The 3 Top Questions the Nashville Predators face in 2024 offseason

With the NHL Entry Draft and free agency fast approaching, several questions are swirling around the Predators. But we could receive a lot of answers over the coming weeks or even days.
Jun 28, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators incoming general manager Barry Trotz during round one of the 2023 NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 28, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators incoming general manager Barry Trotz during round one of the 2023 NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The play on the ice may be over, but there are still some big dates circled on the calendar in the hockey world. Both the NHL Entry Draft and free agency are fast approaching.

The Nashville Predators are facing several questions this summer. With several having large impacts on the team’s roster and the success they will be able to reasonably achieve next season.

Will the Nashville Predators Youth Movement Continue?

When the Predators resigned themselves to missing the playoffs during the 2022-23 season, former General Manager David Poile set out on a mission to shift veteran players in return for prospects and draft picks. It signaled the beginning of a rebuilding era.

Parting ways with players like Tanner Jeannot, Mattias Ekholm, and Mikael Granlund, landed the Predators a bounty of picks. It also led to many opportunities for the young players on the roster to receive more playing time.

During the end of that 2022-23 campaign, the Predators made a surprising push for the postseason that ultimately fell just short, but for a brief moment, it wasn’t foolish to think they could sneak in. The youth were a big reason as to why the Predators kept it interesting down the stretch. Tommy Novak, Luke Evangelista, and Philip Tomasino were given big roles, and they ran with the opportunity.

Granted, Tomasino has faced his fair share of struggles recently, resulting in multiple stints with the Milwaukee Admirals, but several of the other younger players were mainstays with the Predators last season.

GM Barry Trotz has indicated that he would like to continue leaning on the farm team and sees their prospects contributing to the squad’s success.  

When the team touches down in Las Vegas for this year's draft, they will have a first-round pick, two picks in the second, third, and fourth rounds, as well as a pick in the seventh round. During the end-of-season press conference, Trotz expressed the desire to become a younger team. With the team’s draft capital, they are well on their way.

However, selecting players in the summer and inserting them into the lineup by the fall is highly unlikely, especially for the Predators, a team who rarely, if ever, allows a prospect to skip a stint with the Admirals to develop further.

Fortunately for the Predators, they have a plethora of youngsters waiting to make their impact. Many made their case for a roster spot next season during the 2024 Calder Cup playoffs.

One of the most notable standouts during the AHL playoffs was Zach L’Heureux, who recorded 15 points in 15 games, including 10 goals. It seemed any time the Admirals needed a big play or for someone to step up, L’Heureux answered the call.

Fedor Svechkov was another forward who impressed. The Predators first-round pick from the 2021 draft notched 12 points during the team’s 15 playoff games. Although only 21 years old, Svechkov has demonstrated he is not afraid to shoot the puck any chance he gets, something the Predators will appreciate.

Forward Joakim Kemell and defenseman Ryan Ufko garnered attention also for their stellar play. Along with Spencer Stastney, whom Predators fans saw intermittently during last season, a handful of prospects could help Trotz push the youth movement forward in Nashville.

Will Alex Carrier be a Predator Next Season?

The 27-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. His most recent cap hit was $2.5 million, so Carrier wasn’t exactly breaking the bank. The Predators could certainly afford to re-sign the Quebec City native and give him a pay raise.

Last season Carrier skated in 73 games, recording four goals and 16 assists. He is extremely versatile thanks mainly to his smooth skating and ability to make the quick pass. This gives head coach Andrew Brunette the luxury of playing Carrier on any paring.

The one question mark surrounding Carrier is his availability. As seen last season, he is prone to be pushed around, especially in the corners, which led to injuries. At 5-foot-11, 174 pounds, he’s not the biggest defenseman by any stretch, which opens the door for opposing players to separate him from the puck easier with physical play.

But considering Carrier only had 20 turnovers during 5-on-5 play last season, giving the puck away shouldn’t be a massive concern for the Predators.

