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Draft Preview: Nashville Predators – Win now, find futures

The Nashville Predators keep one eye on the prize, the other on a leaking prospect pool.

After trading away last year’s first-round pick, Predators GM David Poile did well to retain it this time. His team, very much in win-now mode, has already spent close to the cap for 2019-20. Barring some trades, then, it won’t be easy for Nashville to secure veteran upgrades in free agency, so it’s important to refill the prospect pool with high-ceiling talent.

IMMEDIATE NEEDS: Nashville ranked in the bottom half in offense, largely because of a league-worst power play. They have to find a way to become more dynamic offensively. Acquiring Mikael Granlund at the trade deadline was a start.

LONG-TERM NEEDS: Eeli Tolvanen was supposed to be the next great Nashville scorer but is developing slower than expected, meaning Poile must mine the next draft or two for skilled forwards. This team still lacks a dominant No. 1 center, the type who can challenge for scoring titles. Ryan Johansen would be better as a No. 2.

CAP SITUATION: The Preds must handle their cash conservatively. Even factoring in a cap increase to $83 million, they’d have about $6 million to spend, with RFA Colton Sissons needing a deal. Granlund, Craig Smith and, most importantly, captain Roman Josi enter the final years of their contracts and are eligible for extensions on July 1. Josi, a Norris Trophy threat, has earned a max-term deal with a $9-million AAV at the absolute minimum. Will the Predators lock him up, or do they have to consider exploring a trade for a forward given the strength of their defense corps?

IN THE SYSTEM 2019-20: Tolvanen hasn’t set the AHL on fire, but he’s the type of mega-skill player who could perform better in the NHL than the AHL if paired with similarly talented linemates. He’ll be 20 at the start of next season. It’s a matter of finding a way onto one of Nashville’s scoring lines, as his finesse-oriented game isn’t suited for a checking role.

DID YOU KNOW: Rem Pitlick, a Minnesota native, left the University of Minnesota, turned pro and debuted with the Preds in March when they were on the road in Minnesota. In attendance: his father, former NHLer Lance Pitlick.

LATE-ROUND GEMS:
(2000-2018 drafts)
Pekka Rinne, 258th, ’04
Mattias Ekholm, 102nd, ’09
Patric Hornqvist, 230th, ’05
Craig Smith, 98th, ’09
Viktor Arvidsson, 112th, ’14
Jordin Tootoo, 98th, ’01
Matt Hendricks, 131st, ’00
Cody Franson, 79th, ’05
Gabriel Bourque, 132nd, ’09
Jimmy Vesey, 66th, ’12

PICKS AFTER SECOND ROUND: 119
100+ NHL GAMES: 18
PERCENT SUCCESS: 15.1%
NHL RANK: 7th

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