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Predators free agency primer

Twenty-four hours from now, the flood gates to the annual free agent frenzy will open.

Stupid, careless, outrageous money will be spent around the league, but don’t expect GM David Poile to be among those spending wildly. In the salary cap era, he has never signed any player on July 1 that wasn’t already his property. The free agent additions of Matthew Lombardi and Niclas Bergfors did not work in recent years, but they weren’t signed in the frenzy.

Before it all begins at 11 a.m. tomorrow, here is a look at free agency for the Predators:

Team payroll: $34,904,167
Cap space: $35,295,833
Cap floor: $54,200,000
Cap ceiling: $70,200,000

(Note: These cap numbers, via CapGeek.com, are likely only temporary, as the new collective bargaining agreement will result in a different salary cap figure.)

Unrestricted free agents: Ryan Suter, Paul Gaustad, Andrei Kostitsyn, Jordin Tootoo, Francis Bouillon, Jack Hillen, Brian McGrattan

Restricted free agents: Shea Weber, Alexander Radulov, Sergei Kostitsyn, Colin Wilson, Jack Maclellan

Here’s what we know at the moment:

– Unless something drastically changes, UFAs Ryan Suter and Paul Gaustad will test the market.

– Francis Bouillon, Jack Hillen, Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexander Radulov and Jordin Tootoo are not in the Predators’ plans going forward.

– Poile would like to re-sign RFAs Sergei Kostitsyn, Shea Weber and Colin Wilson to extensions.

That being said, everything hinges on Suter. Poile really can’t do much until he knows Suter’s intentions. If he re-signs, the pieces will fall in place like Poile hopes. If Suter departs, it could cause a domino effect that may not have a happy ending in Nashville.

The tricky part is how long Suter decides to make his decision. In 2010, Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t come to terms with the Devils until mid-July. That’s not to say Suter will take that long, but considering the importance of this decision for he and his family it’d almost be surprising to see him sign anywhere on Sunday. If that is the case, Poile will have to wait on turning to Plan B – or in other terms, “Life Without Suter.”

To say the least, there a lot of variables to this frenzy for the Predators. It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out.


- Plan B for Suter

Potential targets: Matt Carle and Jason Garrison (free agency); Jay Bouwmeester and Paul Martin (trade)

As mentioned above, the Predators need to have a Plan B ready to go in case Suter does not re-sign. Obviously they wouldn’t be able to replace Suter’s abilities, but there are players to be had that could safely be called a No. 2 or 3 defenseman on the depth chart.

When comparing what is available via free agency and trade, the trade route may be the best way for Poile to go. If Poile wants UFAs Matt Carle or Jason Garrison, he’ll likely have to shell out a lot of money and term; whereas when you look at veteran defensemen like Jay Bouwmeester and Paul Martin, the commitment level isn’t as big and their trade value isn’t considerable.

- Center

Potential targets (bottom-six): Adam Burish, Jay McClement and Dominic Moore

With Gaustad testing free agency, Poile will also need to have a Plan B in his back pocket at center. It’d be difficult to find a checking-line center equal to Gaustad, but there are some quality options. The three centers listed above all have experience and won over 50% of his faceoffs a year ago. Having a go-to faceoff guy is important, and the Predators don’t have one under contract right now.

Looking beyond just the checking-line center, adding a top-line pivot may want to become a priority for Poile in the near future. Not only are the contracts of Mike Fisher and David Legwand coming up, but neither is what you consider top-line centers by NHL standards. There are a few offensive-minded centers available via trade this off-season, but what would it take to acquire one of them? That’s obviously a determining factor for Poile and all other GMs.

- Backup goalie

Potential targets: Scott Clemmensen, Johan Hedberg and Chris Mason

(See our post from Tuesday)

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