The Nashville Predators have been a part of the NHL since their expansion draft in 1998. In that time, they have reached the Stanley Cup Final once, and across the more than 20 years, the team has maintained a reputation for stingy defensive play and a hard work ethic. What this has led to in a small-market team is a whole lot of franchise records that are low enough to be caught by the current wave of players.
Some successful drafts in the last decade have brought new life to the Predators’ offence, and with the team emerging now as a sought-after destination, they are no longer losing key players to free agency at the rate they once did. Long-time Predator and inaugural draft pick David Legwand currently holds all of the major skater records, but his name could be completely erased from the top spot in the coming decade by a few current Predators.
Captain Roman Josi recently passed Shea Weber as third all-time in franchise points and first as a defenceman. With his current contract running through 2028, and a full no-movement clause, the Swiss native will have every opportunity to put his name all over the team record books. Based on his current paces, Josi projects to take over the lead in games played in four years, goals in three, and points in just over two. By the end of his career, he should be the runaway leader in all three of those categories.
It would not be surprising to see Josi as the first Predator to cross the 900 point threshold, but a 1000 point career would require some extreme longevity and a few more seasons like last year’s Norris winning campaign of 65 points in 69 games. Currently sitting at 444 points through 10 seasons, Josi would need another nine or 10 years to hit that mark, bringing him past his current contract length and to the age of 40. At this point, however, it is tough to bet against him.
The most entertaining record chase to watch is always a goal-scoring race, and that’s exactly what Forsberg is going to give us. Unfortunately, the Swedish winger is still week-to-week with an injury, so his chase is on pause for now. That means that he may be done for the regular season and will have to pick up the chase next year. Now, with one year left on his contract and a Seattle Expansion Draft impending, it’s possible that next year is all the time he has left in the chase.
Forsberg currently sits 33 goals back of Legwand, and his career-high is exactly 33 goals in a season. If he has only one year left with the Predators, then this becomes a race against the clock. He was only on pace for 27 goals this season, and that is without taking into account any time missed with injury. He hasn’t played an injury-free season since the Cup run in 2016-17, so for him to pass Legwand, next season would require not only a career year but an uncommonly injury-free season.
As a result, we may have to wait until the 2022-23 season for Forsberg to have a chance at the franchise record, assuming he stays with the Predators. Should he re-sign with the Predators and stay for the majority of his career, it is possible that he ends up at least doubling Legwand’s 210 career goals with the franchise.
Juuse Saros’ recent stretch of Vezina-caliber play has proven that he is no longer just the goalie of the future but the goalie of the present. His predecessor Pekka Rinne, who was the starter for Nashville for the past decade, is miles in front of Saros in most categories.
However, Saros’ early-career numbers look as good, if not better, than Rinne’s first few years in the league. The veteran’s career paces are also very close to Saros’ own, which would mean that it would take about the same volume of games for him to start passing Rinne.
He is currently about 500 games shy of Rinne’s near-700 game total, and by averaging 60 starts per season for the next eight years, that would take Saros right through his prime and up close to the records. His career save percentage is already better than Rinne’s, while the per-game numbers for wins, saves, and goals against are very close. Saros’ shutout pace is actually higher than the 38 years old’s, and if he keeps up his current numbers, and that might be what the 26-year-old is able to catch first.
With recent first-round draft pick Yaroslav Askarov waiting in the wings, though, there is a bit of pressure on Saros to make the most of the current moment. Starting next season with the likely retirement of Rinne, Saros should be the uncontested starter and see a heavy workload of 60+ starts per year. It is what he has been groomed for, and if this season is any indication, it seems that like most NHL starters, Saros thrives with the routine of starting more often.
The issue then becomes, how close can Saros get to Rinne’s records before Askarov comes over and starts stealing some of the shares of the crease, slowing down the chase? The earliest he would likely cross over to North America would be 2023, and even then, like with the growth of Saros, it will likely be multiple more years before he is ready to carry the starter’s load. Overall, goalies are much more fickle than skaters, which makes this a bit of a long shot than the skaters mentioned above.
An Untouchable Franchise Record
Back in 2001, the Predators drafted the first-ever Inuk player to play in the NHL. Jordan Tootoo developed into an excellent depth forward and a formidable opponent on the ice. In his eight years with the Predators, he racked up 725 penalty minutes, a mark that no current player on the team has even half of today. Taking that many penalty minutes usually means getting in a fair share of fights, and that took its toll on Tootoo, who battled with alcohol addiction during and after his career.
Fighting in the NHL is down, as are penalty minutes. The players who rack up higher totals don’t stay in the league as long, and those that do typically wear out their welcome with one team after a few years. Mathieu Olivier currently leads the Predators with 68 PIMs in 29 games, however, he is currently out with an injury and was only initially brought into the lineup due to injuries to teammates. It would take him 10 years of production like this to come close to Tootoo’s record, and the chances of Olivier having the career longevity to do so with a single team is extremely slim. Unlike the records above, Tootoo’s name looks to be etched in the Predators’ record books in permanent marker.