To Stay or To Go? Tracking These Nashville Predators 2024 Free Agents

The Predators have six pending unrestricted free agents for the 2024 offseason, while also having a Juuse Saros extension or trade looming. Who stays and who goes?
Vancouver Canucks v Nashville Predators - Game Six
Vancouver Canucks v Nashville Predators - Game Six / Brett Carlsen/GettyImages
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#2: Kevin Lankinen, $2M AAV in 2023-24, Two Years as Saros' Backup

If Juuse Saros indeed gets traded like many are coming around to thinking is a high probability, then Kevin Lankinen becomes much more valuable to keep around in the post-Saros era. At least for one season, but maybe two.

Lankinen has been a great teammate and quality backup to Saros. I never felt like the team was giving away two points when Lankinen stepped in to give Saros some rest. That doesn't mean I'm saying he's on Saros' level, but that Lankinen is worthy of getting many more starts.

Trotz and the Predators have made it abundantly clear they want to work hard to keep Saros and hammer out a new deal this summer. That could be Trotz just holding his cards close to his vest, but all of this will decide what happens with Lankinen.

I can't see a scenario at all that Lankinen is kept along with Saros. Lankinen is going to get interest as someone's starter for 2024-25. This is the main reason why I'm so adamant and open to trading Saros. Because they can acquire serious assets for Saros, while still having a worthy starter in Lankinen to be the placeholder until Yaroslav Askarov is ready for fulltime NHL duty. I just don't think he's there yet.

Ballpark estimate, I can see Lankinen being retained from somewhere in the $3 to $3.5 million range. An increase from his current $2 million, and in the range of other similar goalies when you look at the highest paid goalies from 2023-24. I wouldn't go much higher than $3.5 million for Lankinen.

You also have to to think that Lankinen might want more than another one-year rental deal this time around, so two years might be what it takes. That gives you plenty of time to test Askarov alongside Lankinen for the next two seasons.

This is all a moot point if Trotz goes all in on keeping Saros as the franchise goalie and pays him well, making Saros one of the higher paid goalies in the NHL. In 2023-24, the highest paid goalie was Sergei Bobrovsky at $10 million, followed by Andrei Vasilevskiy at $9 million.

I'm seeing Saros getting at least $7 million, and that would be a bargain price when looking at comparable goalie salaries. Saros probably commands and deserves more based on the market.

If that happens, Lankinen is easily gone and Askarov becomes trade bait as well. I'll stick to my guns that Saros is ulimately traded, but it could go either way and is hard to predict.