Current projected cap space: 5.414 million
2015-16 Record: 41-27-14 96 pts
Nashville, the Music City. The heart and soul of country music. A place where they also play hockey. Nashville is not known for being a hockey hotbed of North America. In the Nashville Predators 17 seasons they have 9 playoff berths to their name, with those all coming in the last 12 seasons. Yet they have never finished higher than 2nd in their division, and have yet to advance beyond the conference semi-finals.
Of all the teams in the division, the one I dislike the most right now has to be the Predators. It's not so much that I don't like the team, per se. They're always good for a laugh when the Wild head to Smashville and they just need to boo Ryan Suter. It's just that I was far more comfortable with last years defensive depth chart than the one we will see this season. Don't get me wrong. If I were in their shoes, I'd be inclined to fleece the Montreal Canadiens as well.
As everyone is well aware, the Predators were involved in what will probably go down as the biggest off season move of 2016. Just 20 days shy of 4 years since Shea Weber signed an offer sheet tendered by the Philadelphia Flyers, reportedly for 14-years and upwards of $100 million, the Predators traded away their prized defensmen, for a more prized defensemen. The thought of P.K. Subban in the Central Division is scary.
Making matters worse, Weber still plays for the Preds! That's, Yannick Weber of course. Yannick signed with the Preds this summer and will be 28 when the puck drops on his 9th NHL season. While he hasn't necessarily been injury prone, Weber has seen limited action in his 8 NHL seasons, averaging just 34 games a season, hitting the high mark of 65 games in the 2014-15 season. His small stature doesn't make him an ideal defenseman, but he does have a decent shot from the point and will provide some depth for the Preds this season.
The Predators also picked up another defenseman through free agency when they signed Matt Irwin this summer. Irwin has played 3 seasons in the NHL, and just 2 games in the 2015-16 season so maybe we give him a mulligan on his time with the Boston Bruins. In 3 seasons with the San Jose Sharks he played 153 games, scoring 16 goals with 34 assists.
The Predators also added some AHL depth in a trifecta of signings. Trevor Smith, Harry Zolnierczyk, and Mike Liambas all joined the Predators organization this summer. Smith and Liambas are probably the most interesting of the 3. Smith played last season in the NLA for SC Bern after spending a few seasons playing for the Maple Leafs and the Marlies. He's a career AHL guy, who can fill in with the big club when needed. Liambas is probably most famous for a violent hit delivered to Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ben Fanelli in an OHL game in 2009. He spent last season playing for the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL, but has never played in an NHL game.
On the way out the door for Nashville, besides Shea Weber of course is backup netminder Carter Hutton who packed his bags for St. Louis this summer. Hutton will be most remembered in Nashville for taking over for Pekka Rinne when a hip infection forced Rinne to surrender most of his 2013-14 season.
An interesting loss for the Predators this season, is a kid who has never even signed with the team. The Predators 3rd round selection (66th overall) in the 2012 draft. The Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes is hot and heavy right now. The Harvard graduate declined to sign with Nashville and now gets to choose his team. Nashville doesn't go home empty handed in all this though. They managed to trade the rights to Vesey to the Buffalo Sabres, who only had to give up a pick they had acquired from the Wild (kind of) which is an interesting story in its own right. Just for fun, lets detour down that road a minute.
The story of the pick
- The Wild traded the pick to the Florida Panthers for Sean Bergenheim.
- 2 days later, the Panthers traded the pick to the New Jersey Devils for Jaromir Jagr.
- The Anaheim Ducks acquired the pick by sending Kyle Palmieri to the Devils.
- The Ducks traded the pick away to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Jamie McGinn.
- Buffalo traded the pick to Nashville in exchange for the rights to Vesey, who wasn’t going to sign with Buffalo anyway.
- Nashville used the pick nobody seemed to want to select Rem Pitlick, a Plymouth, MN native who will play for the Gophers this season.
Got all that? It will be on the quiz.
The Predators were a dangerous team before they acquired Subban. In my eye, the Preds won that trade by a mile. Shea Weber is a great defensemen, but he's no Subban. I'm not particularly looking forward to the Wild facing off against that monster 5 times this coming season. All said and done though, the Predators are not strikingly different than they were last season. They will likely enjoy about the same amount of success as they always have, along with the same exit from the playoffs, earlier than they would like.