With Patric Hornqvist and Roman Josi now under contract for the long haul, David Poile will not have to spend the summer finding ways to lock up his own free agents. Most of that work is done. Poile plans on being more active than usual this summer, and Tuesday the Predators’ longtime general manager talked about what he views as the team’s biggest needs this off-season.
“Ideally, we’d like to get a top-six forward, we’d like to get a top-four defenseman and we need to get a backup goalie behind Pekka Rinne,” Poile said.
The defense situation is tricky.
Beyond the top three of Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Kevin Klein, four others will be vying for playing time: Victor Bartley, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Hal Gill. If the Predators obtain a top-four defenseman this summer (either Seth Jones in the draft or via trade/free agency), it complicates things even further. Maybe at that time Gill would become expendable, because we’ve heard multiple times that Ekholm and Ellis will be in Nashville this season. Also, Bartley has a one-way contract.
Finding a viable option at backup goalie may be trickier.
Poile hinted after the season that he would like to get a better backup to play behind Rinne. With a 3.73 goals-against average and 1-7-1 record, Chris Mason didn’t get the job done last season. With the Winter Olympics looming next February, Rinne will likely be on Finland’s national team, which means more games and more travel.
Will the Predators be able to find a veteran goalie that can be a reliable option for 20 starts or so? The goaltending carousel will be interesting this summer, but the free agent crop isn’t great. When the music stops, there will be goalies left without a chair. The Predators may be able to get a bargain then. Poile also won’t rule out the possibility of Magnus Hellberg being the backup next season, but that may not be the ideal scenario for his development.
And then there’s the never-ending quest to find a top-six forward. The free agent crop features a lot of B- and C-list forwards that will get overpaid this summer. That being said, if Poile doesn’t have the assets to pull off a major trade to bring in that dynamic forward, he may feel inclined to do something he’s not necessarily used to: being active in the free agent frenzy. If all that fails, the top-six forward may come by way of the No. 4 overall pick.
According to CapGeek.com, as of Wednesday morning the Predators have 19 players under contract for a salary payroll of $55.5 million. They have $12.1 million of cap space.