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Nashville adds five to the roster, were they the right moves?


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For the Predators, something they’ve sorely lacked recently is grit and depth. That may not be the scenario any longer. Nashville locked up five free agents on the first day of the NHL’s Free Agency period today, signing Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen, Matt Hendricks, Eric Nystrom, and Carter Hutton.

Nashville needed a boost after the losses of both Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn to the lineup. Adding Stalberg to a four-year deal and Cullen to a two-year deal, the Predators not only add offensive production back into their squad, but a veteran presence with Cullen as well. Stalberg, who won a Stanley Cup in Chicago this year, and Cullen, who won a Stanley Cup in Carolina in 2006, both know what it takes to win.

In addition, the pickups of Matt Hendricks and Eric Nystrom give Nashville gritty depth to their bottom six lineup. With players like Brandon Yip and Matt Halischuk not returning to the team this year, the Predators easily filled those gaps and boosted their level of return at the same time. Hendricks, originally drafted by Nashville in 2000, and Nystrom, a thorn in the side of the Predators over the past two seasons with Dallas, bring in size and a true toughness mentality.

While most have been skeptical about the recent moves the Predators have made to bolster their lineup, Nashville instantly improved their roster by signing key players to fill the spots they had open on the roster. By adding the players they did, the Predators may finally have the ability to create some open ice, giving their offensive players room to work with for the first time in a couple years.

Don’t be mistaken, Nashville needs (and continues to need) a true Top-6 forward to the roster. However, teams are having to overpay for almost all the talent that’s available, including some of the forwards Nashville picked up today. A real question is: will a top forward actually help the Predators or hinder them?

Wind the clocks back nearly 12 months to the end of the 2011-2012 season. Nashville was in great position to go far in the post-season, with their character “blue-collar” roster intact and ready for what should have been a lengthy run in the playoffs. Then, the Predators bring in Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov. Radulov, for all intents and purposes, is the Top-3 forward that Nashville always needed and wanted. Andrei Kostitsyn was arguably another Top-6 forward that could help out the Predators offensive push.

10 games into the playoffs, Nashville had been eliminated in five by the Phoenix Coyotes, a team who was easily built just like the Nashville Predators. This same adage goes for the franchise-best squads in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007, offensively-dynamic teams stopped quickly in the playoffs.

It’s not that Nashville doesn’t need a Top-6 forward, however it’s more of a matter of finding one with the correct chemistry to fit inside Barry Trotz’ two-way system. The signings of Stalberg/Cullen/Hendricks/Nystrom all fit in the previous “blue-collar” look of Nashville teams that have been truly promising, but lacked that one piece to get them to the next level.

The Predators, in my opinion, still do lack that one piece to get them over the proverbial hump. However I don’t think they’re finished making moves, I believe there is still an ace up David Poile’s sleeve.