Predators Face Questions & Concerns With Pending UFA Decisions

The Nashville Predators‘ team at The Hockey Writers have done a magnificent job covering the team this season, documenting the slow start and the surge that has them in a playoff spot. At the trade deadline, we thought they should be sellers with a look towards the future. Then a March upswing put them back in the playoff picture. General manager David Poile decided to stand pat and stick with the players he has despite a few prime trade targets who didn’t get moved. But is it best to bring them back for another run in Nashville?

Mikael Granlund

Granlund, acquired at the trade deadline in 2019, was the perfect trade chip (or one of the main ones) heading into the deadline. He is a top-6 forward and would have been a great fit on a contender’s third line. He has 12 goals and 11 assists in 45 games, which, in a typical 82-game season, would translate to 22 goals and 20 assists. He’s also successful at faceoffs. He will be hitting 30 next year, so the Predators will have to decide if they want to keep him going forward or continue to focus on their young players.

Mikael Granlund Nashville Predators
Mikael Granlund, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Outlook: The advantage to keeping Granlund is that he is another veteran and a great mentor to the young players. He gives the team a decent offensive threat, has been effective in the faceoff circle, and he has emerged as a genuine leader. He will be a good addition to the core of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, and more.

On the other hand, keeping him could hinder the development of younger players like Eeli Tolvanen, who would likely benefit from more ice time without Granlund on the team. If the Predators want to ensure their youth gains experience, letting Granlund go is the best option.

Erik Haula

Haula seemed to be a solid rental heading into the deadline, especially according to my Vegas colleagues. He hasn’t been much of an addition this season, nor has he been a major detriment to the Predators, just right in the middle. With the injuries to the team, it would have been nice to see more productivity from him. He only has seven goals and 11 assists in 47 games. He is another veteran in his 30s who should move on in favor of younger players.

Erik Haula Nashville Predators
Erik Haula, Nashville Predators (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Outlook: The real pro of keeping Haula would be if he can recapture his Vegas mojo from a few seasons ago (29 goals, 26 assists). Otherwise, letting him walk would be the best move to ensure the team has the right mixture of youth and veterans. Tolvanen, Tanner Jeannot, Rem Pitlick, Yakov Trenin, and others played well in spot duty, so these players need more opportunities in the future, which makes Haula expendable.

Erik Gudbranson

Gudbranson was acquired at the trade deadline to shore up the defense in the only move the Predators made, and the $4 million contract they inherited will expire at the end of the season, which should help the team out in the free agency. After Poile made almost no moves at the deadline, hopefully, he will use the offseason and the additional cap space to re-sign some players and acquire others.

Outlook: I don’t see Gudbranson staying with the team long-term, especially with David Farrance signed and the emergence of Jeremy Davies and Alexandre Carrier. Should the Predators extend Mattias Ekholm, Gudbranson will become that much more expendable.

Pekka Rinne

The Predators legend is a free agent at the end of the season, and it’ll be up to him to stay with the team or not. Rinne could retire a Predator or sign with a contending team that has a better shot at the Stanley Cup. Whatever he decides, it won’t diminish the legacy of the best goaltender in franchise history.

Pekka Rinne Predators
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators Oct. 19, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Outlook: I don’t see Rinne re-upping with the team unless it’s to retire as a Predator. Juuse Saros has established himself as the team’s starter, and Yaroslav Askarov will be coming around in the next year or two. Even if Rinne does come back, he will be 39 in November and will likely be limited to spot duty.

Brad Richardson

Richardson was playing very well for Nashville until he got injured. He was on IR from March 11 to May 2. However, he was great on the fourth line, penalty kill, and most importantly, on faceoffs. As great as he has been this season, he is also 36 years old and another veteran who might get in the way of the team’s youth development.

Outlook: Although he’s the type of player head coach John Hynes loves, Richardson will likely move on, but also because he is a Hynes guy, he may return on a one-year deal unless he decides to hang up his skates.

Luca Sbisa

Luca Sbisa was claimed off waivers in January to add veteran depth to the defense. However, he was injured in the opening game on January 14 with an upper-body injury and has not been back since and there have been no signs of a return.

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Outlook: Sbisa expected to move on unless they give him another shot at the same price.

Of the guys mentioned above, the one with the best chance of returning is Granlund, who really elevated his game this season amidst all the injuries that happened to the team. Not only did he make plays and score goals, but he did also help the young guys like Tolvanen and Jeannot on the line. The Predators are focused on extending a couple of guys viewed as their core: Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, and Forsberg. Besides Granlund and maybe Richardson, I see some movement from the rest of the guys to different addresses.

Questions? Comments? Concerns. Leave below, or follow on Twitter at @ddunhamjr!


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