The 2018-2019 season has come and gone and with the Nashville Predators failing for a second consecutive year to replicate the magic of the 2016-2017 Stanley Cup run. The question now is what does a team with this much talent do now? After all, this is the quite possibly the most talented Preds team in franchise history.
For starters, it’s time to cut some of the experimental deadline acquisitions loose. Wayne Simmonds was a ghost after joining the team. Simmonds, at one point, was hoping for $7 mill a year for his next contract, but after recording only three points in seventeen games, it seems unlikely that he will catch anything close to that, especially since there are younger and much bigger fish in the pond this offseason. While It’s not irrelevant to factor in how much Simmonds struggled with injuries which may have caused some of the problems he had this season, those concerns may drop his price even further.
Brian Boyle is the other player id expect to not be seen in the gold and blue next year. While being significantly cheaper than Simmonds, Boyle was brought in to help on the powerplay and with 6 of his 13 goals coming on the man advantage before the trade, hope was restored to the Nashville faithful. Instead, Boyle added just one powerplay goal in 26 games. To make matters worse, Nashville didn’t score a single goal in the playoffs while on the man advantage. While Boyle was a big body and a big presence physically, that alone does not justify bringing Boyle back unless it was for a cheap contract and a limited role.
Now that that’s been established, the Preds need to figure out what to do about their powerplay woes. While a popular opinion among fans is to bring back former assistant coach Phil Housley it may not be the most likely scenario. The recently fired head coach would be a welcomed sight in Nashville, as he was initially brought in to Nashville to help generate offense from the blue line and assist offensive development from defensemen. And while that would be nice, to have Housley back, it’s hard to see him returning to being an assistant coach this quickly. It’s reasonable to expect him to take another stab at running a team from the bench.
As far as units are concerned, a lot of change should happen but probably won’t. According to the last game Nashville played, the powerplay units were as followed.
Powerplay unit one: JoFA, Ekholm, and Josi.
Powerplay Unit two: Granlund, Bonino, Smith, Ellis, and Subban.
As deadly as the JoFA line is, I think it may be time to officially break up the band. Or at least, move them around. For instance, the Johansen, Arvidsson and Grimaldi line at times looked like the ideal line, with the combination of two speedy, high motor wingers and a deadly accurate elite playmaker dishing the puck to them. That is a lethal combination. The thing that interests me about that second unit, is that all three players have played center at one point or another. While that is great for mixing up who is taking the faceoff, it may hurt their scoring ability. After all, are any of those players known for goal scoring? No. Even if a player like Forsberg dropped down to that unit, I don’t think it’s enough.
The powerplay is without a doubt the key area that needs to be addressed. While that may not require any moves to fix, it’s likely that Nashville looks to add another outside talent to boost special teams as a whole. While flashy names like Panarin and Duchene have fans attention, a less expensive player may fit the team’s future needs more. But we will put a pin in that for now. The main point of this section is that whatever Nashville does do, it needs to be a decision made calmly. After all, fans are calling for players such as Subban, Turris, Ellis and more to be traded, and while fans are just fans, they do impact a GM or head coaches job security to some extent. That is troublesome as it may force a move in order to appease the Nashville faithful.
Lastly, whatever the front office decides to do this summer, figuring out next year’s pending free agents needs to be near the top of the list. Nashville has a total ten players who are relevant to semi-relevant to the team’s success ( Granlund, Smith, Watson, Salomaki, Pitlick, Gaudreau, Josi, Hamhuis, Weber, and Irwin) whose contracts will be expiring. A lot of decisions will have to be made before next summer. Three bottom pairing defensemen will be on expiring deals, and with it looking like there will only be one spot, I imagine only one will stay. The decision will probably come down to either Irwin or Weber as it is not unreasonable to think that Hamhuis will retire. Josi will most likely be staying (for a substantial raise) as he is the team’s captain. Similar to Josi, it is reasonable to expect that Smith, Pitlick, and Granlund will be returning to the team unless some expansion draft troubles occur. The real decision will come when it’s time to decide whether or not to keep role players like Watson, Salomaki, and to some extent Freddie Gaudreau. While these players are without a doubt, at least fringe NHLers, will it be time to move on to make space for some of the players who will be coming up through the minor’s system? Time will tell but watch for next season’s playoff run to be what ultimately decides who stays and who goes.