Originally posted on Inside Smashville  |  Last updated 5/11/12

PITTSBURGH - FEBRUARY 1: Forward Paul Gaustad #28 of the Buffalo Sabres stretches before a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 1, 2010 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Ryan Suter and Shea Weber are not the only players in need of new contracts from the Nashville Predators. There is an entire slew of Nashville draft picks who are set to become restricted and unrestricted free agents come July 1st.

Two of the more interesting players without contracts for next season, however, did not develop from within the organization, but instead were involved in mid-season trades that saw the Predators retain their services for the playoff push.

Hal Gill and Paul Gaustad, traded from the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres respectively, were brought into Nashville before the trade deadline to fill holes in the Predators roster.  Gaustad is a specialist in the faceoff circle. Gill is a veteran stay-at-home defenseman, and 2009 Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Both players quickly felt welcome in Smashville.

“After the trade, I think I kind of found a niche here. I really enjoyed that. It takes a while to get in and figure where you belong, but it happened really quickly. I have no regrets at all,” Gill said about the trade.

Gaustad’s quick connection to the team made the second round loss to Phoenix a particularly difficult defeat.

“Everyone embraced me. I felt like a part of this team. I took this loss just as hard as any loss I’ve had in the playoffs. It is a great team, and it is unfortunate that we didn’t go farther. You have goals. You want to win the Stanley Cup. We had that goal, and we didn’t achieve it,” he said.

Players acquired at the trade deadline are often called rentals; they play out the rest of the season for their new team and then seek a permanent home in the summer with the organization of their choosing. If the two free agents sign elsewhere in the summer, the Predators will continue to have those holes on the roster to fill.

Despite their short tenure in Nashville, Gill and Gaustad have both expressed an interest in remaining with the Predators.

“Right now, you decompress and regroup. Then you make decisions, talk to the team and see about doing something, and work it out,” Gill said, adding, “I’m getting older, so I really want to win. That’s really what it is all about. You want to play on a team that can win. I think it is a great young group, with good coaching, in a good city. I like it here, and I’d love to play [for Nashville].”

Interviews between players and coaches began on Thursday. The 37-year-old said he would make his intentions known at the meeting. However, those intentions were already known by at least one member of the Predators’ management, Head Coach Barry Trotz.

“Both would like to come back,” Trotz said of Gill and Gaustad. “I think anytime you acquire players, those are guys who you bring in to fill in holes. We still have holes. That’s why we got them. Every time you acquire someone, it is to make you better. They both made us better.”

Before being traded to Nashville, Gaustad spent his entire career in Buffalo. With seven years of NHL experience behind him, many teams would likely seek the services of a forward of Gaustad’s caliber during the free agency period. Like Gill, however, the center has also expressed an interest in re-signing with Nashville.

“I think Nashville has a great chance and a great future with the guys they have here and the coaching staff. It is definitely a place you want to play,” he said.

A lot of factors may go into a player’s decision as to whether or not he wants to sign with a particular team. For Gaustad, he was particularly impressed with the citizens of Smashville.

“You have to start with the fans. The culture here is different than it is perceived in the NHL. The fans have been great. The organization is a top-notch organization. Everyone gives their best here. It is a winning culture,” he said.

While both players have been impressed with their time in Nashville, it does not necessarily translate into staying with the team. What resources the Predators have to allocate to their free agents depends on defenseman Ryan Suter.

Predators General Manager, David Poile, is expected to meet with the star defenseman no later than the first week in June. Once Suter’s intentions for the future are known, the Predators can get the ball rolling in regard to contracts for other players.

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