Nashville Predators expected to be the Aggressors in 2024 NHL Offseason

With a Stanley Cup champion about to be crowned between the Oilers and the Panthers, the attention is about to be fully turned towards free agency in less than two weeks.
Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five
Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five / Derek Cain/GettyImages

One of the teams that will dictate a lot of moves this offseason will be the Nashville Predators, a team with a projected $26.35 million in cap space and six unrestricted free agents to decide on.

General Manager Barry Trotz, going into his second year leading the front office, isn't expected to sit idly on the sidelines and why should he? He oversaw a team that overperformed expectations and just couldn't find any offense in their first round playoff series against the Canucks.

Trading Ryan McDonagh last month, which came as a surprise to many, freed up even more space for Trotz to take on the aggressive role this offseason. And what happens with Juuse Saros in contract negotiations could potentially free up even more money to put towards a dynamic scoring winger or defenseman.

This is a great offseason to have money to spend, and the Predators have that

Everything is setting up too perfectly for Trotz to make some seriously climactic moves that will have a massive ripple effect for the entire league. When you look at the pending free agents for July 1 around the NHL, there are a lot of superstar talent players that are expected to be on the open market.

Mitch Marner has consistently been linked to the Predators. The relationship with the Maple Leafs really hit a boiling point and the only thing that makes sense for both sides is to move on from each other. The Predators are one of the few teams who can make a trade happen with the Maple Leafs to get Marner, and that's where Saros comes into play.

Another trade candidate that is being linked to the Predators is Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks. The Fourth Period picks Nashville as one of a few teams that could be linked to Zegras, but there's also still a high probability that the Ducks don't get the juicy offer they really want and Zegras stays put.

In fact, when you look at The Fourth Period's top summer trade targets list, Nashville is linked to four of the top-10 targets (Marner, Ehlers, Necas, Zegras) and then you have Saros at No.8 on that list.

Preds can upgrade offense and defense this offseason

There are several defensemen that would really upgrade the depleting Predators defensive corps after trading McDonagh, seeing Alexandre Carrier hit unrestricted free agency, Tyson Barrie also almost certainly gone, and Dante Fabbro only having one year left on his current deal.

That leaves a lot of uncertainty for that position group, and you know Trotz will be shopping for a big time name in free agency. My top pick is Brett Pesce from the Hurricanes. They've already been linked in the past, and it appears the Hurricanes will have to move on from the rising two-way defenseman who is a blue collar lockdown defender in his own zone.

There is still the chance that the Predators really swing for the fences and find a way to bring someone like Steven Stamkos to the mix, although that will be a large task pulling him away from his beloved Tampa Bay Lightning.

How about Jake Guentzel? Perhaps the top prize in all of the free agency in 2024, and many teams will be maneuvering to free up enough cap space to make a run at Guentzel.

The point is, Trotz has loads of money and leverage, including draft capital, to be a major player this offseason. And what a good one to have that available with so many great players being on the move.

I can see a realistic scenario that Trotz pulls off not only a couple major free agents to sign with Nashville, but also a blockbuster trade that very well could mean Saros has already played his last game in a Predators sweater.

Now what could that mean for the current roster? Well for one, many of the pending free agents aren't going to be retained. That not only includes Carrier and Barrie on defense, but Jason Zucker would also need to be let go if the Predators are going to be aggressive on the open market.

Some of the younger talent on the team could be offered in trade packages or see their ice time evaporate. The first two players I think about in this scenario is Philip Tomasino and Cody Glass.

Trotz has the assets to address both the lack of elite scorers and also reloading the defensive corprs. And while I understand the disdain of possibly disrupting the prospect pipeline and taking away precious ice time from some fan favorites, but in the end Trotz is in the business of putting a Stanley Cup caliber roster on the ice right now. Not in five years if we're lucky.

So tighten those chin straps, Predators fans. You think last offseason was wild with Ryan O'Reilly, Gus Nyquist and Luke Schenn signing here? This one looks like it will top that as Trotz is pushing hard to build off the momentum this organization built in Year 1 of Head Coach Andrew Brunette.