As most of you know, my cheering allegiances are with the Nashville Predators. It’s the team I have the most knowledge about, and have the most passion for… so let’s take a deeper look into what the Preds could do in the next couple weeks.
Steve Sullivan, Joel Ward, and Greg Zanon have been deemed as Nashville’s ‘Big 3’ unrestricted free agents. All Preds fans would like to see this trio back in blue & gold next year, but that prospect looks pretty bleak at this point. GM David Poile is not only letting all three go to July 1 unsigned… he hasn’t even made an offer! Kind of mind-boggling to me, but it’s the truth.
Sullivan is a must-sign. All he’s done since being acquired in 2004 is put up numbers (190 pts in 191 gms). He was a huge part of the run at the playoffs last year, which ultimately fell short. Sully is also a fan favorite in the Music City, and loves it so much here that he and his family want to make this his home when he retires. It’s possible that his back could give out again, but that’s why you put together an incentive-laden deal. I don’t see any reason why Sullivan should be playing elsewhere this fall.
Joel Ward was a valuable commodity in the 2nd half run as well. He only had 35 points on the year, but 17 of them came in the last 22 games. He’s work ethic is unheard of, and is great on the PK. His asking price is reportedly $1.5 million. I previously thought it would be $2 mil, but $1.5?? Come on, Poile… Wardo is worth it. He could’ve been a one-year wonder, but he’s well worth bringing back for a couple more years.
Greg Zanon is the biggest question mark. It’s not looking like he’ll be coming back. Nashville has a lot of defensive prospects waiting in the wings, and Zanon could probably get more money on the open market. Whoever signs him will get a goaltender’s best friend, as ‘Z’ is a shot-blocking machine.
Other UFA’s such as Vern Fiddler, Radek Bonk, Scott Nichol, Greg deVries, and Ville Koistinen are all questionable or doubtful to come back. A return of Fiddler is possible, but the Preds already have some other players that bring similar things to the table. He’d be nice to have back, but I wouldn’t care if he left. The other four will likely go elsewhere. RFA’s Ryan Jones, Antti Pihlstrom, and Cal O’Reilly will probably get re-signed. All three will only get better, especially Jones.
So that leaves us with July 1… what does Poile do?? In the past, he’s kind of let the frenzy pass by in the first couple days, and then make his move. Personally, I’d love see him sign someone like Antropov, Cammalleri, or Gionta. Other veterans in the mix could be Fedotenko, Knuble, LaRose, and Sykora. Cammalleri or Gionta would really improve the Preds’ power play, one of their biggest weaknesses this past season. So I think Poile would probably go down this road later on next week, if anything. I don’t think he needs to do anything on the blue line or in net. Alex Sulzer and Cody Franson could step in if needed on defense next year and the duo of Rinne and Ellis should be ready to go.
If Poile is looking to trade some pieces away to get a goal-scorer, you can look at Ryan Suter or Dan Hamhuis from the back end. Martin Erat is expendable, but no one will want to take on his contract. Some prospects that could get dealt away in a deal are Jonathan Blum, Franson, and maybe Patric Hornqvist.
As far as the draft goes… it’s much more likely that Poile trades down into the 15-20 range to pick up some extra picks, rather than trading up to draft one of the premier prospects. If they stay at #11, some players they’ll target will be Jordan Schroeder, Scott Glennie, Ryan Ellis, Nazem Kadri, and maybe Jacob Josefson.
The Predators should be in the playoff mix once again as coach Barry Trotz will get the most out of his squad, no matter what happens in free agency. The problem I see is if they let Ward and Zanon go, it’s going to be hard to find others to fit those same roles. Ward was very versatile up front, and not many other d-men protect the net like Zanon. Poile has to get some scoring punch, as well. It should be interesting to see what will happen with the Predators this off-season.
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