Hopefully Santa will be in the gift-giving mode early this year and bring the Predators some much needed pieces for a solid team this year. With the departure of Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov with the looming departure of Jordin Tootoo and possibly Ryan Suter, it’ll be up to GM David Poile to fish out some winners in what many are citing as a not-so-deep pool of talent to be angling.
With that in mind, we will delve into the available options at forward, defense and goaltending to fill some of Nashville’s gaps and what might bring in the extra charge of talent needed for another successful season of Predators hockey.
I touched on some of these players in my previous article, but I wanted to go a little further and explain why they might be beneficial to Nashville without the overpayment that some teams are inevitably going to do come July 1st. I took out such players as Zach Parise and Olli Jokinen because I believe that some other teams are going to throw ridiculous amounts of money at them and Nashville (although they say they are going to spend closer to the salary cap ceiling) is not known for dropping mega-bucks on the UFA market.
I also did not include any of the non-qualified RFA’s because after looking at their numbers and the steady rockslide their numbers have taken in the last few years, Nashville shouldn’t be that interested in picking up another project to reassemble (sorry to Mueller, Latendresse, and Wolski).
In the forward category it comes down to three players: Ray Whitney, Jiri Hudler and PA Parenteau. With the absence of Tootoo and A. Kostitsyn, the Predators are more in need of a LW so Hudler and Whitney would be first and foremost. Since depth is an issue for all teams, it would be wise to consider Parenteau as well to address some offensive gaps in our system brought to light in the Phoenix series.
Ray Whitney – 24G, 53A, 77P, +26, 8PPG
If you can’t beat them…have them join you. Whitney is the Selanne of the NHL without the adulation. Whitney is pushing 41 this season and with that comes the usual cry of “he’s too old.” Fortunately, Whitney has never let that deter him from being one of the most consistent scorers in the NHL over the last 10 years only falling below 50 points once (with Detroit in the 2003-2004 season). Ray Whitney is an ageless wonder much like Selanne and would provide instant scoring and set-up help for the top lines of Nashville along with veteran leadership for budding forwards like Smith, Wilson and Bourque.
Predators should offer: 2 yrs/$3.5M per
Jiri Hudler – 25G, 25A, 50P, +10
Hudler has been another nemesis for the Predators and what better way to get back at our rivals (especially if they try to sign Ryan Suter) than to get one of their younger high-powered offensive weapons in Hudler. He plays with a ton of grit and some heavy duty linemates in Motown, but that edge and a willingness to go hard to the net and the corners will win him brownie points with coach Trotz. Imagine having a Tootoo with better hands and positioning and you have Hudler. An added bonus is he doesn’t miss many games (unless of course you count that stint in the KHL).
Predators should offer: 4 yrs/$4M per
PA Parenteau – 18G, 49A, 67P, -8, 6PPG
Parenteau is the single most underrated player in this year’s UFA market. Yes it’s true he gets a ton of points because he has Moulson and Tavares as teammates, but Parenteau could be the next JP Dumont for the Predators (he’s an assist machine). The Islanders haven’t given him a reason to stay and I’m sure PA wants to be on a team that consistently makes the playoffs and will offer him a multi-year deal.
Predators should offer: 4 yrs./$3.5M per
I left Jay McClement off this wish list because I wish Gaustad would re-sign. If that doesn’t happen, throw in McClement for good measure for a 4th line center.
On defense, the biggest problem will be if Suter does indeed go the way of free agency and the Predators start moving to find somebody to replace the irreplaceable. There are many great options and the ones that stand out go from best case to stop-gap: Jason Garrison, Sheldon Souray and Carlo Colaiacovo. The first two would be a decent replacement for what Nashville would lose in Ryan Suter. The other would be some extra help on the second pairing with Kevin Klein while Josi/Ellis and Gill make up the 3rd pairing.
Jason Garrison – 16G, 17A, 33P, +6, 9PPG
Garrison should be the leading candidate for the Predators if they happen to lose Ryan Suter. Garrison has the offensive punch and plays the hard minutes much like Shea Weber. Garrison had a breakout year this season and a handsome raise is to be expected. By working with Brian Campbell in Florida, Garrison would be a great defensive partner for Shea Weber.
Predators should offer: 3 yrs./$4.2M per
Sheldon Souray – 6G, 15A, 21P, +11, 2PPG, 1SHG
Souray is getting up there in age but he still does the little things very well. He has a booming slap shot and he has played the tough minutes against the games best for years. He turned down a very good offer in Dallas, but the length may have been what Souray didn’t agree with so the Predators might want to extend it another year. This added time will allow for Ellis to develop more at the NHL level and players like Ekholm and Olivier-Roussel to get more experience in the AHL before moving up at Souray’s departure.
Predators should offer: 2 yrs/$3.2M per
Carlo Colaiacovo – 2G, 17A, 19P, +7, 2GWG
Carlo Colaiacovo is pure defense. Between him and Alex Pietrangelo, the Blues were set against the top forward lines in the league. Colaiacovo will not give the Predators much on the PP, but in PK situations he is a must-have. His need is diminished a touch by the signing of Hal Gill, but the Predators could get a very stout defensive player for not a lot of coin…think Kevin Klein with a tad more upside.
Predators should offer: 3 yrs/$2.75M per
The goaltending issue in Nashville is as much an afterthought as the production of their #1 goaltender Pekka Rinne. Lindback was a great back-up and Poile turned him into a great collection of 2nd round picks for this year’s draft. But the question remains…who will be the backup for Nashville. Some believe a promotion for Jeremy Smith is in the cards for the Predators, but Smith may be too green to handle the work load of an NHL back-up. Plus, the Predators might not want to over-work Pekka Rinne this season so the back-up must be competent enough to play at least 15-20 games. The ones that should be on the Predators radar are as follows: Jonas Gustavsson and Scott Clemmensen.
Jonas Gustavsson – 17W, 17L, 4OTL, .902 SV%, 2.92 GAA
Gustavsson is a great goalie to have in reserve. Once Toronto got Reimer and Giguere there just wasn’t enough room for Gustavsson to stick around. Gustavsson would provide a great tandem for the Nashville Predators and heaven forbid there be any type of injury to Rinne, Gustavsson could take over without skipping a beat with all the NHL experience he has had in Toronto. Also, if the Predators could sign him to a 2-3 year contract, that would give the Predators some leverage down the line to trade for picks much like they did with Lindback.
Predators should offer: 3 yrs./$2.5M per
Scott Clemmensen – 14W, 6L, 6OTL, .913 SV%, 2.57 GAA
Scott Clemmensen has been the pure definition of a safety net for goaltenders in Florida for the past 3 seasons. Last season he posted his highest win total since he played with the Devils in the 2008-2009 season. During a stretch of games this year, Clemmensen saved the Florida Panthers season with some admirable net-working going 3-0-1 in the last four games he played. Clemmensen need only be around for maybe one season while Magnus Hellberg gets warmed up to North-American ice in the AHL.
Predators should offer: 1 yr./$1.5M
Granted, if the Predators do sign Parise or Jokinen, all of us will be dumbfounded in our joy of improvement for the upcoming season, but I just wanted to keep things in perspective much like the GM of the Nashville Predators so often does by not overpaying for talent and finding the just-right fit for the “Predator Way”.
What say you? Am I on the right track? Do the Predators need to grab the brass ring? Is there someone else the Predators need over what is listed and why?