Offseason Analysis: NASHVILLE PREDATORS

forsberg rinne

NASHVILLE PREDATORS: 2014-2015 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 47-25-10-104
Home Record: 28-9-4
Away Record: 19-16-6
Shootout Record: 6-6
Playoff Result: Eliminated by Chicago in Western Conference Quarter-Final (series: 4-2 CHI)
Standings: Central Division: 2, Western Conference: 3, League: 6
Goals For: 226 (NHL rank: 14)
Goals Against: 202 (NHL rank: 22)
Power Play Percentage: 16.2 percent (NHL rank: 25)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 80.8 percent (NHL rank: 18)
Leading Scorer: Filip Forsberg (26-37-63)
 

2015-2016 Outlook:

Peter Laviolette provided a much-needed offensive jolt to the Nashville Predators last year in his first season as the team’s head coach. After seventeen seasons with coach Barry Trotz, the only coach in franchise history, Nashville parted ways with Trotz, paving the way for Laviolette to step in and bring in a much more offense-focused mindset. The Predators were much more effective offensively than in years past, and the team had a very solid overall season. For at least the first half of the season it seemed as though Nashville was one of the top “teams to beat.” The team lost some momentum as the year wore on, but Nashville still managed to finish second in the Central Division and third overall in the Western Conference. Though the Preds were eliminated by the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs, the team had an excellent regular season and has kept the team’s core intact for this upcoming season. With the re-signing of multiple key free agents, along with a few offseason acquisitions, the Predators are poised to repeat last year’s success and take another shot at a deep playoff run.
 

Training Camp Information: Nashville Predators
 

Offseason Overview

Trades:

  • Conditional 2016 4th-round pick to Calgary for F Max Reinhart
  • Rights to G Magnus Hellberg to New York Rangers for 2017 6th-round pick
  • F Taylor Beck to Toronto for F Jamie Devane

Re-Signed:

  • G Juuse Saros (3-year ELC with AAV* of $692,500)
  • F Mike Fisher (2-year deal with AAV* of $4.4 million)
  • F Austin Watson (2-year deal with AAV* of $575,000)
  • F Mike Ribeiro (2-year deal with AAV* of $3.5 million)
  • F Gabriel Bourque (1-year contract at $866,250)
  • F Max Reinhart (1-year contract at $575,000)
  • D Conor Allen (1-year contract at $575,000)
  • F Cody Bass (1-year contract at $575,000)
  • F Vladislav Kamenev (3-year ELC with AAV* of $864,166)
  • F Yakov Trenin (3-year ELC with AAV* of $792,500)
  • D Anthony Bitetto (1-year contract at $665,600)
  • D Taylor Aronson (1-year contract at $605,000)
  • F Calle Jarnkrok (1-year contract at $735,000)
  • F Craig Smith (5-year deal with AAV* of $4.25 million)
  • D Jack Dougherty (3-year ELC with AAV* of $717,500)
  • F Colin Wilson (4-year deal with AAV* of $3.9375 million)
  • D Trevor Murphy (3-year ELC with AAV* of $925,000)

Free Agents Signed:

  • D Barret Jackman (2-year deal with AAV* of $2 million)
  • F Cody Hodgson (1-year contract at $1.05 million)
  • F Joe Pendenza–PTO
  • F Eric Robinson–PTO
  • D Jimmy Oligny–PTO
  • G Brandon Whitney–PTO
  • F Frederick Gaudreau–PTO

Draft Recap:

  • Round 2 (55) C Yakov Trenin
  • Round 3 (85) C Thomas Novak
  • Round 4 (100) C Anthony Richard
  • Round 4 (115) D Alexandre Carrier
  • Round 5 (145) G Karel Vejmelka
  • Round 6 (175) C Tyler Moy
  • Round 7 (205) G Evan Smith

Notable Extensions:
None

Free Agents Lost:

  • D Joe Piskula–Anaheim
  • F Viktor Stalberg–New York Rangers
  • F Matt Cullen–Pittsburgh
  • F Mike Santorelli–Anaheim
  • D Cody Franson–Buffalo
  • F Juuso Puustinen–has been playing for HIFK (SM-liiga)–NSH lost NHL rights July 1
  • D Teemu Laaksa–has been playing for Växjö Lakers (Sweden)–NSH lost NHL rights July 1
  • F Kevin Henderson–UFA
  • G Atte Engren–has been playing for Atlant Moscow Oblast (KHL)–NSH lost NHL rights July 1
  • F Josh Shalla–UFA
  • F Mark Van Guilder–UFA
  • D Anton Volchenkov–UFA
  • F Zach Budish–UFA
  • G Chris Mason–retired

Buyouts:
None

Organizational Changes:
None
 
*AAV=Average Annual Value (cap hit)
 

Significant Moves

Here are the most significant moves the Predators have made this offseason, and how they will affect this upcoming season:

