Seth Jones’ selection at fourth overall has ended at least one career in the Music City today, as David Poille broke out the rubber gloves and windexed all over the Nashville blueline in expectation of the tremendous defenseman. Not only was recently-extended veteran Hal Gill banished to waivers at 12:05 in the afternoon, but later in the day, it was revealed the club failed to tender 2007 first rounder Jonathan Blum a qualifying offer, sending the 24 year old defenseman into unrestricted free agency.
Gill, acquired from the Canadiens at the 2012 deadline, spent his first full season in Nashville plagued with “lower body injuries,” which reduced his already nonexistent mobility to zero. Although he frequently played 20 minutes or more down the stretch for the Predators in 2012, Gill only broke 18 minutes once this year – the first game of the season – and remained on the bottom pairing henceforth. Despite his more limited role, the 2009 Stanley Cup winner was rather ineffective defensively, and his possession figures were among the worst on the team. Nashville could refuse to assign the 38 year old if he clears waivers, keeping him on the team for his veteran presence for players like Jones, but as of now, his time as an NHL regular appears over. David Poille has also intimated at spending a buyout, compliance or otherwise, on the blueliner.
Blum was selected 23rd overall by Nashville in the 2007 entry draft, making the Predators one of about 20 teams who’ve spent the past three years asking themselves why they didn’t just draft PK Subban. After completing his junior career with the Vancouver Giants, Blum struggled the Predators’ lineup, even getting sent back to the AHL during the 11-12 Season after making the team out of camp in September. As a prospect, the 24 year old blueliner was known for his puck-moving abilities and excellent positioning, but hasn’t been able to provide either consistently at the NHL level. Though he took a step forward this season and was Nashville’s least-scored-upon defenseman (in an admittedly limited role) his right handed shot forces him off a blueline with Shea Weber, Kevin Klein, Ryan Ellis and now Jones.
That abundance of righties has made it difficult for armchair coaches to project the Nashville blueline, and these new moves only somewhat clarify the picture. What makes the most sense would be a second pairing of Klein and Jones, which is improbable given both have the same handedness. With Nashville already dynamically reshaping its blueline, expect a left handed, top four option to be at the top of their shopping list for the rest of the offseason. Jones and Klein could each use some defensive stability alongside of them, and Seth Jones is a project the Predators absolutely cannot afford to screw up. Recently extended Victor Bartley is a start, but that contract solves only half of the bottom four’s issues.