The news throughout all Nashville sports media in the last off-season was the unfortunate departure of Ryan Suter. The Predators looked to Roman Josi to step into the sizable hole left by Suter and he did a fantastic job. The main issue wasn’t the stop-gap of losing one half of the dynamic duo, it was the trickle-down effect on the other two defensive lines.
This off-season, the Predators have more than enough room to start filling in their roster with players of a higher caliber instead of going to the cupboard year after year. Islanders captain, defenseman Mark Streit, has also said he doesn’t want to return to the organization. The issue is money, something the Predators will presumably not be short on going into the 2013-2014 season.
Mark Streit had 27 points this year (six goals, 21 assists) and turned it on in the playoffs with a two goal, three assist outburst in six games. He consistently ranks amongst the top defenseman in points scored year after year:
2006-2007 – 34th – 36 points
2007-2008 – 3rd – 62 points (Zidlicky 49 points)
2008-2009 – 7th – 56 points (Weber 53 points)
2009-2010 – 8th – 49 points (Weber 43 points)
2010-2011 – N/A – injured
2011-2012 – 9th – 47 points (Weber 49 points)
2012-2013 – 14th – 27 points
Points aren’t everything; the consistency of Weber’s offensive output combined with stellar defensive play is what gives him Norris consideration more often than not. Streit can put up a ton of points, quarterback a power play better than most defenseman in the NHL, but he does falter a touch in the defense department.
With a host of points in those years, Mark Streit is a combined -41 over the last two years. Even though many critics believe this to be a useless stat, it does point to some concern over his defensive capabilities. Yet, another defenseman that had a lopsided minus level for his career, Hockey Hall of Famer and new Predators assistant coach Phil Housley, proved that a combustible offensive output can overshadow defensive lapses. His smaller frame, similar to Streit’s, allowed for quick transitions up the ice with the speed to get into the offensive zone, creating shooting lanes to unleash a slapshot from the points and faceoff circles. Streit has intangible influence as well as his offensive-minded play. He has proven leadership as captain of the Islanders and led by example in the playoffs. Partnering with a classic stay-at-home defenseman like Kevin Klein could make for a great first/second line defensive unit with Weber and Josi on the first pair. When the Predators go on the power play, Striet can quarterback the second unit with either Blum, Ellis or Bartley and fire rockets at the goalkeeper. Speaking of Ellis, another smaller framed defenseman that has had trouble adjusting to the expectation of being a highly rated draft pick, Streit could become a great mentor for the younger players and snap them out of the drought that plagued the third defensive line all last season.
So, what remains to be done? It seems that Streit wants around $5.5M+ and three to four years on the contract. He’s no spring chicken either at 35 years old and only 24 other defensemen are older than Streit and still playing. Would it be worth taking a shot at Streit for his offensive prowess and leadership? Are there other defensemen coming out in free agency that the Predators should go after? Should the Predators stay in-house with the emergence of Victor Bartley and keep trying with Blum, Ekholm and Ellis?