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Nashville Predators Offseason 2023: Winds of Change

Nashville Predators Offseason 2023: Winds of Change

Wow, what a week it was in Nashville Predators land. It all started when Ryan Johansen was traded to division rival Colorado for a pure salary dump. Then a couple days later restricted free agent defenseman Jake Livingstone was re-signed to a two year contract which immediately spiraled into speculation that Alex Carrier could be next on the trade block. With the NHL draft on the horizon in Nashville, rumors started flying from various insiders that GM Barry Trotz was trying to move up from the 15th pick into the top 5 and was willing to part with goalie prospect Yaroslav Askarov to do it. Ultimately, a deal never came together and the Predators picked in their assigned slots but the willingness for Barry Trotz to make a bold move was clear. Through the draft the Predators added eleven prospects into the pipeline, highlighted by forward Matthew Wood and defenseman Tanner Molendyk. While I could attempt to evaluate all those picks, our man Eric Dunay does it far better and has it all covered. Check out all his analysis here:

While a big trade didn’t happen at the draft, a day later the landscape of the Predators changed dramatically. In a wildly unexpected maneuver the Predators elected to exercise a buyout on forward Matt Duchene. This decision could not have been taken lightly as the buyout cost will see millions of dollars in dead money on the Predators’ salary cap across the next six years. But, as the release from Barry Trotz via the Predators’ Twitter account stated,

“This is the continuation of an organizational process that started at the trade deadline – our desire to change the roster, allowing our emerging players the chance to grow and develop, while also creating the flexibility to build a team that will become a Stanley Cup contender.”

Barry Trotz via Nashville Predators PR

The move to buy out Matt Duchene left not only the Predators social media landscape, but the league-wide media as well, stunned. It’s not every year a team simply gives away their leading scorer from the prior two years while also eating significant salary. But it’s a new day in Nashville and Barry Trotz has the freedom and runway to build the Predators the way he envisions. So what would that mean for the Predators going into free agency? Well, not what most everyone expected.

Instead of leaning in on youth and flexibility, Barry Trotz went free agent frenzy with signings heavy on culture and experience. A three headed monster of over 30 free agents was signed, all to multi-year contracts. The obvious headliner of the group is center Ryan O’Reilly who is still a very effective player and will immediately fill a top 6 center role in Nashville. The Predators also signed defenseman Luke Schenn and winger Gustav Nyquist who will fill depth roles in the lineup. Per Barry Trotz’s words, a big part of the Schenn signing was for Josi protection so we could see that pairing at least to start the season. Later in the day contract extensions were announced for Nashville’s two remaining restricted free agents, Cody Glass and Alexandre Carrier. That is a lot of business getting done in a single day to enhance the veteran group within the roster and ensure two of the younger talents are locked in to avoid salary arbitration.

TORONTO, ON – MAY 12: Toronto Maple Leafs center Ryan O’Reilly (90) tracks the puck while Florida Panthers defenseman Marc Staal (18) applies pressure from behind during the first period of game 5 in the Eastern Conference Second Round between the Florida Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 12, 2023, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Gavin Napier/Icon Sportswire)

So there it is. As of July 11th, the Nashville Predators have completed David Poile’s final draft, officially handed the general manager reins to Barry Trotz, moved on from two core veteran forwards, brought in three new veteran leaders and took care of their restricted free agents. Quite a busy week with the NHL world in Nashville.


Earlier this summer on The Predator Way podcast I laid out four ways that in my mind would be the perfect Nashville Predators offseason. To date, Barry Trotz has accomplished two of them by taking care of the RFA contracts and moving out Ryan Johansen. I had also hoped that the Predators would be able to use some of their draft capital to either upgrade their draft position in the first round or bring in a high level NHL talent. A draft day trade never materialized and while a trade for an NHL talent like, say, Alex DeBrincat is still a possibility though seemingly less likely after the free agent signings.

What I really did not see coming was bringing in not just one veteran player, but three and all to multi-year deals. I am completely on board with reshaping the culture, just like Peter Laviolette and John Hynes did previously but the investment both in terms of dollars and term feels really high. Each of O’Reilly, Nyquist and Schenn are understandable signings by themselves but all told the Predators are giving out 9 years of term and over $32M in salary to three players in their mid-30’s. Where I really have concern is the seeming 180 from the quote earlier in this article where Barry Trotz talked about having a roster where young players can emerge. Moving on from Duchene and Johansen certainly accomplished that but then adding three veteran players who will all command regular playing time now blocks the ascension of possibly a player like Luke Evangelista or Joakim Kemell. On the flip side, if the three veteran players provide the culture and leadership that helps bring out the best in the Predators roster then the risk embedded in the term given to older players would have been worth it.

In my opinion, the Predators had an opportunity this summer with extensive draft capital and cap space to really be aggressive in acquiring talent, whether it was through the draft or trades. At the least the cap space could be utilized to acquire more futures. It is clear that Barry Trotz has been in the middle of things and it’s unfortunate that the right deal hasn’t been found. For me, however, I would not have committed so heavily to the veteran aspect given the number of other free agents that could have been signed for less money and certainly less term.

In terms of what could still happen, I don’t see much else taking place from a free agency perspective unless Barry Trotz decides to take a chance with the recently bought out Red Wings forward Filip Zadina. I will be interested to see if the Predators get more visibly in the Alex DeBrincat sweepstakes. While they have been rumored as a destination on a few occasions it has seemed preordained that he will end up in Detroit. The other situation with smoke that hasn’t seemed to go away is Brett Pesce. The Hurricanes defenseman has one year left on his contract and on the surface doesn’t feel like a fit in Nashville, though he would certainly be a defensive upgrade on the right side. Where it becomes interesting is that Pesce seems to be caught up in the Canes attempts to clear roster and cap space for Erik Karlsson. If that is the case then Nashville has the cap space to absorb Pesce’s contract in full but typically players of his caliber aren’t full on cap dumps. It will be fascinating to see how it plays out. 

Overall it has been a landscape shifting off-season for the Nashville Predators. Barry Trotz set out to reshape the roster and the culture surrounding it and in large part he has been successful. He committed to being aggressive in identifying and acquiring talent and while not all the deals have happened it is clear Trotz is not one to stand pat when he has work he wants to get done. Looking ahead to the ‘23-24 preseason and season the Predators are still armed with cap flexibility and a boatload of draft capital to make moves as other teams inevitably look to make changes. If nothing else there are exciting days ahead as we all see how the Predators roster and pipeline continue to take shape. 

Contract information courtesy of Cap Friendly

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