The Nashville Predators have been busy this offseason, but not in the way they have most recently been. With the team suffering yet another first-round exit, general manager David Poile decided that it was finally time to give up on their now previous ambitions, and embark on what he once referred to as a “competitive rebuild.”
It is always tough to say goodbye to your core players, but the Predators are making the right decision by committing to their long-awaited youth movement. With how badly they struggled in the first half of the 2020-2021 season, and young players such as Yakov Trenin, Tanner Jeannot, Luke Kunin, Eeli Tolvanen, and Alexandre Carrier later galvanizing the squad, the time has come to focus on the future.
The first domino fell on July first, when Poile shipped off Viktor Arvidsson to the Los Angeles Kings for a 2021 second-round draft pick and a 2022 third-round draft pick.
The Arvidsson situation was a tough pill to swallow for several different reasons. Once a perennial 30-goal scorer and an integral part of the Predators’ forward core, he fell off hard, only recording middle-six caliber stats, and becoming increasingly invisible. The explanation for his decline could be the injury he sustained due to a dirty hit by Robert Bortuzzo in November of 2019, which resulted in two sprained MCL’s for the veteran forward.
Regardless of why Arvidsson took steps back, the Predators made the right choice to move on. The team obviously needed to focus on the future, and knowing the difference a change of scenery can make for a disgruntled player, it was almost a no-brainer for Poile to make this move.
The second and even bigger move, came just over two weeks later when Poile dealt Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers. In return, the Predators received Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick, and Patrick was then immediately flipped to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Cody Glass.
Ellis is another player who was tough to see go, as he had established himself as one of the more prominent members of the Predators’ blue line, but it was still a sensible move. Even after the trade, they still have a logjam of defensemen between the veterans and youth, and they got younger, which has been their objective all offseason long. None of the players the Predators received are currently what they are expecting them to become, but they have the potential to be tremendous additions, which is all they can ask for right now.
The Predators raised some eyebrows when they unveiled their expansion draft protection list, and it is not because they protected five defensemen. What shocked several people was Poile’s decision to protect Tanner Jeannot over Calle Jarnkrok, who the Seattle Kraken selected.
I personally loved this decision, as Jeannot came into the lineup late in the season and was immediately impressed. He played with a chip on his shoulder, pushed his opponents around relentlessly, and recorded five goals and two assists in fifteen games. He became the best player on the team’s “herd line,” which was one of the best fourth lines in the entire NHL.
Most importantly, this decision by Poile showed a clear commitment to the youth movement. As great as Jarnkrok was from a value standpoint, he is 29-years-old, has one year left on his contract, and ultimately, a player of his caliber is very replaceable. Jeannot has so much more potential and fits the Predators’ new identity of being a tough, physical team, and it would have hurt massively to lose him for nothing.
It is no secret that the Predators are aiming to make themselves a hard-working, tenacious squad that is difficult to play against at both ends of the ice, and their first-round selections proved just that. It is one thing to have a team full of grinders with minimal skill, but both players Poile selected on July 23 are grinders with talent and high upside.
With the 19th overall pick, they’re first in the draft, they selected Russian-born center Fedor Svechkov, who was one of the better two-way players in the draft. It is not just his defensive prowess that is encouraging, he has the ability to drive the transition, is a force with the puck on his stick, is a great distributor, and does a good job at getting his body in front of the goal. Overall, there really is no big weakness to his game.
And as already mentioned, the Predators later traded up in the draft to select Canadian-born winger Zachary L’Heureux. His bruising style of play is similar to that of players such as Matthew Tkachuk and Brad Marchand, and this quote should make the fans and organization excited.
His suspension history was one of the main reasons for him sliding as low as he did in the draft, but he is young and has time to clean up his act. If he pans out as expected, a player who is as talented and battles as hard as he does is going to be a steal for the Predators.
While the Predators are targeting youth and potential this offseason, that did not stop them from bringing back one of their veterans. It had been announced just before the start of free agency that Mikael Granlund would hit the open market, but that quickly changed, as the team brought him back on a four-year, $20M contract.
Granlund struggled to meet expectations for the Predators when he was brought in at the 2019 trade deadline, but something seemed to change after John Hynes took over as head coach, and he became one of the best and most consistent forwards on the team. He also built great chemistry with Luke Kunin, who turned into a critical player in his first year on the team. Even at 29 years of age, Granlund showed that he has a place on the Predators right now and in the future, and there are absolutely no complaints about the contract he just signed.
It is a good deal for what it is, as Rittich has shown that he can be a good backup, and it gives Connor Ingram another year to polish his game before he jumps to the NHL.
Some would argue that they should have done more in free agency due to their abundance of cap space, but they did the right thing by not buying that much. Bringing in too many new faces would have interfered with the youth movement, and the last thing the Predators need is another contract similar to those of Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. They need to be patient and add to the team when they are sure they are Stanley Cup contenders again, and it is a good thing Poile realized that.
Overall analysis and looking ahead
One thing that was clear before the offseason began was that the Predators’ 2017 squad was not going to get the job done, and they had to make some significant changes. There was much skepticism that Poile would remain loyal to that core, but he has not, and is making changes for the better.
Even if he could have gotten more in return for Arvidsson and Ellis, and losing Jarnkrok for nothing stings, Poile has played the offseason well and managed to build a great foundation for the future. There is a clear vision of what he wants the Predators to be, and a definite direction is always a good start to a new era.
The offseason would be even better if he could find a way to unload one of Duchene and Johansen, but the chance of that happening is extremely slim. And it is fun to talk about the possibility of trading for Jack Eichel, but the Predators seem to be nowhere in the mix for him.
The only critical work left for Poile is to give new contracts to Filip Forsberg, Mattias Ekholm, and Juuse Saros. Saros has filed for arbitration for his next contract, which is slightly worrisome, but he will most likely be locked up before the arbitration date.
The Predators are obviously not expected to do much in the 2021-2022 season, but it should still be an exciting year. Players such as Cody Glass, Rem Pitlick, Philip Tomasino, Philippe Myers, David Farrance, and Jeremy Davies will or have a great opportunity to establish roles on the Predators for the first time, and also have a chance to make massive strides.
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