The Nashville Predators are gearing up for an offseason expecting major changes.
Several franchise cornerstones have expiring contracts, and general manager David Poile will be busy negotiating with the likes of Ryan Suter (UFA), Shea Weber (RFA), Alexander Radulov (RFA), Paul Gaustad (UFA), Andrei Kostitsyn (UFA), Sergei Kostitsyn (RFA), Hal Gill (UFA), Jordin Tootoo (UFA) and Colin Wilson (RFA).
With all those players in flux, general knowledge would suggest that a big fraction of pending free agents will be re-signed by their original teams. The restricted free agents may take a while, though, because Weber, Radulov and Sergei Kostitsyn will be looking for quite a pay raise.
Before July 1, Poile should put his focus on seeing what his top-six defense will look like next season. Here is a projected D corps currently:
Shea Weber - Kevin Klein
Roman Josi - Jack Hillen
Ryan Ellis - Jonathon Blum
If that was the top-six group in Nashville next year, the Predators are really missing experience and the defensive shutdown ability that Hal Gill, Ryan Suter and Francois Bouillon has provided to the team.
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Assuming that Suter departs, the Predators should pursue a defenseman such as Bryan Allen from Carolina, Sami Salo from Vancouver or Bryce Salvador from New Jersey. Any of those three players are dependable in the defensive zone, and they all have good experience on playoff teams.
Other than addressing the defense, the Predators should also make an effort to retain Colin Wilson and Paul Gaustad. These two players can be major contributors on the top-nine forwards, and Wilson may soon become a bona fide NHL scorer.
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