The 2019-20 NHL season may not be over yet, but for general managers around the league, it’s never too early to start thinking about the offseason. Like every team, the Nashville Predators have some tough decisions to make with regards to pending free agents. The biggest decision on general manager David Poile’s plate right now is what to do with pending free agent forward Mikael Granlund. This will be a tough and complicated decision to make for the Predators, but in the end, I think it’s best for both sides if Granlund leaves in free agency.
It’s The Right Move For Granlund
At this point, hitting the open market and signing somewhere else is the best move for Granlund. He came to the Preds via trade in 2019 and has seen a sharp decline in production since the move. He was expected to be a legitimate top-six scorer for the Predators like he was with the Wild. With Minnesota, he put together back to back 65+ point seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18. In 63 games with the Wild in 2018-19, he had 49 points before being traded to the Preds. In 16 games with Nashville to finish out the 2018-19 season, he only scored one goal and five points. This season, his first full year as a Predator, he only scored 17 goals, 13 assists, and 30 points in 63 games.
For whatever reason, Granlund just doesn’t seem to fit in Nashville. He hasn’t looked comfortable his entire tenure with the Predators and his production has greatly declined. The 28-year-old is in what should be the prime of his career. Instead, he spent last year struggling through his worst pro season.
A fresh start with a new team would be a great opportunity for Granlund to get his career back on track. It doesn’t seem like that is going to happen in Nashville. The chemistry, and fit, just isn’t there with the Predator’s lineup. Signing somewhere else is most likely the best move for him.
It’s The Right Move For The Predators
It might be tough to admit, but letting Granlund walk is most likely the best move for the Predators as well. Yes, that means they basically traded away Kevin Fiala for nothing, but let’s face it, this isn’t working out. That trade has turned out to be a big swing and miss, and keeping an under-performing Granlund isn’t going to change that.
The Predators need to avoid getting into another Kyle Turris situation. There really are a lot of parallels. Both were productive offensive players with their previous teams. Both were traded to Nashville and almost immediately saw their production drop. One big difference is Turris signed a long term deal that the Predators are now stuck with unless they can find a trade partner. They don’t need to make the same mistake with Granlund and have another overpaid, under-performing player in the lineup.
Letting Granlund leave is also the right move from a salary cap perspective. Thanks to lost revenue because of the Coronavirus shutdown, the NHL salary cap is not going to be increasing anytime soon. That means not overpaying players will be even more crucial for the next few years. Granlund’s last contract saw him making $5.75 million per season. That’s a great deal if he’s scoring 60+ points. Unfortunately, he only had 30 points last year. Getting that contract off the books will open up some much-needed cap space and possibly allow the Preds to go out and make a bigger move.
Finally, letting Granlund go would allow the Predators to re-sign Craig Smith, who is also a pending free agent. It’s highly unlikely that the Predators would keep both Granlund and Smith, particularly with the current cap situation. Smith is a beloved, career Predator, who can play up and down the lineup and give steady offensive production. Smith’s ceiling isn’t nearly as high as Granlund’s, but he’s a significantly cheaper option for what amounts to similar production. He scored 18 goals and 13 assists for 31 points in 69 games this season. He’s a much better fit in the Predator’s lineup at a much lower cost.
At the end of the day, it’s best for both Mikael Granlund and the Nashville Predators to part ways at the end of this season. For Granlund, he can start fresh somewhere else and hopefully get his career back on track. His production has drastically decreased with the Predators, and he hasn’t looked comfortable in that lineup. For the Predators, they can’t afford another bad contract for an underperforming player. They should prioritize re-signing the much more steady and consistent Craig Smith to a lower-cost deal. The extra money saved could then be used to go out and make a bigger move. All in all, the Predators should move on from Mikael Granlund and cut their losses now, rather than compound the problem.
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