With Nashville's 2010 playoff drive over, it's time to start looking to the future of the team. The biggest question on everyone's mind now, "Is Dan Hamhuis on his way out?"
In my mind, there is no question as to whether he's earned a bigger contract. Instead, in my opinion, the price tag will just be too large for the miserly Nashville Predators.
Personally, I hate to see any players of his caliber leave Nashville, but the estimated $4 million average he'll be seeking next season is well beyond what Nashville can (and should) fork out.
Nashville is no stranger to this scenario. In fact, this was basically the same situation the predators found themselves in at this point last season with defenseman Greg Zanon. Zanon left Nashville for a $5.2 million, three year contract with the Wild, so it would seem that the kind of money Hamhuis is seeking is definitely out of the question.
Another thing working against Hamhuis is the fact that Nashville is well stocked with young defenseman that can step into a NHL role next season. The leading candidates to fill Hamhuis' shoes would have to be Jonathan Blum and/or Alexander Sulzer, which would come with a much smaller price tag. Jonathan Blum would have more upside in the long run, but Sulzer has already seen NHL experience in the form of 22 games.
Don't forget about the youngsters Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi. These two young defensemen make the extend future of the Nashville blueline the most solid throughout the NHL.
The bigger question here is "What to do about Klein?" After receiving a contract extension in the middle of this season, Klein's play has rapidly deteriorated. His inconsistency this season has been well documented. His main problem is the lack of physical play in and around the crease. However, I do believe that with the right coaching, Klein has the tools and frame (6-1, 200lbs) to become a player who seeks contact, rather than avoiding it.
Hamhuis is a stand up guy with the skills to be a top 4 blueliner for any NHL team, but the $4 million price tag is just too much for a Nashville team that is strapped for cash and loaded with young (cheaper) talent to fill his role. Had the team extended their run a little farther into the playoff, we may have been talking about a different scenario, but all things taken into consideration, the foregone conclusion seems to be a Zanon-like exit for Hamhuis from the ranks of the Predators. When it comes down to it, the Predators should (and will) look to resign the more offensive minded Grebeshkov and develop the young talent of Blum, Sulzer, Ellis, and Josi.
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