The Nashville Predators made two transactions this week that could shape the club’s defense moving forward. The headline move was signing the fast-rising Roman Josi to a seven-year deal worth $28 million. Josi, 23, has top pairing potential so locking him into a cost-effective contract is seen as a significant move for the Predators.
Josi is a lock to play a significant role on the Nashville blueline next season, but what about defenseman T.J. Brennan? The Predators quietly acquired Brennan from the Florida Panthers on Friday in exchange for mid-season waiver wire pick-up Bobby Butler. Brennan, 24, scored 10 points in 29 games last season with the Panthers and Buffalo Sabres. He also had 35 points in 36 AHL games last season indicating point-production potential at the professional level. Brennan is known for his booming slap shot and for inconsistent play in his own end.
Brennan’s obvious asset is his offensive skill set – specifically with an above-average slap shot – and he may be an option as the Predators look to improve their power play next season. Josi, Brennan, and Shea Weber is a good start when building a blueline for the man-advantage.
Brennan may make an impact off the ice too. The Nashville roster already enlists several similarly-slotted defensemen and few roster spots to go around. Nashville already has Ryan Ellis, Jon Blum, Viktor Bartley, and Hal Gill on its current roster. Additionally, the Predators probably still need to add another top-four defenseman to join Weber, Josi, and Kevin Klein.
Realistically, the Josi signing and Brennan trade are just the first dominos to fall this summer. Will Brennan develop chemistry with new Nashville assistant coach Phil Housley and in turn enhance his development at the NHL level? Will the Predators decide to ship out one of Ellis or Blum after adding another young defenseman to the mix? Does the trade make Gill a buy-out option this summer? Several scenarios to contemplate.
Personally, I think this deal is just another sign that the Predators are going to trade a young defenseman like Blum or Ellis. Ellis will probably get another chance to prove himself at the NHL level. Blum is a different story. His contract is up and it may be time for both sides to move on. The former first round pick still retains a high ceiling, but his value to the Predators dwindles a little more each year after spending significant time in coach Barry Trotz’s doghouse. It’s easy to think Nashville may be shopping Blum and hoping to get back a draft choice or a young forward with a similar development path as Blum. Teams are always looking for young, puck-moving defensemen so Nashville should find a market for Blum’s services this off-season, if they decide to deal him.
Who knows if Brennan will make an impact in Music City next season or not? But simply acquiring him could set off a string of moves altering the makeup of the Nashville defense beginning next fall.