This edition of Nashville Predators News & Rumors will look over the talk about side deals for the expansion draft and possibly leave both Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen exposed. Next, we’re going to discuss Zach Hyman’s future and the possibility of Nashville as a destination. We’re going to discuss Gabriel Landeskog as a possible acquired player. Finally, the contract talks between Erik Haula and the Predators are heating up. What could his next deal look like, and is it a good idea to bring him back?
The Johansen and Duchene Dilemma
As I talked about in the last edition of Predators News & Rumors, there have been discussions of a Johansen trade, and one of those teams could be the Kraken. It’s no surprise that Pierre LeBrun came out and reported that there is “growing sense” around the league that general manager David Poile is going to leave Duchene exposed as well. Elliotte Friedman on SN650 said he heard the same things. Both players are very likely to be exposed.
The LeBrun report came as no surprise to anyone, considering Duchene’s play over the last couple of seasons has been suboptimal. He’s scored only 19 goals and a total of 55 points in an even 100 games with the Predators. His shooting numbers have been way down compared to his average, and he’s fallen out of favor with the fans that once desired him to be in the gold and navy.
As much as I think Duchene has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to playing time, linemates, and other various things that could impact point production, it’s the right choice to expose him. His contract is awful, and the tangible results aren’t there. Using advanced analytics, you can see that he’s still driving play and generating offense better than most of the forwards on the team. Sadly, if you’re not producing points, you won’t be given the benefit of the doubt.
As for Johansen, he has many the same problems, but his linemates are far better than Duchene’s. He’s not scoring points, and his play can look lazy at times, but being played with Filip Forsberg and the recently traded Viktor Arvidsson should help you. It hasn’t. He looked much better with Duchene and Forsberg in the playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, but it’s a little too late. As much as I might hate to see one of them go, exposing their massive contracts is the only correct decision, and good on Poile for knowing that it needs to happen.
Zach Hyman to Nashville?
Hyman is one of the biggest talks of the offseason. Not only because he plays in one of the biggest markets in hockey, but because it doesn’t sound like he’s going to return to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 29-year-old unrestricted free agent has some decisions to make, and many teams are interested in him.
“The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers are believed to be the frontrunners in the Hyman sweepstakes with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings also making inquiries with Hyman’s agent, Todd Reynolds.”(from ‘Zach Hyman wants to stick with Maple Leafs but the offers are rolling in’, Toronto Star, 07/15/2021)
Adam Vingan from The Athletic wrote a mailbag article talking about possible free-agent acquisitions to help the team better their scoring, among other things. Hyman was a player that he mentioned, and even had a quote from his agent that read, “If (the Predators) have interest, he will have interest,” (from “A top free agent with interest in the Predators? Matt Duchene as Kraken bait? Replacing Pekka Rinne? Mailbag,” The Athletic, 07/15/2021).
Hyman is an excellent player and has had some solid box scores and analytical numbers. Over the last two seasons. He’s scored 70 points in 94 games. There’s no doubt that he could be a decent second or first-line winger. However, there is a lot of speculation that he wants a long-term contract with good money attached. The ideal contract that has been brought up is a six-year deal for a $6 million average annual value (AAV). The Predators can’t have another Johansen or Duchene situation, so it would be unwise to pursue him unless he lowered his price massively.
Gabriel Landeskog Another Possibility?
Another free agent struggling to negotiate contracts with his team is Landeskog, the Avalanche’s captain and part of arguably the best line in the NHL. He’s an excellent two-way forward that is looking for a ridiculous amount of money. It’s something that general manager Joe Sakic doesn’t seem willing to give up.
Elliotte Friedman on the 31 Thoughts Podcast offered up some insight about teams that may be interested in the 28-year-old Swede. The St. Louis Blues were the frontrunner, but he also named the Predators as a possible fit. It’s not surprising at all, considering how much Poile loves his two-way forwards. It would also benefit them, seeing as Colorado moves back into the Central Division as everything slowly returns to normal. However, it’s another contract that I don’t think would be worth signing.
Landeskog can bring a lot to a lineup, and it’s certainly not a knock on his play. I love watching him. However, at this time, the Predators are not in a position to sign free agents to massive contracts at will. They’ve done it already, and it hasn’t worked. Especially considering Landeskog’s defensive prowess, he won’t be the one to turn the offense around at this point. Just like with Hyman, it’s too much risk relative to how much they’re asking to be paid. It’s rumored that he wants the max term on his deal (8 years), and as we all know, eight-year deals are the thing handicapping the front office.
Erik Haula Contract Talks
The final piece of news that we have on our table is a report from Adam Vingan that the Predators are currently in talks with Haula about re-signing.
My understanding is that the Predators and UFA Erik Haula are discussing a new contract. Haula, 30, had 21 points in 51 games with the Predators on a $1.75 million deal last season.— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) July 16, 2021
It appears that I’m in the minority on this topic, but I don’t think that Haula should be brought back. He was awful for most of the year and graded out badly in most publicly available analytics. The eye test backed them up, too, as he was horrendously bad towards the beginning of his time with the team. He was invisible, and when he wasn’t, he was making costly errors that hurt the team. As the season went on, he improved, but it wasn’t enough to get him above the replacement level line. It’s hard to justify bringing him back when there are better, more deserving options in-house. A player like Rem Pitlick proved that he has what it takes to be in the NHL but isn’t getting substantial playing time because of Poile bringing in players like Haula to help with depth.
I can’t help but think that this is another opportunity squandered by management to get the youth fully involved in the NHL. Haula is a good penalty killer that can play some semblance of defense while contributing a minuscule amount to the offense. However, I think that there are better options that can contribute more to the team.
Overall, this offseason is going to be full of free agents looking for big money. Landeskog and Hyman are only two of the big-ticket names looking for extensions this summer. The Predators should be shopping, but the front office needs to be smart with the cap space that they have. It’s becoming time for young players to enter the everyday roster, and spending tons of cap space on free agents prohibits that.
Jeff is a consistent source for Predators and Red Wings content here at The Hockey Writers. He enjoys watching all sorts of hockey from juniors to the pros and playing for his high school and local teams in Nashville. He’s a big proponent of hockey analytics, and you’ll often see him using lots of statistics and data to back up his main talking points. You can find his work here, or check out his contributions on his own Substack, or at Last Word on Hockey and On the Forecheck. Lastly, you can listen to him on the Youth Movement Podcast presented by On the Forecheck or the Triple Shift Podcast. For any inquiries about interviews or questions about statistics, analytics, or just general hockey opinions you can message his Twitter, @jjmid04.