One of the biggest reasons the Predators should prioritize re-signing Carrier is the departure of Ryan McDonagh. Trotz fulfilled McDonagh’s desire to return to Tampa, making a deal with Lightning back in May.

There will be a void left by McDonagh, who provided a calming, veteran presence to the blueline and Carrier is more than capable of filling it. The Predators were able to shift McDonagh’s $6.75 million cap hit when they moved him to the Sunshine State, which means they can give Carrier a generous pay increase and still come out on top financially.

What Free Agents Should Intrigue the Predators?

Luckily for the Predators, this year’s free agent pool has several solutions to the areas where they need help the most.

One intriguing name is Elias Lindholm. The Predators are very familiar with the 29-year-old. Most recently Lindholm played for the Vancouver Canucks, the Predators' first-round opponent in the 2024 playoffs.

Lindholm’s most recent contract carried a $4.85 million cap hit. Anything close to that on his next deal would be a steal for the team that can sign him. However, the main reason why the Calgary Flames moved him at the deadline, despite attempts to re-sign him, and the Canucks are seemingly letting the rental walk, is down to Lindholm’s desire for a rather hefty pay raise.

The Predators have just over $26 million in projected cap space, meaning they can be serious contenders should this become a sweepstakes.

The center position has plagued Nashville for many years. The Predators traded Seth Jones to acquire Ryan Johansen due to the desperate need for a true top-line center. As it turned out, Johansen wasn’t the long-term answer that the Predators were seemingly looking for.

Trotz signed Ryan O’Reilly last summer, which proved to be perhaps one of the league’s best free-agent additions. But O’Reilly is currently 33. Respectfully, he is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. Not to mention that O’Reilly may be far more effective on the second line, where he wouldn’t draw the opponent’s top matchups every night.

Lindholm could be the splash the Predators need to take them to the next level. His skill could pair nicely with Filip Forsberg on the top forward line, helping with Brunette’s offensive style of play.

Another name that should catch the Predators’ eye is Brett Pesce. As mentioned, the Predators will be without McDonagh and possibly Carrier. There will be slots to fill on the backend, and Pesce is one of the best available defensemen on the market.

Pesce has been the subject of trade rumors for the past few seasons, so much so that it’s almost surprising he made it to free agency. Fresh off a deal that paid him $4.025 million in annual average value, he is another player wanting more financial compensation.

Remember, the Predators were able to clear McDonagh’s $6.75 million cap hit, and the number that Pesce probably commands fits nicely within that $6 million range.

The native of Tarrytown, NY is a right-handed, shutdown defenseman who can kill penalties. Considering the Predators finished with the 22nd-worst penalty kill last season, Pesce is certainly a player who could provide an instant improvement.

More so than any other free agent, this one seems to make the most sense.

Finally, this one may be a little out of left field. But it might just be one of those underrated signings that is praised at the end of the year: Anthony Duclair.

The 28-year-old recently completed a three-year, $9 million deal. Despite playing for the San Jose Sharks for most of the year, Duclair still registered a respectable season. He recorded 16 goals and 11 assists in 56 games before he was traded to the Lightning, where he suited up for another 17 games, notching eight goals and seven assists.

The Predators have rarely been able to turn down offense, and Duclair can provide it. The Pointe-Claire, QC native tallied 31 goals in 74 games for the Florida Panthers in 2021-22. That year was a career-best for Duclair, which came under the guidance of Andrew Brunette, who was promoted to the interim head coach during the season after serving as an assistant coach.

Duclair plays on the wing, a position that the Predators are not overly struggling with. But if Trotz could ink Duclair to a deal ranging between $3.5 million to $4 million, it could be a bargain, especially if Brunette can get the best out of him, as he did in South Florida.

Many questions are waiting to be answered for the Predators. Several of these could be answered in the upcoming weeks, with the draft and the free agency period just mere days away.

The Stanley Cup has been awarded, and now it’s time to prepare for the 2024-25 season. The dog days of summer are inevitably coming, but right now, despite the on-ice action concluding, these are exciting times.