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The Key to the Nashville Predators Off-season Signings, Part 2


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Entering the second half of The Predatorial’s look at the Predators off-season player acquisition tasks, we will be looking at the current active roster players that may/will have an opportunity to test free agency.

There are currently NINE active roster players in the organization that have contracts expiring into some type of Free Agent status, which we’ll look at after the break:

4 are Unrestricted Free Agents (meaning their contracts expire and they go swimming in the free agent pool with all the rest of the talent):

Marcel Goc, Shane O’Brien, Steve Sullivan, Joel Ward

5 are Restricted Free Agents (meaning their contracts do expire, yes, however if someone comes along with a better offer than the Predators send their way, the team that signs the player MUST compensate Nashville with draft picks):

Matt Halischuk, Sergei Kostitsyn, Cal O’Reilly, Nick Spaling, Shea Weber

As mentioned in the last article, Nashville looks like they will have about 18.5 million dollars in cap space available with all of these contracts potentially coming off the books. However, this doesn’t mean they’ll be able to spend 18.5 million dollars signing players.

The Predators always have a self-imposed cap and it usually hovers round the 8-10 million dollars in cap space mark. SO that being said, the Predators will most likely have around 10 million dollars to spend on the active players to re-sign. So, let’s look at the players and what I think will happen in alphabetical order:

Marcel Goc

Status: UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT

This Season: A somewhat sub-par season that was eventually ended with a shoulder injury that required surgery, Goc ended the year with 24 points in 51 games, which stands at about nearly what he had last year with the team (9g/15a this year compared to 12g/18a last year).

Although though the numbers aren’t stellar, you can’t argue that the numbers aren’t exemplary for a man who is the 4th lowest paid player on the active roster and (on paper) would make less than 8 of Nashville’s current prospects if they played in the NHL. Goc was essentially given a 2 year “trial” in Nashville to see how it would pan out. My thoughts? Panned out pretty well. I don’t see him changing sweaters next season

Outlook: RE-SIGNED (increased pay, mid-range deal)

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Matt Halischuk

Status: RESTRICTED FREE AGENT

This Season: Arguably one of the best fourth-liners in the entire NHL after seeing what he offered, Halischuk originally was called up to Nashville after multiple injuries slammed the team. In 27 total games with the big boys, Halischuk banked 12 points (4g/8a), which is equal to the SAME number of points that Mike Fisher had since joining the Predators (12 points in 27 games, strangely enough). He also netted 23 points for the Admirals in 37 games and 2 points for each club in their respective playoff pushes.

He is one of the few prospects that I would be a bit angry if Nashville let go. Drafted in 2007 and brought up by New Jersey before being traded to the Predators for Jason Arnott, Halischuk has an extremely bright future ahead if he were to stay with Nashville. You have to think upper management sees this as well

Outlook: RE-SIGNED (increased pay, mid-range deal)

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Sergei Kostitsyn

Status: RESTRICTED FREE AGENT

This Season: What almost appeared to be a “failed experiment” in Nashville has turned into a rare blossoming flower that has surprised most of the NHL.

Having his highest point total in the NHL (50 points, 23g/27a) and leading the league in shooting percentage, Sergei Kostitsyn made David Poile look like an absolute genius this year after taking the troubled Belarusian off of Montreal’s hands last off-season.

Yet, even after his awful second-round performance against the Canucks, Kostitsyn has bought into Nashville’s system and has turned into a fine young 24 year old professional ice hockey player and can have a great career in Nashville if he wants to stay. Regardless of the fact, he’ll get a pay raise wherever he goes, so if Nashville doesn’t sign him then they’ll most likely get compensation in return.

Outlook: RE-SIGNED (increased pay, mid-range deal)

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Shane O’Brien

Status: UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT

This Season: O’Brien was brought onto the Predators team to serve a purpose: Bring the intensity you had in Vancouver and try to stay out of the box as much as you can. He succeeded in nearly everything Nashville hoped to gain out of him and was quite a surprise bolster to the Predators blue line, stepping up in the absence of Francis Bouillon.

O’Brien wasn’t an offensive defenseman in any way shape or form (9 points in 80 games), but only averaged around half a penalty a game (1.03 PIM/Game), which is only about half of his career average in PIM/Game (2.02 PIM/Game career average).

Although I would personally welcome O’Brien back in a heartbeat to Nashville, there are too many defenseman lying in the weeds waiting for their “One Shot” with the big club and Poile could use the money O’Brien would request on re-signing other players or looking in the free agency for a forward.

