When the lengthy lockout finally came to an end, a lot of fans we’re left dazed and confused, trying to remember the last time they actually talked about hockey. Although one of the quieter teams this offseason in terms of transactions, the Nashville Predators still made some big moves that will have an impact on this upcoming season.
Ryan Suter is no longer a Predator:
Alright, in all fairness, you probably didn’t forget about this one. Predators fans, along with the fans from teams like the Penguins, Devils, Flyers, Wild, and Red Wings, spent the early part of July playing the waiting game for both free agent forward Zach Parise and free agent defenseman Ryan Suter. After a relatively lengthy wait, Ryan Suter informed the Predators that he would be joining Zach Parise in signing with the Minnesota Wild. In his wake, Suter left the Predators with a large presence to fill on the blueline that even the behemoth Hal Gill won’t be able to replace on his own. Expect to see large contributions at even strength and shorthanded from Roman Josi, who looks to be on the top pairing.
But Shea Weber is:
Although Shea Weber signed a contract that will keep him a Predator for a long time, the Predators were forced to match a hefty offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers, otherwise risking the loss of both their top pairing defensemen in the same off-season. The offer sheet that Weber signed with the Flyers made NHL history, passing the previous offer sheet record set by Thomas Vanek in terms of total money, money per season, and length. It only took the GM David Polie and the Predators 5 days to match the offer, ensuring that Shea Weber will be a Predator for the next 14 years. With the loss of his defense partner, Ryan Suter, Weber looks to take an even greater role on the Predators blueline.
Radulov Went Back to Russia:
After briefly rejoining the Predators in March 2012, after the KHL season ended for Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Alexander Radulov returned to the NHL, hoping to help the Predators make a splash in the run up to the postseason. Scoring 7 points in 9 games, Radulov didn’t exactly add the scoring prowess that the Predators were expecting, but still added additional offensive weapons to the Predators’ arsenal.
The story remained the same for the playoffs, with Radulov totaling 6 points in 8 games, but the biggest story of the playoffs for the young Russian forward was surrounding his suspension for game 3 of the second round series against the Coyotes for breaking curfew. The Predators announced this offseason that they did not intend to resign Radulov, a restricted free agent, which was followed shortly after by Radulov’s signing with CSKA of the KHL.
But Gill and Gaustad are Still Here:
The Predators resigned two trade deadline acquisitions and defensive stalwarts, oversized veteran defenseman Hal Gill and faceoff specialist Paul Gaustad. With the departure of Ryan Suter, the Predators young defense corps will look towards Hal Gill for leadership on the blueline, hoping that the battle-tested crease clearer will be able to continue stopping opponents from getting too many shots through to Pekka Rinne.
Although costing the Predators a premium during the trade deadline, hoping to bolster a struggling penalty kill, Gaustad provides the Predators with one of the most talented faceoff men in the league. Trotz is expected to use Gaustad as a second or third line center at even-strength, as well as one of the lead penalty killers, with occasional appearances on the power play when an important faceoff win is necessary.
Lindbäck Out, Mason In
One of GM Polie’s first moves of the offseason was a trade of Anders Lindbäck, Kyle Wilson and a seventh-round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Sébastien Caron, two second-round draft picks in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and a third-round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. In searching for a replacement to backup the sturdy Rinne in net, Polie sought to bring in someone with starting and backup experience, as well as familiarity with the organization. Polie found a solid solution in former Predator Chris Mason, who spent last season backing up Ondrej Pavelec with the Winnipeg Jets. With Mason, the Predators gained a quality backup that can step-in and temporarily start if needed, or simply provide some relief start to help take the pressure off of Rinne’s usually heavy workload.