As the offseason winds up into full gear, the Nashville Predators are already making headway with contract talks. The big names are all falling into place, but Nashville will need to make some key roster moves if they want to build on their recent successes.
The Predators should be set up to be serious contenders again next year with an elite level goalie in Pekka Rinne and one of the league’s top defensive corps. But the Predators only have the one true center in Paul Gaustad, the only Predator over 55% on the faceoff last season (among Preds with more than five faceoffs; he is the only one above 53% among Preds with more than 300 faceoffs). This hole in the offensive line needs to be filled.
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Nashville’s playoff performance against the Chicago Blackhawks was solid. Losing in six games, with two of the losses going to multiple overtime periods each, is nothing to be ashamed of. The quality of competition the Predators brought to whom we now know is a Western Division champion was quite high. Although Nashville actually outscored Chicago over the series, 21-19, the two long OT stretches with no goals is worrisome. Chicago held Nashville scoreless for the final 68:16 and 43:58 in each of the overtime losses.
Draft and Trade
It’s hard to know who will still be available for Nashville’s first pick at number 55 (pick 24 was part of the deal to get Franson and Santorelli), but several promising center candidates are on the draft board. From that list, I like Travis Konecny. He’s a bit on the small side at 5’10”, but has produced at a steady clip of more than a point a game in the juniors. Alternatively, Alexander Dergachyov comes in at 6’4″, the only offensive Pred taller is Gaustad. If either of these centers are on the table, Nashville ought to scoop them up.
If Nashville’s needs aren’t met in their seven draft picks spread across the seven rounds (actually, just rounds two through seven), then the focus will shift to free agency, although GM David Poile doesn’t “want to tinker too much with our team” and believes “that bringing back almost the entire roster is the right thing to do.”