Remix in Music City?
This off-season could prove to be extremely dramatic for the future
of the Nashville Predators.
NEW YORK, NY -- Regular season success isn't always enough. While a
team may raise a banner or two after an amazing regular season, it's
not the most coveted banner of all.
The Nashville Predators have had 698 points since the lockout, good
for fifth overall in the past seven seasons. Unfortunately, that
regular season success has failed to translate to the post-season.
This year, the team pushed all their chips into the center of the
table, and once again went home with nothing to show for it.
"It's a tough feeling... a pretty empty feeling," lamented Predators
goaltender Pekka Rinne after the 2-1 loss at the hand of the Coyotes.
Unlike a lot of the members of this Predators team, Rinne's future is
pretty certain. The star netminder signed a seven-year, $49 million
deal just a month into the season, and will be sticking around Music
City for quite a long time.
The Predators have always operated as one of the smaller market teams,
in a less than traditional NHL market. According to the most recent
Forbes NHL valuations, the Predators rank 25th in financial value.
Fortunately, due to the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement,
parity is ever present, and teams with minute operating incomes are
able to compete with some of the financial juggernauts of the league.
But herein lies the rub, those small market teams can not always keep
their budding superstars through their prime. And for Nashville, the
castle may start to crumble down, and the window may be sealed shut.
The largest issue with running a franchise like the Predators, is
keeping the players and keeping consistency. A team spends such a long
time to build a contender after they enter the league, that it becomes
imperative to keep that window open as long as possible. After their
second round exit this season, head coach Barry Trotz had a statement
released through the team's media relations.
"The biggest thing out of the whole thing is that the Nashville
Predators are committed to winning, and that was with the 'all in'
factor. We're past the expansion stage, we're past that, and you've
got to go through these hard lessons sometimes," he explained.
Trotz also gave some insight into the reason for their failure,
"Chemistry is a delicate thing. As I say, sometimes you can add skill
or talent and all that. Does it come together at the right time? Or
does it not come together at the right time? You can be a chemistry
professor all you want, but you're dealing with human beings and the
human factor on both sides."
Moving forward, there will be a lot of tough questions staring the
Predators down in the off-season.
Team captain and Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber in entering the
last year of his arbitrated one-year, $7.5 million contract. He will
be a restricted free agent for the final time in his career, and the
Predators will likely explore the options of locking him up long term.
Their only other potential option could be a move similar to what the
Devils did with their current captain Zach Parise, and give Weber
another one-year deal to buy themselves some more time.
Last time around, Weber made it pretty clear he wanted to stay in
Nashville, "I love it here. The people in Nashville are awesome. The
fans are the best in the League. I wouldn't want to go anywhere else,"
Weber added, but he is not in a hurry to rush into a deal. "I don't
think it has to get done quickly. I want to stay here, there is no
rush. It's not like I'm not going anywhere."
The other option, one that is far less likely, would be the
exploration of a trade. They would definitely need to be blown away by
any potential offer.
The more interesting case is that of his defense partner Ryan Suter.
Suter, the stud 27-year-old shutdown defenseman, with some good
offense to his game as well, is set to be an unrestricted free agent.
He will become fair game for any team to open their checkbook and put
in a call to his agent. There will be plenty of teams with the cap
space to get a deal done, and this contract will likely have a high
integer preceding those six zeroes.
Suter was quite reserved after the loss about his contract situation,
but after a few days finally spoke up about his impending uncertainty,
"Wherever I sign I want to be there for the rest of my career , and
that affects my family, my wife, my kid, if we have more kids,
everything plays into it."
He also explained that he will be in contact with GM David Poile over
the next few weeks, "This morning I had a meeting with David (Poile)
and we talked about everything and the future, and how everything will
go, and I think we're going to meet again in a couple of weeks and
kind of make a decision."
Ken Holland, Detroit Red Wings GM, will very likely be making more
than one phone call to Suter's agent on July 1. The interest will
depend greatly on the future of Nicklas Lidstrom, who may have played
his last season in the NHL.
There will be several other teams that will atleast take a flyer on
the defenseman, with teams like the Hurricanes being reportedly
interested in spending big money in free agency this year. Carolina GM
Jim Rutherford spoke to the Raleigh News and Observer and let them in
a conversation he had with new minority owner Peter Karmanos.
"Based on my conversation with Mr. Karmanos, we've talked about a
top-line player," Rutherford said. "He agrees that that's something we
want to do. Not what we've done in the past with free agents, where we
go to the second-tier free-agent group, or the third tier or the
fourth tier, but a top-line player. If it's available by free agency
or trade, we're going to do everything we can to make that happen this
The speculation is that it is Zach Parise who tops their list, but
Ryan Suter wouldn't be a bad consolation prize if they swing and miss
The other usual suitors should be at least semi-involved in the
bidding, with teams like the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and
other big market teams having some money to spend this upcoming
offseason. And Brian Burke can never be counted out of anything.
Upfront, Nashville has always lacked a top-tier forward. They drafted
a bonafide star in Alexander Radulov, who has spent most of his time
in the KHL since his draft year. The talented Russian forward made
headlines when he joined the team during the stretch run. He may leave
the NHL again with the lure of big money in Russia. He also garnered
some controversy when he and teammate Andrei Kostitsyn broke curfew
and were suspended by the team for two games.
There is a chance he will not suit up for Nashville next season, if
they can't offer him a contract comparable to what he would get in his
That begs the question, what will Nashville do with the slightly over
30 million dollars in cap space they have heading into the season?
Weber will likely take up eight to nine million of that, depending on
the length of the deal. Sergei Kostitsyn and Colin Wilson will be
require new deals. There are a few players that they could look to
re-sign like Paul Gaustad, Sergei's brother Andrei Kostitsyn (the two
played together in Montreal previously) and one of their veteran
Unfortunately, for Nashville Predators fans, the off-season will be
shrouded in tough decisions for management. It's hard to imagine what
this roster may look like next year, but there is a good chance it
won't have the depth this year's playoff team had.