With the announcement of Mike Fisher’s retirement this past week, the roster for the Nashville Predators upcoming season looks all but set in stone. From the trade for Alexei Emelin, to the signing of Ryan Johansen, the Western Conference Champs have stayed busy this summer. While Nashville has been active, they’ve done it with an eye on the future and what spending they still have to do. Even after locking up core players, the Predators salary cap situation is enviable: they still have $5.4 million left over. Should they spend it or save it?
Nashville Predators Salary Cap Space: Spend or Save?
Summer Spending: Ryan Johansen
Of all the signings this summer, the Johansen one was the biggest. Nashville locked up Johansen with an eight year, $64 million-dollar contract with an average annual value of $8 million per year. With reports saying that Johansen’s camp originally was asking for $8.5 million, this seems like a solid win for Nashville. With center depth being a concern coming into this off-season, locking up Johansen was by far the biggest priority for the Predators.
Johansen racked up 13 points in just 14 games during the playoffs, three goals and 10 assists, before his playoffs were cut short in the Western Conference Final against Anaheim. Johansen really cemented his role in his shortened playoff run taking on tough centers in the form of Jonathan Toews in Round One and Ryan Getzlaf in the Western Conference Final, proving he deserved every penny that came his way this off-season.
Summer Spending: Viktor Arvidsson
Before this big signing of the summer, there was a signing that arguably was just as important. After a career year from the Swede, Viktor Arvidsson was given his due diligence with a seven year, $29.75 million contract. Following the departure of James Neal to the Golden Knights, locking up Arvidsson became a must. Arvidsson had a monster season for the Predators, racking up a career high 31 goals and adding another 30 assists to prove he deserved a top-line paycheck. After a great season, Arvidsson stumbled through the playoffs collecting only three goals in 22 playoff games. With that being said, if Nashville can get the same production from Arvidsson this upcoming season, expect them to be sitting pretty come playoff time.
Summer Spending: Nick Bonino
With center depth being a glaring problem coming into the summer, GM David Poile eyed a target who wore enemy colors in the Stanley Cup Final. Nick Bonino came over from Pittsburgh and signed a four year, $16.4 million dollar contract. Bonino has been largely overshadowed in Pittsburgh behind both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but was still a productive third-line center for the Penguins, racking up 18 goals and 19 assists in 80 games.
With Fisher’s departure, the Bonino signing makes a lot of sense for Nashville. A lot of the same things Nashville got from Fisher, they’ll get from Bonino. Bonino was just five assists short of Fisher, and averaged just two seconds more time-on-ice than Fisher. He played in eight games more than Fisher, but ended the year with 35 more shot blocks (99 to Fisher’s 64), 23 more takeaways (44 to Fisher’s 21), and only five more giveaways (24 to Fisher’s 19). Bonino is going to give Nashville a solid, reliable, defensively minded 2C that comes at a decent price in a market where nothing comes cheap at the center position.
Other signings include bringing back Austin Watson (three years,$3.3 million), Scott Hartnell (one year,$1 million), Yannick Weber (one year,$650,000), and Frederick Gaudreau (three years,$2 million).
Should They Spend?
All the above will play a part in Nashville’s opening day roster, so with $5.4 million left in cap space, what’s Nashville’s next move? There’s still plenty left on the free agent market, including the well traveled Jaromir Jagr. Jagr, 44, has compiled a stat sheet that only a few rival. With 765 goals and 1149 assists, Jagr is truly one of the greatest players to lace the skates up and play the game of hockey. And with Nashville losing its captain, and another veteran leader in Neal, one thing this team would benefit more from is veteran leadership. Jagr has definitely lost a step on the ice, but his presence alone would be enough to help bolster the bottom half their forward group.
But, does Nashville need to spend any more money? They’ve done everything necessary this off-season to solidify a lineup that lost its captain and a sniper. Nashville locked up its top-line long term and brought back important pieces that were often overlooked in the grand scheme such as Watson and Gaudreau. Altough Jagr is enticing, ultimately at this point, they should stand pat. Nashville has a minor league group that contains talented youngsters that should fill any holes the Predators may encounter during the season.
Last season, Nashville caught the injury bug early on and had to look to the likes of Kevin Fiala and Pontus Aberg, both of whom impressed early on and should see a starting role this upcoming season. Should this happen again, Nashville will be looking at another loaded Admirals squad that includes Vladislav Kamenev, Samuel Girard, and Alexandre Carrier. These three are on deck for Nashville and could become key parts of the roster as soon as this upcoming season.
The Next Young Crop
Kamenev earned a brief 2 game stint in Nashville last season, but shined brightest in his 70 games in Milwaukee. Kamenev, 20, racked up 21 goals and 30 assists for the Admirals and proved he’s going to one day become a solid option for Nashville. He may experience similar success to Sissons and Gaudreau, who both showed their value in this past season’s playoff run. Defensively, Kamenev may have some work to do. But, Nashville has to feel comfortable knowing they’ve got a young center with high scoring potential.
Girard is the youngest, and maybe most impressive, of the three young prospects mentioned. Girard, 19, played six games in Milwaukee and racked up only a single point, but spent most of his time with the Shawnigan Cataractes of the QMJHL and put up some big numbers in just 59 games. He scored nine goals and 66 assists. While the young defenseman will probably not see the NHL this upcoming season, he’ll remain an interesting option for Nashville should he put up big numbers again this year. He could be important if Nashville’s blue line runs into the same injury problems it did last year.
Carrier is a name to remember in Nashville. Carrier saw a stint the same length as Kamenev did last season. The Predators ran into a horde of injuries early last season on their blue line losing both Roman Josi and P.K. Subban. Nashville was forced to lean on the likes of Adam Pardy, Matt Carle, Petter Granberg, and Brad Hunt. Carrier will be a better option in the future.
Carrier is only 20 years old and was a fourth round pick for Nashville in 2015. He has steadily put together numbers in both the QMJHL and the AHL that are worth talking about. With 12 goals and 35 assists in 2015-2016 in the QMJHL and six goals and 33 assists in 2016-2017 in the AHL, Carrier has shown that he can produce no matter what competition he’s up against. While the acquisition of Emelin this off-season will make either Matt Irwin or Weber the first option when the inevitable injuries start to roll in, Carrier will without a doubt be an option early on for Nashville if injuries begin to pile up.
The last option the remaining $5.4 million in cap space gives Nashville is to make moves at the trade deadline. The space is plenty of room for Nashville to fill needs should they present themselves by the deadline. Whether that comes in the form of scoring help, or to bolster the blue line, general manager David Poile has put Nashville in a position to go out and get whatever their hearts’ desire. With the team depth that Poile has assembled, and the young depth they’ve got sitting in Milwaukee, everything seems to be in place for this season to be another one to remember.
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