In this edition of Nashville Predators News & Rumors, we look at the fascinating Jack Adams votes handed out to the current head coach and a former one, too. We also look at projections for the next contract for stud goaltender Juuse Saros and look at which unrestricted free agents could and should be coming back or leaving this offseason.
Jack Adams Votes
On June 17, the Jack Adams Award winner was announced. Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour came out on top. However, the most interesting thing wasn’t who won, but rather the votes handed out to the other competitors. Predators head coach John Hynes received two votes and totaled four points on the ballots, and former head coach Barry Trotz got only one vote and one point.
It’s safe to say that the difference between the two coaches, despite the gap seeming small at face value, was not expected. Trotz has almost single-handedly pushed the New York Islanders into consistent Stanley Cup contention. Hynes, while he could be given credit for aiding with the Predators miracle comeback from the depths of the Discover Central Division, is not as good of a coach as he is. So, why was Hynes given more votes than Trotz?
It’s one that many people have been asking themselves, and it’s for the reason that I just said. The Predators’ miracle run is going to reflect well on the coach. Even if it’s not Hynes’ doing, any record like 21-7-1 to end the season positively reflects the coaching staff. The amount of bias thrown into voting on awards is astounding, and even though the Islanders had a better record and more points, hot streaks are always going to be the topic of discussion.
Like the coaching style that Trotz emphasizes, the Islanders team was not all that exciting. The Predators, on the other hand, were a roller coaster of emotions throughout the season. From trade rumors about Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis to Saros and “The Herd Line,” dragging them back from the dead is a better storyline than the Islanders’ fairly steady path to a playoff berth. It’s evident that coach Hynes didn’t deserve more votes over Trotz, but sometimes that’s the way she blows.
Juuse Saros’ Future Contract
As I just mentioned, Saros dragged the Predators from the depths of the division standings. He led the league in save percentage after returning from injury, and the gap between him and the next player in even-strength goals saved above expected (GSAx) per Evolving-Hockey is truly incredible. He could arguably be a Vezina Trophy finalist, but was unfortunately beat out by Andrei Vasilevskiy, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Philipp Grubauer.
Saros picked the right year to start performing like one of the league’s top goaltenders, as his contract is up this summer, and he’s officially a restricted free agent (RFA). He can go down many routes, and the career year has provided him with an exponential amount of options. There are some things to be wary about, like his unusually consistent slow starts to the season, but it looks like he can be the goalie of the future while prospect Yaroslav Askarov is developing.
So, what does his contract look like? There could be many answers to this question, but if I were going to predict an outcome, I would say somewhere along the lines of $5.5 million average annual value (AAV) over three years. I could also see him going a bit higher or even a bit lower than that, depending on what his camp feels is suitable at this point in his career. Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that his contract now will be much higher than it projected to be at the beginning of the year. As the offseason ramps up, talks will begin to increase, and the picture will become more apparent.
Who Should Stay or Go?
Now that I’ve covered the RFA on everyone’s mind, let’s talk about the unrestricted free agents. Coming off the books this offseason for the Predators are six players, including Pekka Rinne, who still hasn’t decided on his future yet with the team. As for the others, we have Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Brad Richardson, Erik Gudbranson, and Luca Sbisa. I think the damage should be minimal in this coming free agency at this point for the organization. The one player I believe should come back is Granlund. He has been a remarkably steady second-line presence for the team over some of their roughest stretches, and his chemistry with Calle Jarnkrok and Luke Kunin this year was excellent.
As for the others, I would be perfectly content with not bringing any of them back. Haula had a tough year outside of a couple of spurts, and it seems as if his role would be to kill penalties and fill up a roster spot. The same could be said about Richardson, who wasn’t very effective in his time with the team. As for Gudbranson and Sbisa, well, they didn’t get much action. Gudbranson was given some time on the third pair after being acquired at the deadline, but in no way, shape, or form did his play suggest that he should be brought back for another run. Sbisa got all of one game with the Predators before going down with an injury and not returning.
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I think the wisest move for the Predators’ front office would be to let everyone go outside of Granlund and possibly Rinne. With Rinne, his fate is in his own hands on whether he wants to keep the train rolling or pull off the tracks. Whereas with Granlund, he’s still got playing time left, no matter what. Having been one of the most productive members of the lineup in the playoffs in terms of points, he could easily continue to be the player young guys rely on to learn from on a day-to-day basis. He has the experience, and he’s a calm presence at all times. Outside of him, I don’t think anyone should be returning for another season. Whether David Poile believes different has yet to be seen or even heard.
Jeff is a consistent source for Predators content here at The Hockey Writers. He enjoys watching all sorts of hockey from juniors to the pros, and playing hockey 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.