Last off-season Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile was easily the most active man during the NHL Draft/Free Agency Period. He orchestrated a trade for James Neal and grabbed a whole slew of veteran centers at bargain basement prices.
This year pundits predict that Poile might just turn off his cell phone and take an early Fourth of July vacation. Perhaps that has to do with the lack of value all but one 2014 summer signee provided.
Only Mike Ribeiro truly panned out (though Derek Roy went on to find a decent level of success in Edmonton). Ribeiro made Poile look like a genius by scoring 62 points on a $1.05 million contract. On the ice? Ribeiro was great in Nashville. Off of it? He still remains questionable – hence why he might not be back next season.
Even with all of the free agents crowding the locker stalls at Bridgestone Arena, rookie Filip Forsberg was a first-year sensation and clearly established himself as a budding star with Nashville. Meanwhile, Calle Järnkrok and the biggest surprise Taylor Beck each had fine first full NHL seasons (Järnkrok dressed in 74 games, Beck 62).
Ribeiro, along with former Admirals Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson, are potentially headed to new destinations. 38-year-old UFA Matt Cullen also might have played his last game in the Music City and the same goes for one-year fill-in Anton Volchenkov on the blue line.
If Nashville were to lose all or some of these names, Ribeiro, Santorelli, Franson, Cullen, and Volchenkov, that would leave the Predators with some noticeable holes to fill. But remember this was a team that just a year ago that was paying two players with over 100 games of NHL experience while sending Viktor Stålberg and Rich Clune to play in Milwaukee.
As far as the RFAs, Nashville qualified eight players yesterday, Predators forwards Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Gabriel Bourque, and Beck along with 2014-15 Admirals Anthony Bitetto, Taylor Aronson, and Magnus Hellberg. I expect Wilson, Smith, Beck, Bourque, Bitetto, and Aronson to all be back in the fold – but I have no idea on Hellberg.
“We know we have the right pieces in place,” Predators Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton said. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle [with the salary cap]. We have to figure out who fits where and what the price is. Sometimes, that comes at the expense of making hard decisions, but we knew [the qualified RFAs] were all going to be a piece here, and we wanted to make sure we retained their rights.”
I’m guessing Kevin Fiala will get every chance to fill the scoring void left by Ribeiro while Bitetto will get a serious look for a spot at the bottom of the Predators blue line. Thanks to great work in Milwaukee, the Predators are stocked with plenty of solid replacements for their departing players.
The questions revolve around other open roster slots vacated by guys like Santorelli and Cullen. Is it time for the Predators to see what they have in Austin Watson or Colton Sissons? Did Viktor Arvidsson or Pontus Åberg prove enough in their first North American seasons to warrant a chance to play in Nashville next year? Or will Poile surprise yet again and wade into the free agent pool.
Plenty of cheap veterans will reside after the dust settles on an over-priced day one of the Free Agent Frenzy tomorrow. TSN’s list of top players available is pretty dreadful. The best names include Mike Green, Johnny Oduya, Matt Beleskey, Justin Williams, Drew Stafford, Karri Rämö, and Michal Neuvirth.
Find out who goes where tomorrow afternoon in our annual Free Agent Signing Day Live Blog here on the Admirals Roundtable.
So Roundtable . . . What your expectations for the next few days? Are there any free agents you like to see in Nashville or in Milwaukee? Which of the RFAs and UFAs do you expect to re-sign? Does David Poile have any surprises up his sleeve this year?