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PBR Roundtable: Nashville Predators Off-Season

PBR Roundtable: Nashville Predators Off-Season

It has been almost five months since Elliotte Friedman broke the news that David Poile would retire as Nashville Predators general manager and turn the reins over to former coach Barry Trotz. Since that weekend there have been trades, more trades, a buyout and multiple free agent signings. Not to mention a draft week in Nashville that celebrated David Poile’s career and legacy.

While Barry Trotz did not officially become the GM until July 1, it is clear that his fingerprints have been all over what has transpired with the Predators roster and coaching staff. Now that the dust has settled and the work appears to be largely complete, it’s time to take a pause and evaluate what we’ve seen thus far.

Boyd Farrish, Nick Morgan, and Alex Daugherty share their thoughts in this edition of PBR Roundtable.

What is your opinion of what Barry Trotz has accomplished with the Predators roster turnover thus far?

Boyd: Barry Trotz set out to remake the Predators roster and so far he has done that. He has moved out remnants of the previous core while only keeping those who fit his image of the future. He has also brought in players of Stanley Cup pedigree and a type of culture that he wants to establish with a new core of young talent on the doorstep of contributing at the NHL level. Without seeing any on-ice results yet I would say he has done well to make a strong first impression and purposeful decisions for the future.

Nick: If nothing else, it’ll be a different team hitting the ice next year, which isn’t a bad outcome for the direction the team seemed headed just a few months ago. As Boyd alluded to, it felt like Trotz’s biggest goal would be to bring in veteran culture pieces without creating a log-jam limiting chances for younger players, and looking at the current depth chart, that certainly feels like the case. The way Trotz accomplished that, however, might be worth putting under the microscope. Some bigger-than-expected free agent deals, salary retention, and buyouts have taken a sizable chunk out of the Preds’ cap flexibility, which could leave the Preds in a trickier-than-ideal situation a few years down the road.

Alex: It’s worth examining Barry Trotz’s moves both in the context of the larger, glacial moves the organization is making and in the context of the 2023-24 season. Over the course of many seasons, I think these moves will be progressive and lead to a more competitive team. For this upcoming season? I don’t really get it. Ryan O’Reilly seems to think this team can contend, despite the fact they are down two top six forwards from last year’s squad and will presumably replace them with unproven guys. I have my doubts. However, I do think next year’s team will be more enjoyable to watch, and they’ll ice a squad much more like the final 22 games of last year, rather than the first 60.

Do you consider not trading up in the draft to be a missed opportunity?

Boyd: I do, though not for the deals being rumored to jump into the 4 or 5 slot. With so much draft capital at his disposal, Barry Trotz could afford to even overpay a little to move from the 2nd round into the late 1st and pick up Andrew Cristall or Kasper Halttunen. Either player would have fit the “big swings to get people out of their seats” mantra preached by Trotz pre-draft. Drafting 11 players puts a lot into the pipeline but there was a missed opportunity to enhance the caliber of talent added on draft day.

Nick: By the sounds of it, there weren’t many (if any at all) teams willing to drop back out of the first round, and with as deep as this draft was, you can’t really blame them. It sounds like Trotz tried like hell to move up a couple of times, but I don’t hold anything against him for not getting a deal done.

Alex: Definitely not. Trading up isn’t a silver bullet. If they had traded up to the top three, yes, but that was never going to happen. I’ve been preaching quantity of draft picks for months now. I like their chances of hitting on one or two of these 11 draft pics, especially with six of them being top 100 draft picks.

What would you consider the Predators’ best move thus far?

Nick: If you’re going on player alone, then Ryan O’Reilly is the perfect player for where this team is right now. We’ve heard about him as a “culture” piece and a “natural-born winner” and all that jazz. But as a player, he’s versatile enough that you can play him virtually anywhere in the lineup and his skillset wouldn’t be out of place. He’s someone who can shoulder the defensive burden on a line with players like Luke Evangelista or Phil Tomasino, guys still trying to develop their two-way games. He contributes on both the penalty kill and power play, and has enough scoring pop to help with depth scoring.

Alex: I like the Gustav Nyquist signing. Cheap, shorter term. Should be a stop gap in the event that either Tomasino or Evangelista struggle with a full time role. Plus he seems to have some personality, which is not a bad thing!

Boyd: I’m a fan of the choice to both bring in Andrew Brunette as the head coach but also to keep Dan Hinote as part of the staff. By much of what I’ve read/heard Brunette will bring a more offensive focus and highlight the skill that is coming onto the Predators roster. As for Hinote, he is such a positive vibe to the players and did great work establishing a penalty kill system that by the end of the season was a menace to opposing power plays.

What would you consider to be the most questionable move?

Boyd: Honestly, it’s buying out Matt Duchene. While I understand the reasoning of creating more pathways for the young players to emerge I look at it with the lens of “why now?”. Barry Trotz is taking on a lot of dead cap for a lot of years just to get out from under a contract that wouldn’t get worse over time since the cap is set to go up more significantly starting in 2024. Give Duchene a chance to put up numbers under Andrew Brunette to see if his trade value rises. If not, then buy him out next summer when the impact will be lessened. The hard reset makes sense, but the buyout is a heavy cost to do so.

Nick: I’ll have to agree with Boyd. Was the Duchene contract good? Not at all. Was he still a decent player who could have helped this team? Sure. And are three more years of an $8M cap hit across three seasons you’re not expected to be a contender any worse than six seasons of dead cap? I don’t get this one.

