With the 2013 NHL Draft 48 hours in the books and Free Agency closing in shortly here at the end of the week, Nashville’s already turning it’s wheels with players coming in and players going out. David Poile and company have already been hard at work meeting with the new prospects, preparing for next weeks development camp, sending out qualifying offers to current restricted free agents, and attempting to find help to boost a stagnant offensive core.
All of that being said, it’s time to take a brief look at my thoughts on this year’s draft for the Predators, what I think about the recent news of non-qualified RFA’s, and possibilities for upcoming free agents:
Seth Jones was a perfect fit for the Nashville Predators. Could the Predators have used one of the big three offensive prospects (MacKinnon, Barkov, Drouin)? Absolutely, there’s no question about that. However, with Colorado doing what they said they were going to do (take MacKinnon), Florida surprising everyone by taking Barkov, and Tampa taking Drouin, there was no better option than Seth Jones for Nashville. With Jones on the team, who in my opinion will be on Nashville’s opening night roster, the Predators have quickly filled their need for a Top Four defenseman. There is no need for Nashville to go out and search free agency for someone to help on the blueline anymore. In my opinion, it will be easier for the team to find help on offense in the free agency class this off-season rather than defensive help.
Nashville got a couple real steals in this year’s draft, including Jonathan Ismael-Diaby in the third round (a behemoth at 6’5, 223 pounds for an 18 year old defenseman) and Juuse Saros in the fourth round, the number one ranked European goaltender in the entire draft. However, the one oddity that continues to intrigue me is the addition of Janne Juvonen with the 203rd overall pick in the draft, Nashville’s final choice and second in the seventh round.Why am I intrigued by this? Janne Kekalainen, one of Nashville’s European scouts, helped steer the team towards an unknown Pekka Rinne in the eighth round of the 2004 NHL Draft. Where is Rinne now? He’s the centerpiece of the entire Nashville Predators team, backstopping them to some of their best records in their history and setting franchise-bests in the process as well. Juvonen wasn’t even on Central Scouting’s board when he was chosen by the Predators in the seventh round. Yet, when Kekalainen tells David Poile that he has a feeling about a particular goaltender, who is anyone to argue with him after the outcome of Pekka Rinne?
Of the seven free agents remaining on the Predators roster, only one seems to have been qualified. Nick Spaling has already been tendered an offer, while Yip/Halischuk/Mueller/Blum/Mason/and it appears Brennan will not be tendered any type of offer to return to the Nashville Predators roster. Another interesting nugget? Hal Gill was placed on waivers with a decision to keep/buy him out if he ends up clearing said waivers. None of the outgoing players were of much surprise to myself, including Hal Gill. With the addition of Jones to the roster, Victor Bartley receiving a three-year one-way contract, and both Ryan Ellis/Mattias Ekholm fighting for a spot as well, it seemed like the only conclusion to make. Gill is a great presence in the locker room and a great leader for the young defensemen as well. New Predators Assistant Coach Phil Housley has his work cut out for him in tutoring the young guys and making sure they are more than NHL-ready.
David Poile has expressed some interest in talking with Danny Briere about bringing him to Nashville as a possible free agent. I really like this move if it ends up happening. Briere still has a bit left in the tank and on Nashville’s roster he would be a definitive Top-6 forward, even approaching 36 years of age.
In terms of free agents for the Predators, I have a feeling that Nashville isn’t going to make the splash that a lot of the fans are wanting them to make. The Predators may claim to eventually being a cap team, however at the current juncture of the franchise they most likely won’t be a true one. It’s more feasible to believe that Nashville will bring on a couple of depth scorers, filling in the potential gaps left by Halischuk/Yip, then by really dipping into the free agency heavyweight Top-6 forward pool. Is it possible that a player like Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr, or Jarome Iginla to land in Nashville? My opinion is no. Damien Brunner, Viktor Stalberg, Valtteri Filppula, and now Danny Briere would be names I would keep my eyes on.
That’s all I have for you right now, ladies and gentlemen, in terms of my personal thoughts on the general state of the Predators. Stay tuned for more this week as Free Agency comes around.