This NHL offseason has seen Joe Pavelski move to Dallas, the Pittsburgh Penguins finding someone to dump Phil Kessel on, the Rangers pick-up the coveted Artemi Panarin, the Panthers reel in Sergei Bobrovsky, and the Devils win the top spot in the draft. However, the biggest moves were made by the Nashville Predators, who traded one of their most talented players and somehow became even stronger.
Known as a very strong defensive team for many seasons now, the Nashville Predators have, slowly but surely, been making key moves to bolster their offense. Now, after another blockbuster trade involving P.K. Subban, as shown by The Guardian, they might just be the strongest team in the Western Conference. With some a big trade, a huge signing, and an emerging talent, 2019/20 could be the year when the Nashville Predators finally go all the way.
Trades solve the troubles in Tennessee
The Nashville Predators have had a very strong team for a good three years now, with general manager David Poile making timely trades and free agent acquisitions that even though they would be seen as bold or rash, led to the team improving and becoming more dynamic. Last season, the Predators lived up to their NHL Pickspredictions of winning the Central Division but fell short in the postseason for the second season running since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017.
In 2016, Poile was brave enough to trade team talisman Shea Weber to bring in P.K. Subban, and now he’s traded P.K. Subban to bring in younger defensive talents and free some cap space to sign a much-needed forward. It’s been a gradual process of bolstering the forward lines while shedding stars from the super-stacked blueline, but now the Predators look to be the complete team.
Can’t fault the Predators roster
With P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm, the Nashville Predators had two defensive lines of solid points production, with Yannick Weber alongside either Dan Hamhuis or Matt Irwin being pretty solid on the third line. So, Poile saw it fit to trade the eldest and lowest-producing – mainly due to injury – of the top four to make lots of cap space.
With the cap space, the Predators went out and added a huge name to the forward lines and one that had eluded Poile’s efforts many times in the past: Matt Duchene. The dynamic playmaker and goalscorer became the team’s joint-highest paid skater at $8 million per year, signing on for seven years according to NHL.com.
Now the top six boasts a tremendous crop of forwards which provide a horrifying, full-line, one-two punch of offense, boasting Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Mikael Granlund, Craig Smith, Viktor Arvidsson. The bottom six isn’t too shabby either with Colton Sissons, Austin Watson, Nick Bonino, and Calle Jarnkrok – which will likely be bolstered at the trade deadline for a run in the postseason.
Making space for another talent
Some would say that Nashville’s defense has suffered a huge hit with blueliner Subban departing, but he is more recognized for his offensive contributions than his defensive efforts. In his place, the 17th overall selection from the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Dante Fabbro, will most likely join the top four. The two-way defenseman has come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of seasons, with Poile citing to the Tennesseanthat a reason for trading Subban their trust in Fabbro.
Offensively, Nashville improved a great deal. If Fabbro lives up to his lofty billing and provides assured two-way play, Nashville will have also improved on the defensive side of the puck. Given the current shape of other leading contenders like the Sharks, Blues, Flames, Jets, Golden Knights, and Stars, it’s hard to see any team having a stronger roster than that of the Predators – especially when you factor in their master and apprentice goaltending duo of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros.
Unless injuries stack up, Nashville should, once again, win the Central Division and challenge for the Presidents’ Trophy. From there, the team is certainly strong enough to feature as the Western Conference’s representative in the Stanley Cup Finals.