Nashville Predators general manager David Poile seemed to take great pride during his season-ending press conference in boasting of the team’s Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance.
Poile was quick to point out that seemingly no one though they would even make the postseason in 2021-22, save for The Athletic’s Joe Rexrode, and that the competitive rebuild was ostensibly right on track.
But it’s hard to sell a fanbase on optimism for the future when their team gets swept by Central Division rival Colorado in a series that was never really close.
As Poile shifts to the roster-building part of his offseason, it’s clear the Predators need a few wide-sweeping changes to compete with elite rosters that the Avalanche, Blues and Wild have constructed.
Below is our roster analysis for the 2022-23 season, complete with a breakdown of who should be kept, who should be shown the door, and why:
Will be back
This part should be fairly self-explanatory. All of the above players are signed through the 2022 season and their production justifies their roster spot.
Should be gone
Kunin was the only member of the Predators roster to play in all 82 games this year, although it’s difficult to understand why. Despite John Hynes’ best effort to make “Luke Kunin, top-six forward” happen, the 24-year-old forward produced just 13 goals and 22 points while bouncing around Nashville’s lineup. Kunin has no clear role, adds little offensively, and should be a bottom-six player. With a $2.3 million qualifying offer, the Predators shouldn’t just walk away, they should run.
Cousins made $3 million in his two years with the Predators and has just 14 goals and 40 points over 120 games to show for it. If the Predators want to improve the bottom six, surely they can do better than a soon-to-be 29-year-old who’s never scored more than 12 goals or 27 points in a single season.
Grimaldi is without question a fan favorite, but Hynes sent a clear message that the 5-foot-6, 180-pound winger didn’t have a role in the Predators’ new punch-you-in-the-mouth offensive philosophy. Despite a career season just two years ago, Grimaldi likely did enough with Milwaukee this year to earn a bottom-six role with an NHL team next year.
McCarron had nice two-game stretches March 2 through 5 and March 29 through April 1 that saw him produce five of his seven goals and eight of his 14 points. But aside from his 6-foot-6 frame, nothing else really stands out about him. His roster spot could be better used on a younger player like Cody Glass or Tommy Novak.
Benning hasn’t been terrible in his two seasons with the Predators, but he hasn’t exactly stood out either. He’s a low-volume shot producer (104 shots in two years) and he’s not as effective on the rush like Roman Josi or Mattias Ekholm. Jeremy Davies could benefit from taking Benning’s spot.
Harpur and Rittich’s stats speak for themselves. There should be no confusion as to why they won’t be returning in 2022.
The Forsberg contract drama has been well-documented thus far, and it appears both sides are in wait-and-see mode. Forsberg and his camp have remained pretty rigid in their ask for a new deal, and David Poile reportedly still isn’t comfortable with the number his star forward wants. At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Forsberg re-sign with the Predators or hit the open market. This is about as 50/50 as it gets.
Sure, Tolvanen finished with the same number of goals (11) and produced one more point (23) than he did last season, but he also played in 35 more games, which make his numbers slightly more disappointing. His defensive game improved by leaps and bounds this year — he even ranked in the top 37 in the NHL in hits per 60 (10.48) — but he was drafted to be a goal scorer. Two mostly-full seasons in, the Predators could cut their losses and move him as part of a package to acquire a top forward.
Through the first 30 or so games of the year, Fabbro appeared to have turned a corner in his development. He was averaging nearly 19:30 minutes per game and he scored 10 of his 24 points during that span. But once February hit, his ice time dipped nearly a full minute per game, and he wasn’t the same defender he was prior. Three full seasons into his career, Fabbro should be at least on the same level Alex Carrier is now. He’s taking longer to reach that top-four pairing potential and he could be another possible trade candidate.
Myers was a disappointment, to say the least, in his 27 appearances with the Predators. He registered just four points, 17 blocked shots and 50 hits before being sent to Milwaukee to figure things out. He turns 26 midway through next season and one has to wonder if he has a long-term future in Nashville.
Borowiecki isn’t a wild card because of poor production but because of his age and health. He turns 33 next month, and it’s unrealistic to expect a player of that age, who is just one year removed from missing nearly an entire season due to a concussion, to replicate the 151 penalty minutes, 15 fighting majors, 196 hits, and 79 blocked shots he had this year.
Should graduate to the NHL
Glass led the Admirals with 62 points in 66 games, including 14 goals, and he played in 10 games with the Predators counting the playoffs. The full season of regular playing time was likely what the 23-year-old needed after seeing action in just 41 games between the NHL and AHL in each of the last two seasons while battling injuries.
With six goals and 31 points in 54 games, Davies was Milwaukee’s second-leading scorer among defensemen. He also ranked second among Admirals’ blueliners in plus/minus (plus-13) and shot attempts (110) and had two assists in six games with the Predators. John Hynes called Davies an NHL defenseman stuck in the AHL in 2021, and it’s safe to assume he at least gets a shot to earn a roster spot out of training camp this year.
Against the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Ingram showed that he can handle NHL competition. He’ll presumably be Saros’ backup next season and should present a much more reliable No. 2 option than David Rittich did this year.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_