  1. Cody Hodgson: Steal of the Offseason
  2. hodgson

    James Guillory-USA Today Sports


    The Nashville Predators signed forward Cody Hodgson to a one-year contract with a cap hit of only $1.05 million. Hodgson had a terrible season last year, eventually leading to the Sabres buying out the rest of his six-year $25.5 million contract that he signed in September 2013. Hodgson, originally taken 10th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2008 draft and subsequently traded to Buffalo in exchange for forward Zack Kassian, scored only 13 points in 78 games in the 2014-2015 season. Though Buffalo was the worst team in the league, Hodgson struggled consistently throughout the season no matter where he played. By contrast, Hodgson scored career highs in goals, assists and points the season before, going 20-24-44 in 72 games. Hodgson has not lived up to expectations but remains a talented young player capable of scoring goals and making plays. Signing him to a one-year $1.05 million contract is practically a zero-risk move with the potential to be a very high-reward move for the Predators. Hodgson has been overlooked by many, especially after being bought out by Buffalo. However, Hodgson is still a very gifted player and could have a great comeback season this year with the Predators; after all, one would think a player would be motivated after being bought out by the worst team in the league in the middle of a rebuild. Though he will most likely play a third-line role, especially at the beginning of the season, Hodgson can still put points on the board and be an effective player for the Predators. He is capable of playing center or wing and is certainly capable of producing in a top-six role in case of injury. Considering the lack of risk and the potential reward involved in this move, this could very well prove to be the absolute steal of the offseason.
     

  3. Got Mike?
  4. Fisher

    Mike Fisher, via nhl.com


    ribeiro

    Mike Ribeiro, John Russell-NHL Getty Images


    The Predators came into the offseason needing to re-sign forwards Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro. Fisher is one of the faces of the franchise, and Ribeiro has become a key part of the offense after a very strong season last year. Despite missing a large chunk of the season, Fisher was able to come in and score 39 points in 59 games last year. He scored 19 goals and 20 assists after missing the first quarter of the season, which is pretty remarkable. Had the Predators had him all year, Nashville probably would have finished with an even better record, which bodes well for the team’s chances this year assuming Fisher can stay healthy. Mike Ribeiro, on the other hand, finished second in scoring on the Predators behind rookie Filip Forsberg and played a crucial role as the team’s first-line center. Ribeiro scored 15 goals and had an impressive 47 helpers. Though Ribeiro has had some personal issues in the past, he had an excellent season last year in Nashville and will be looked upon to do so again this year.
     

  5. Re-Signing Wilson and Smith
  6. Wilson

    Colin Wilson, via predators.nhl.com


    craig smith

    Craig Smith, Frederick Breedon-Getty Images)


    Colin Wilson and Craig Smith are entering the prime of their careers and are crucial members of the Predators’ core. The Nashville organization was faced with several restricted free agents this offseason but took care of re-signing the two most important ones in Wilson and Smith. The re-signing of 25-year-old Wilson and 26-year-old Smith to four- and five-year deals, respectively, ensures that the team is set with a talented crop of forwards that will continue to develop and improve their game. Wilson scored a career-high 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) last season, and Smith put up 44 points after a career-high 52-point campaign in the 2013-2014 season. Along with Forsberg, James Neal, Ribeiro and Fisher, Wilson and Smith make up the rest of the group of top-six forwards on the Preds. Seeing the Predators’ management making sure these players are locked up for at least a few years is very telling to the Nashville fanbase that the organization is serious about winning.

 

Possible Line Combinations

It is difficult to know for sure how lines will shape up after training camp and the preseason. This is especially true when it comes to newly-signed forward sensation Steve Moses; will he crack the top 12 despite his small size and lack of NHL experience? Will prospect Kevin Fiala make the team out of camp? Is he truly ready for NHL action? All of that being said, here is one possible set of line combinations for the Predators in 2015-2016:
 

Forwards
Forsberg-Ribeiro-Neal
Wilson-Fisher-Smith
Moses-Hodgson-Jarnkrok
Bourque-Gaustad-Nystrom

Defensemen
Josi-Weber
Ekholm-Ellis
Jackman-Jones

Goalies
Rinne
Hutton
 

Disagree?

Explain in the comments below!
 

Final Thoughts

The Predators have all the pieces in place to make an impressive run this year. Re-signing Fisher, Ribeiro, Wilson and Smith, as well as taking a chance on Hodgson and signing veteran defenseman Barret Jackman to a two-year deal are all strong moves for the Predators moving forward. Though it will be very difficult to repeat last year’s results in the Central Division and in a strong Western Conference, Nashville is certainly tough competition for its opponents around the league and is capable of putting together another successful campaign. The Predators will have to address the team’s difficulties on the power-play, as Nashville finished 25th in the league with a power-play percentage of only 16.2 percent. Nashville is hoping second-year forward sensation Filip Forsberg can pick up where he left off last year and avoid hitting the sophomore slump that claims many players the year after a strong rookie season. Having Fisher healthy for the beginning of the season will be of great help to the team’s overall success, and though forward sniper James Neal is currently day-to-day, he should be ready when the puck is dropped in the Predators’ home opener on October 8 against the Hurricanes. While the Predators will be competing in the strongest division in the league, the team should be able to easily earn a playoff spot based on the tremendous depth at defense, the revitalized group of forwards and the stellar play of goaltender Pekka Rinne.
 

Stay tuned for offseason overviews of all 30 NHL teams.
 
Featured image via predators.nhl.com