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It will come as no shock as to who amongst the RFA’s and UFA’s in defense and goaltending Nashville needs to sign…and quickly. Ryan Suter and Shea Weber are the cornerstones of the Nashville Predators and along with Pekka Rinne make up the “Big Three.” Suter has declared that he will not go to the Eastern Conference spurring rumors that he will test the free agent market come July 1st. Weber will still remain with the Predators for at least another year so that is one less thing to worry about, but the possible absence of Suter will leave a huge gap in the defense with minimal personnel that could even try to fill that hole.
Nashville and Colorado are faced in this off-season with the most roster spots to fill with expiring contracts. Here is the breakdown of the defense and goaltending for Nashville that is either a RFA (Restricted Free Agent) or UFA (Unrestricted Free Agent).
RFA – Shea Weber – Weber is the leader of the Nashville Predators and the face of the franchise. His shot is mythical and the way he can put the team on his back and will them to victory has been tested and proven time and time again. Weber put up his second best point and goal totals of his NHL career, was named to the All-Star team and once again nominated for the Norris Trophy for the league’s best defenseman. The Nashville Predators need to go ahead and lock their captain up for the long haul, but many are saying that Weber’s future is tied directly to the future of Ryan Suter. It’s going to get dicey but the Predators should make a great offer to Weber and thankfully they can take their time since he’ll most definitely be here for the next season: Offer 5 yrs, $37.5M with bonuses.
RFA – Jack Hillen – Hillen played a pretty o.k. game this year when called upon to flesh out the lineup with injuries to Suter and Bouillon. He was also able to give Trotz some working room to educate and filter in rookies like Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi. Hillen has speed and a great vision of the ice. He cuts off angles and is a great positional defender. His speed enabled him to overcome what he lacked in size. His offensive numbers, however, were the lowest of his career but he finished the season at a +6 where on the Islanders his best was a +1 his rookie season. He’s a cost efficient acquisition that helps when others go down to injury: Offer: 1 yr, $650,000 (same as last year).
RFA – Jonathan Blum – Blum was a non-factor for most of the year due to the breakout play of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. But just a season ago, Blum was playing relatively safe minutes while being paired with Cody Franson. Blum’s play and his NHL time slipped away this year earlier in the season and he spent the majority of the year in Milwaukee. Blum just hasn’t found the right gear yet for NHL play. His potential is huge, but having two tries and being unsuccessful may have been enough for the Predators to go a different direction. Offer: None especially with Olivier-Roussel and Ekholm in the system
RFA – Anders Lindback – Possibly one of the best back-up goalies in the NHL and a fun guy to boot, Anders is everything Nashville needs in net when Rinne needs his very few breaks in the season. Lindback is another giant between the pipes and has a ton of fun out there. Having one of the best goalies in the league as your mentor along with Mitch Korn who is arguably the top goaltending coach in the league cranking out such talent as Vokoun, Hasek, Mason, Dan Ellis, and Pekka Rinne. Every team needs a decent back-up so as not to run the starter ragged during the year (i.e. Kiprusoff) so Anders should get a fair offer sheet for the Predators organization. Offer: 2 yrs, $2M.
UFA – Ryan Suter – Ryan Suter is the other half of the Wonder Twins that is the Predators top blueliners. Suter was invited to his first appearance in the All-Star game this year and has posted career-high point and assist totals. Suter is the most sought after free agent in the defensive pool and much has been hyped about whether or not the Predators and Suter can come to an agreement before July 1st where Suter can be had on the open market for possibly more than he could get in Nashville. The question still remains: If Nashville spends a ton on Weber ($7.5M) and already locked in on Rinne ($7M) will they be able to spend enough to keep Suter and ice a competitive team with all the holes Nashville still has to fill? Offer: 4 yrs, $28M.
UFA – Hal Gill – Gill was brought in at the trade deadline to bring size, skill and playoff experience to a pretty green defensive lineup. Gill did all that and more. His speed may be lacking but his reach and ability to muscle big forwards off the puck proved essential in getting the Predators to the fourth seed. Although he missed the first series, Gill did his part in the second round to help the Predators defensively. Gill needs to stay in Nashville if for no other reason than to have a beast on defense that can poke check the puck off a stick from a good five yards out. He doesn’t miss many games in the regular season so his services should go with a slight raise. Offer: 2 yrs, $5M.
UFA – Francis Bouillon – Bouillon is the unfortunate recipient of injuries. The Predators have lost 54 games over the last two seasons from Bouillon being out with multiple injuries. This of course is not Bouillon’s fault, but simply the facts. Bouillon is not getting any younger and his smaller frame may be the culprit to his physical setbacks. This and his concussion record do not bode well for him and his continued play. It may be time to set Bouillon free to the open market and try to fill the space on July 1st with another free agent defenseman. This hurts to say because when “Frankie the Bull” is on his game, there may not be a more exciting player to watch take out an opposing forward or score the odd goal at crucial times than what Bouillion did this season. Offer: None
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