Nashville Predators: How Would a Lockout Affect the Predators?

John B Matheson@@JB_WebberCorrespondent ISeptember 4, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 29:  (R-L) Roman Josi #59, Andrei Kostitsyn #46 and Nick Spaling #13 of the Nashville Predators celebrate with teammates on the bench after Kostitsyn scored a first period goal against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena on April 29, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With talks between the NHL owners and the NHLPA suspended until a time yet to be determined, fans are bracing for the third lockout under Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Around the league, fans are trying to figure out alternatives should the NHL shut their doors once more.

Nashville is a team already filled with uncertainty for this season (if there is a season).

Throw in a lockout and the future in Nashville becomes even more uncertain.

Some teams may benefit from a lockout, but for Nashville it could be somewhat of a mixed bag. It could allow some of their younger stars a chance to develop further in the AHL.

Last season there were a few young players who started to make their mark on the Predators organization.

Names like Colin Wilson, Craig Smith and Nick Spaling were busy racking up the points with the Predators last season. Of these three only one will have a contract next season: Colin Wilson.

Wilson managed 35 points in 68 games last season at centre, which earned him a three-year extension worth $6 million (CBS Sports).

Left wing Nick Spaling and centre Craig Smith also managed to make a name for themselves last season. Spaling totaled 22 points in 77 games and Smith had 36 points in 72 games.

Both of these young stars become restricted free agents next summer. For a team that plays a defensive game, it is beneficial to have young players who are fitting well into their system.

A lockout for these three players would mean they could play this season fully in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals.

Not to be confused with the Calder Cup winners, the Norfolk Admirals, Milwaukee managed to finish second in their division and fifth in the conference.

Should a lockout occur, these young players can continue to develop with Milwaukee. They will be able to gain more valuable experience for the following season.

It could also see further development of centre Chris Mueller, who topped the Milwaukee Admirals scoring with 60 points. He was brought up for four games, but was held pointless.

While Mueller may be ready to make a splash this season, the added time in Milwaukee with Nashville players like Spaling, Smith and Wilson would be a huge benefit to the 26-year-old.

While Nashville has a decent system in place that is developing talented young players that fit the style of play Nashville favors, a lockout could spell trouble for the Predators.

This summer, star defender Ryan Suter signed with Minnesota shortly after free agency began in July.

Their other top defender, who is currently viewed as one of the best in the league, Shea Weber, also signed an offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers(TSN).

Nashville had warned the league it would match any offer. For a price of $110 million over 14 years, they did (Globe and Mail).

Yet if Nashville loses a season due to a lockout, it may have been for naught.

The rules of the current CBA stipulate that if an offer sheet is matched, the player in question can not be traded for one year.

While it may not be Weber’s intention, it would be completely in his rights to request a trade next season.

Nashville may not have had to pay the defenceman for the lost season, but they would still be forced to trade one of their best players.

The Predators need the season to go ahead. They have a few options on their roster to take over for the now-departed Suter, but it may take time to find the right fit.

If this season suffers a lockout and Weber exercises his right to request a trade, Nashville will still have to replace its top two defenders and find two players who are the right fit.

One reason for Nashville fans to be worried about Weber during a lost or partially lost season comes from his agent.

According to NBC Sports, Weber’s agent, Kevin Epp told Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi that they felt Philly “was the right fit” he also told CSN Philly “When Ryan [Suter] left, I think things changed…”

These comments do not bode well for Nashville.

It speaks of a player looking to move on with his career, not of a player who still wants to be a part of his old team.

Nashville could not afford another loss this summer. Having already lost Suter, the Predators losing Weber would have been devastating.

If the above comments are true, that could still happen. If Weber asks for a trade, Nashville will not get the full value for one of the league’s top defenders in his prime.

So while Nashville may still be able to develop the young upcoming core of players, should there be a lockout, it could see Weber asking for a trade after a year of not playing.

Only time and the lockout becoming reality will tell on these issues.


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