Alex: Luke Schenn makes little to no sense on this roster. He is now the 4th right handed defenseman on the roster, plus the team still has Jake Livingstone and Jordan Gross to consider. He has size, yes, but he does not speed, which is something the team needs. Schenn’s “veteran presence” is undeniable, but I don’t think he’s so much better than Jeremy Lauzon that they need him for the next three years at $8.25 million.

What player has you the most intrigued ahead of training camp?

Boyd: I am really fascinated to see Zach L’Heureux. The past couple years he has looked good in camp but everyone knew he was going back to juniors. Zach has a blend of skill and snarl that is pretty unique among the Predators prospect pool and he has a real opportunity to see big minutes in the AHL coming out of camp.

Nick: I’m not saying he’s going to make the NHL team, but I’m intrigued to see Joakim Kemell get his shot at playing alongside NHL talent in training camp. During his late-season run with Milwaukee last year, there looked to be a lot of aspects of his game that were “NHL-ready.” Kemell still has a few things to work on, particularly his off-the-puck awareness, so he’ll likely start with the Admirals again this year. But if he has a strong camp, a mid-season call-up isn’t off the table.

Alex: Jake Livingstone. I was very impressed by his first five games in the NHL last year. I’d like to see if he can force the team to make a trade with one of these other right-handed defensemen.

Put yourself in the GM chair, what is one move you would make prior to the ‘23-24 season?

Boyd: This is probably a bit obvious, but trade a right handed defenseman. Even with Jake Livingstone likely to be in the AHL at the start of the season, there are simply too many skaters on the right side. Tyson Barrie is the somewhat obvious choice as an older veteran only having one year left on his deal but if there is a better offer out there for Fabbro or Carrier it is at least worth considering. In the end though, all four players need a spot in the lineup and unless Jeremy Lauzon is being bumped to the 7th defenseman (which I don’t see as likely) then a trade is the next option.

Nick: I disagree; the Preds should have MORE right-handed defensemen! In fact, they should go after every right-handed blueliner left on the market! They should then form a little group called the “Right Brothers” and wear matching t-shirts to every game.

Alex: Well, other than the RHD move all three of us just alluded to, I wonder if the Preds don’t do something with one of these players: Cole Smith, Mark Jankowski, or Michael McCarron. The Denis Gurianov signing suggests one of those players is on the way out. My money would be on Cole Smith, since John Hynes is no longer the coach.

Most/Least favorite bit of Preds Twitter discourse this off-season?

Nick: The assertion that signing Denis Gurianov to a one-year, $850K deal somehow indicates that 21-year-old Phil Tomasino is somehow on thin ice with the organization.

Alex: Probably the endless “should they/shouldn’t they” trade Juuse Saros. There is merit in the idea either way, but it’s just confused fans everywhere about the value of goaltenders. If they were to trade Saros, I bet he wouldn’t get the return most Preds fans are expecting. If he isn’t traded, the team still might not compete for a Stanley Cup anytime soon. Ultimately, while goaltending is the most important position in hockey, it isn’t everything (as Vegas showed us last year).

Which non-Predators team(s) have had the best off-season?

Boyd: The Devils stick out to me at this point. Tom Fitzgerald has accomplished a lot to lock up their stars in Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier while also moving out a potential big contract in Damon Severson that frees up a lineup spot for Simon Nemec. They’re a team on the rise and have only put themselves in a better place to continue their ascent. If Fitzgerald finds a way to pry Hellebuyck out of Winnipeg then look out.

Nick: The Red Wings. Not only does Steve Yzerman land a repeat 40-goal scorer to build in around in Alex DeBrincat (and in an absolute bargain of a deal, I might add), but he added a number of other pieces that should solidify Detroit’s depth in the middle of their lineup. JT Compher, Daniel Sprong, Klim Kostin, and Christian Fischer are all solid middle-to-bottom six forwards, while Justin Holl and Shayne Gostisbehere add some firepower to the defense. Assuming Dylan Larkin stays hot and Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider can take the next steps in their development, the Red Wings may be players for a playoff spot.

Alex: I like Nick’s take on the Red Wings, they will be much better. But I will say the Chicago Blackhawks. I really like what they did in the draft and with acquiring Taylor Hall. Oh and then there’s this:

Hot take on the ‘23-24 season that you totally won’t be held to.

Boyd: Luke Evangelista will play more AHL games than NHL… until the trade deadline. I understand the desire to have him in the NHL full time and I won’t be shocked if that happens. But Trotz is a big believer in the “road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee” so Luke will spend more time there until the inevitable sell-off at the 2024 trade deadline.

Nick: Cody Glass asserts himself as the Preds’ number one center and puts up at least 60 points. Glass found perhaps the best form of his career towards the end of last season, when the Preds’ roster strife forced him into a primary role. Glass should stay in that role this season, but with a healthy Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi playing alongside him.

Alex: I’ll give a few. Ryan O’Reilly flexes his muscle, puts up a 60+ point season, and wins the first Lady Byng trophy in franchise history. Juuso Parssinen scores 22 goals in his sophomore season. Alex Carrier is traded at the deadline. The Preds make the playoffs and win their first round, beating Matt Duchene and the Dallas Stars in seven games.

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