By 2019-20 the Predators will have the best defense corps in the league, and if they can figure out their goaltending situation and find enough offense, they’ll be players for years to come.
Welcome to 2020 Vision, our new feature taking a look at how the roster of each NHL team may look three seasons from now when the 2019-2020 season begins.
Over the next month we’ll profile one team, in alphabetical order, each day and project what their roster (12 forwards, six defensemen, two goalies) will look like.
There were some ground rules for this exercise. We didn’t allow any blockbuster trades or free agent signings, but we did make assumptions about teams re-signing their own UFAs and RFAs.
Therefore, this isn’t intended to be a fantasy-like look at the league in 2019-20. Instead, since this is part of the THN Future Watch family, it’s meant to be a realistic, best-case-scenario projection for each team based on players already under contract, and prospects in their system.
Fresh off their Stanley Cup final appearance, the Nashville Predators will be riding a wave of adulation this year. But in three years, the defense corps that propelled them to glory will probably be even better. GM David Poile has locked up pretty much every important player in his lineup for the near future and the franchise has two excellent blueline prospects in Samuel Girard and Dante Fabbro, both of whom will be ready by 2019-20. The best part? Girard is an offensive-minded left shot, while Fabbro is a righty with two-way poise – they could even partner with each other once they get settled in.
Expectations are going to be high for the Predators now, but if the raucous home playoff games can convince free agents or those with limited no-trade clauses to join the cause, Poile won’t have any problem in bolstering his lineups at the deadline.
The stickiest adjustment for Nashville to make in the upcoming years will be in net. Pekka Rinne has been a franchise legend, but he’s getting near the end of his effectiveness. He could easily play out the final two years of his contract, while slowly ceding starts to youngster Juuse Saros – and perhaps that’s the best course of action.
GOT IT: That defense corps. Mercy. This top-six coming together could be one of the most impressive groups in modern history, and we’ve already seen the magic that Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban can make. The Predators also have a very effective top line that will only get better and more dangerous as their chemistry bonds.
NEED IT: Saros has been amazing in backup duty, but will his height hurt him once teams have more of a book on the 5-foot-10 Finn? If so, the Predators will need to find another starter, though goaltenders aren’t too hard to pick up these days. Offensive depth is also a question mark. A healthy Kevin Fiala should help, but otherwise the team will have to bank on long-term prospects such as Patrick Harper and Eeli Tolvanen.
CAP WATCH: It’s practically criminal that the combined cap hit for Josi and Ekholm will still be less than $8 million in 2019-20, but give Poile credit for making the deals in the first place. Nashville is set long-term, with only Ellis in need of a new pact soon. Still, Rinne comes off the books at the same time, freeing up $7 million in space.
BOTTOM LINE: If the Predators can figure out their goaltending situation and find enough offense, they’ll be players for years to come. This may involve moves, it may just involve time. Change will be emotional, but necessary at some point.
Previously: Anaheim Ducks | Arizona Coyotes | Boston Bruins | Buffalo Sabres | Calgary Flames | Carolina Hurricanes | Chicago Blackhawks | Colorado Avalanche | Columbus Blue Jackets | Dallas Stars | Detroit Red Wings | Edmonton Oilers | Florida Panthers | Los Angeles Kings | Minnesota Wild | Montreal Canadiens
Up next: New Jersey Devils