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Luke Kunin

The Nashville Predators thought highly enough of Luke Kunin to send the No. 37 and 70 overall picks in the 2020 NHL Draft along with Nick Bonino to the Minnesota Wild to bring the then-22-year-old forward to Nashville two seasons ago.

Praised as a potential top-six stalwart, Kunin was given every opportunity to establish himself on one of the Predators’ top two forward lines.

Two seasons, 23 goals, 41 points and 120 games later, it was evident the Kunin experiment just wasn’t working, prompting Predators general manager David Poile to trade the 24-year-old forward to the San Jose Sharks during the draft for a 2023 third-round pick and 23-year-old forward John Leonard.

“It was a difficult situation,” Poile said on Monday. “We had Luke in a position where I thought we gave him a lot of good opportunities. I liked everything about Luke in terms of as a person and how hard he worked for our team and all those situations. 

“But we had him pegged to be a little bit higher in terms of production and that didn’t come. So, it’s a little bit dangerous to trade a young player, and I fully expect Luke to have a bounce-back year this year. But we were trying to open up a little bit more money possibly for free agency or something that we can do internally.”

Despite being the only Predators player to appear in all 82 games last season, six players had more goals and 13 players had more points than Kunin. His major contributions came in the form of hits and penalty minutes, of which he ranked second and third on the team, respectively.

In parting ways with Kunin, a restricted free agent who carried a $2.3 million qualifying offer, the Predators, who now have $9.6 million in cap space per CapFriendly, accomplished a few things. 

In saving a few million dollars from shedding Kunin’s salary, the Predators can now pursue another top-six forward in free agency and address the second line issues that plagued the team for much of last year.

Kunin’s departure also opens up a roster spot for a hungry young forward like Cody Glass or Egor Afanasyev to be promoted from the AHL, potentially amending the team’s offense through addition by subtraction, and adding extra draft capital for next season.

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_