Outlook: GONE

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Cal O’Reilly

Status: RESTRICTED FREE AGENT

This Season: Just like Goc, another promising season cut down too early by an injury. Breaking his leg in a January game against Columbus, O’Reilly was healthy enough to return during the last week of the season and the playoffs, however the Predators didn’t really give him another chance to play (I mean, would you alter chemistry in already built lines to give a previous top liner a chance to come back in? I always say, “If it works, don’t mess with it”)

18 points in 38 games, O’Reilly looked great at the start of the year however before his injury occurred he was in the middle of an 11-game pointless slump. Overall, I’ve never really been sold on O’Reilly. 34 points in 80 total games (over 3 years) with Nashville, however he seems to do awesome with the Admirals. Who does this sound like? Nearly every player that is not re-signed by Nashville. (Ex: Rich Peverly)

I think a change of scenario would do Cal a bit of good

Outlook: GONE (compensation received)

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Nick Spaling

Status: RESTRICTED FREE AGENT

This Season: Spaling is one of the true gems on the Predators team. He is, essentially, a jack-of-all-trades type player: He can score goals, he can win faceoffs, he can kill penalties, he can do just about EVERYTHING, and he’s a really good interview as well (http://www.thepredatorial.com/2011/03/11/spalings-tireless-efforts-showcase-one-of-the-leagues-best/).

One of the best things about Spaling, though, is that he is a “Predator”-type player. For all of the players who come in and out of the Nashville locker room, there are few that really get it, and Spaling is one of them. What a shame it would be to not see him resigned

Outlook: RE-SIGNED (increased pay, mid-range deal)

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Steve Sullivan

Status: UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT

This Season: Nashville’s ageless wonder and resident Masterson Trophy winner, Sullivan again battled with injury problems this year (in his last year of his current contract). Only 44 games played this season but still racking up 28 points, Sullivan still shows what he can offer to this team on a consistent basis if he’s not fighting an injury.

What’s more interesting is that he’s one of a handful of players that was drafted in the later rounds (9th and up) of the 1994 draft that is still playing. Who else? Try Tomas Holmstrom, Tim Thomas, and Tomas Vokoun. Those names ring a bell?

Sullivan DEFINITELY still has more in the tank and I would love for him to finish as a Predator. He’s said publicly said the same as well, however he’ll have to give Nashville a bit of a hometown discount if he wants to really stick around, which I think he will.

Outlook: RE-SIGNED (less pay, short term deal)

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Joel Ward

Status: UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT

This Season: Joel Ward is one of my favorite players with the Nashville Predators, I won’t lie. Re-signed to a 2-year deal two seasons ago along with Steve Sullivan, there were hopes of him pumping offense into an offensively challenged team after his 17 goal first season with the Predators in 2008.

Although his point totals have dropped minimally in the past two seasons, Ward still has the ability to dazzle and showcase the reason the Predators signed him in the first place a couple of seasons ago. What’s more shocking? The fact that not only a week or so ago that Ward was the LEAGUE LEADER in goals for all players in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs (prior to the Predators being bounced).

Ward definitely has the potential and has the ability to be one of Nashville’s best forwards, albeit definitely streak at times. Yet, will he ask for too much money in return to staying?

Outlook: GONE

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Shea Weber

Status: RESTRICTED FREE AGENT

This Season: As first-season Captain and Norris Trophy finalist, Weber did everything right for the franchise, his teammates, the fans, and made sure everyone knew one largely important fact: Shea Weber is one of the best leaders in the entire National Hockey League.

Weber’s booming cannon from the blue line is feared by not only his teammates but opposing players and goaltenders alike. He commands respect, doesn’t take shifts off, takes responsibility for the problems the team may face on the ice, and is everything you could want for someone to lead your team.

However, I have one major concern: Weber is saying all the right things about staying in Nashville…however what happens on June 29th if he hasn’t been re-signed by the team? Yes, I definitely believe he is sincere in his comments about how he loves Nashville, doesn’t want to lead, and wants to keep leading this team, but there are definitely some opportunities out there that most players wouldn’t pass up:

Vancouver – Weber would have a chance to play in his home province, with a fellow former Ex-Predator (Dan Hamhuis), and potentially play for the Stanley Cup Champions (if Vancouver finishes the season on top). With GM Mike Gillis definitely looking at trying to bolster his blue line a bit more, why not go after the single most coveted defenseman?

Detroit – Brian Rafalski just retired and Shea Weber said during the All-Star Game this past season that playing with Lidstrom was “something I’ll never forget. I watched him growing up and just being able to play in game with him is pretty cool.” Think about if Weber had the opportunity to play with him full time. Think about if Lidstrom had the opportunity to play with Weber full time. BOTH players would relish the chance at that and that could force Lidstrom to play a few more years to have a bit of fun with Weber on the team

Those are just two of the possibilities out there, and most teams will definitely try to be in the bidding war for Weber come July 1st IF he’s still available.

Outlook: RE-SIGNED (increased pay, long term deal)

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SO! Out of the 9 players with contracts expiring, my brain thinks that two-thirds of those will get contracts to remain with the team in their current role or something greater (or less, depending on their performance).

Yeah, six is a pretty lofty goal and I am on the fence about Marcel Goc and Steve Sullivan, however I think that the six I chose have the best chance of coming back to the team next season.

Biggest question, though? Shea Weber. He’s said he wants to be here for the long haul, you just have to hope he lives true to his words

Thanks for reading!

~KM