free agent defensemen this offseason.

Let's see if there's a possible fit for the Predators on the free agency market, especially if Carrier isn't re-signed. Even if he his, the need for signing another defensemen is there. We almost certainly expect Barrie to not be retained.

Chris Tanev will be one of the highest prized free d-men

We might as well start big with this list of potential free agent defensemen and look at Chris Tanev of the Dallas Stars. Acquired ahead of this past year's trade deadline in a three-team trade that brought him from Calgary to Dallas.

The Stars were clearly all in for a Stanley Cup and lost a 2024 second-round pick to acquire Tanev. Now the question will be if the Stars can keep him or will they look at Tanev as just a rental that at least helped them get to the Western Conference Finals.

It won't be easy to acquire Tanev for any team because according to Elliotte Friedman, the Stars have desire to re-sign Tanev this offseason. You would have to think that Tanev would like to stay with Dallas as well considering this team is built to be a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future.

Even if Tanev tests the open market, I'm not sure signing a 34-year-old player is the right strategy for where the Predators are going right now. They need more dynamic young talent over aging veterans.

Ultimately I think Tanev re-signs with Dallas, but even if he doesn't, I don't see a great fit for Nashville due to his age and playing style. With that said, Tanev may not be all that expensive and should come in for less than $5 million AAV with his new deal.

Brett Pesce would be a great find for the Preds

Brett Pesce might be the best fit out there when thinking about the Predators needs to reload their defense. Even more so than Tanev's situation, Pesce has deeper loyalty to his current team in the Hurricanes, and might be more willing to take a team friendly discount to stay.

The Hurricanes already tried to extend Pesce at the start of last season but nothing came of it. Now the Hurricanes have some difficult salary cap decisions to make and can't keep everyone. Both parties likely want to stay together, but that doesn't mean they'll be able to make the numbers work.

Almost always you're going to see pending free agents show love for their current team, and it's even more true when you take into account that Pesce has played his entire nine-year career with the Hurricanes. I'm sure he would rather stay put, but the front office may see it differently in the end.

Pesce is an outstanding defense-first defenseman. He's not necessarily a high point producer, but he does so many things effectively in the defensive zone including blocking shots and protecting the goaltender.

Also at age 29, Pesce fits the more into Barry Trotz's desire to keep the team predominantly young. You could sign Pesce as he enters the prime of his career. Even if he's coming off his worst year stastically since being a rookie, this would be a great match for the Predators in filling out the right side of their defense.

Nikita Zadorov is a bruiser and would match the Preds physical nature

If the Predators want to target a more physically bruising and imposing defenseman that can also offer a two-way element to his game, then Nikita Zadorov is someone to keep an eye on. He was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline from the Calgary Flames

Like the previous two pending free agents on this list, Zadorov's current Canucks team probably wants to keep the player that has a lot of upside and was acquired by giving up draft picks this past year. But teams lose players in free agency that they would prefer to keep all of the time. It's the nature of the beast in the NHL even with the salary cap finally getting a lift up.

Zadorov hits hard, plays with an intensity that would really fit the style of a Predators team that was 2nd in the NHL in hits last season. Again, I'm thinking about the potential replacement for losing Carrier in free agency, and Zadorov would definitely be a different style player, and also an upgrade while being more expensive.

Zadorov dished out 177 hits last season, which would actually put him behind such Predators players as Jeremy Lauzon, Kiefer Sherwood, Cole Smith and Luke Schenn. But that's ok, because Zadorov makes up for it in bonus offense to the blueline (20 points is the same as Carrier last season).

I don't prefer Zadorov as much as I do Pesce, but he's definitely a viable offseason pickup for a Predators team that needs to add a right shot defenseman.

Brandon Montour a key free agent for Stanley Cup bound Panthers

To wrap up this short list of enticing free agent defensemen for the Predators to look at, let's talk about Brandon Montour. A 30-year-old defenseman with more offensive upside than any of the first three players just mentioned.

Just one season removed from a 70-plus point campaign, Montour's point production did drop considerably to 33 points in 2023-24. That's fine when you consider all of the other great things he does on the ice. He's one of the better two-way defensemen out there, and especially when you look at UFAs to target.

There's not much out there right now on Montour and the Panthers due to playing in the Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers. Nothing is going to be leaked on that front until the season officially ends.

Montour is set to get a large pay increase from his expiring $3.5 million AAV. What a bargain that was for three years with the Panthers.

The Panthers sit around the middle of the league in terms of projected cap space at approximately $19.716 million but with 11 unrestricted free agents to decide on. I would expect Montour to be a top priority to get a deal done, but also have other notable UFAs such as Sam Reinhart, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Vladimir Tarasenko.

If Montour slips through the crack to the open market and the Predators really want to make a seismic splash, then Montour would certainly fit that bill. A top pairing of Roman Josi and Brandon Montour would provide a lot of offense on the top end.