Predators' 2022 Free Agents, Draft Targets, Offseason Guide After NHL PlayoffsMay 10, 2022
Predators' 2022 Free Agents, Draft Targets, Offseason Guide After NHL Playoffs
The quest for a first Stanley Cup title goes on for another year for the Nashville Predators.
The Colorado Avalanche swept Nashville in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Predators appeared to be headed for a bit of a transition last offseason after losing a handful of key veterans. General manager David Poile was careful to say that a rebuild wasn't underway, though, and his assessment ultimately proved true.
Reaching the playoffs for the eighth year in a row qualifies as a success and will likely raise expectations for what's to come in 2022-23.
Here's a look at the offseason ahead for the Predators.
Nashville's Free Agents
Unrestricted Free Agents
- Matthew Benning D
- Alex Biega D
- Brayden Burke LW
- Nick Cousins LW, C
- Jeremy Davies D
- Filip Forsberg LW
- Rocco Grimaldi LW, RW
- Ben Harpur D
- David Rittich G
- Kole Sherwood RW, C
Restricted Free Agents
- Devin Cooley G
- David Farrance D
- Cody Glass C
- Jimmy Huntington C
- Luke Kunin RW, C
- Jeremy Lauzon D
- Matt Luff RW
- Thomas Novak C
- Cole Smith LW
- Yakov Trenin LW, C
Re-signing Filip Forsberg will presumably be atop Nashville's list of priorities.
The 27-year-old tied Matt Duchene for the team lead in goals (42) while adding 42 assists. In March, he became the franchise's all-time leading scorer, passing David Legwand.
Beyond the value he provides on the ice, Forsberg has spent his entire NHL career in Nashville. His 566 appearances are already 10th-most for the Predators, and he's poised to move into eighth place next year.
Offering the Swede a market-level contract might nevertheless be a tough call when Duchene and Ryan Johansen make $8 million apiece in 2022-23. Nashville would be committing $20 million-plus annually to just three forwards.
NHL.com's Dan Rosen speculated in April that Forsberg will return to the Predators and posited the team might have traded him before this year's deadline if they thought there was little chance of him returning.
Forsberg aside, Poile shouldn't have too many difficult decisions with the team's impending free agents. The bulk of Nashville's core is under contract for next year, and the franchise is projected to have a payroll of $56.2 million. That provides ample room to not only re-sign Forsberg but also keep the best restricted free agents in-house.
Because they're still building toward the future, the odds of the Predators using that money to chase marquee names on the open market are probably low, though.
Predators' 2022 NHL Draft Targets
The Predators are projected to sit 17th overall in the first round of the 2022 NHL entry draft.
Considering their selection is likely to need some seasoning before he makes his full arrival, charting a continued succession plan up front makes sense.
Johansen will turn 30 in July and has three more years left to run on his current contract. Duchene won't hit the open market until 2026 and will be 32 midway through next season. Targeting a forward now could help fortify Nashville's depth when both inevitably move on.
To that end, Marco Kasper and Cutter Gauthier would make sense.
Kasper, who only turned 18 on April 8, had seven goals and four assists in 46 games for Rogle BK. He put up much better numbers (13 points in 12 appearances) with Rogle's junior club. Gauthier's goalscoring abilities are evident by his 32 goals with 51 games with the United States under-18 team.
Should the Predators decide to look at their defense, Owen Pickering could still be on the board when their pick comes around. Given how quickly his stock has risen this year, though, the 18-year-old may have played his way into a much higher selection.
Early 2022-23 Season Outlook
Assuming Forsberg is back, getting to the playoffs for the ninth successive season will be the bar next year.
Having Forsberg, Duchene and Johansen in your top two forward lines gives any team a high floor, and the pair of Roman Josi and Juuse Saros at the other end of the ice stabilize the defense. Saros was excellent between the pipes, finishing with a .918 save percentage and 2.64 goals-against average.
The biggest question is how aggressive Poile gets and whether he wants to accelerate the "competitive rebuild."
Signing high-priced veterans would risk blocking the path for younger players such as Tanner Jeannot, Philip Tomasino, Eeli Tolvanen and Dante Fabbro. Nashville probably isn't close enough to serious Cup contention to make the tradeoff worth it.
The Predators have assembled a promising group, too, one that has earned the right to see what they can achieve together alongside the experienced stalwarts.
For the most part, it could be a quiet offseason that sets the stage for a big year in 2022-23.