The Nashville Predators may be getting hot at the right time, but there’s still a cloud of uncertainty on the future of Mikael Granlund with the club. Granlund is in the last year of a contract that sees him get $5.75 million per season.
The 27-year-old came over last trade deadline from the Minnesota Wild and has struggled for the most part. He only scored once in 16 regular-season games with the Predators last season and once in the post-season.
This season started slowly for Granlund and Nashville. Many had the Predators playoff hopes as dead and thought the winger would be a prime candidate to get dealt for the second straight season.
However, the Predators hiring of John Hynes has revitalized the Oulu, Finland native. Granlund has eight of his 14 goals this season since Hynes replaced Peter Laviolette behind the bench.
That production is what has put the Predators within three points of a playoff spot. However, could Granlund still be on the move?
Mikael Granlund Future in Limbo
Nashville is thankful for the recent upswing in goals, but it has decisions to make about the future. Granlund carries that big cap hit and becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The Predators also have to figure out what they’re going to do with other pending free agents on their roster. Craig Smith, Rocco Grimaldi and Colin Blackwell are forwards that become UFAs in the off-season. Smith and Grimaldi have also picked up their game since Hynes took charge.
Nashville has been surging as of late, but Smith, Granlund and Grimaldi will all likely want raises. This would especially be the case if they continue to produce and push the Predators into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Poile has been pretty adept at getting players to take a little bit less to stay with the team. Talented defencemen like Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis could have gotten more on the open market. However, Poile was able to get team-friendly deals with Ekholm getting $3.75 million and Ellis commanding $6.25 million.
The cap gymnastics will get difficult when Roman Josi starts getting over $9 million per season, which is more than double his $4 million cap hit. Nashville is going to have do some creative accounting to keep their core together.
The Case for Trading
Nashville does have a crop of young forwards itching for an opportunity. Eeli Tolvanen have already matched their goal total from last season (15) with the Milwaukee Admirals. Yakov Trenin made a good showing of himself when he played, including standing up to Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
Phillip Tomasino is having a great season with the Oshawa Generals in the OHL as is Egor Afanasyev for the Windsor Spitfires. The young talent may be cost-effective and too great for Poile to ignore. If Nashville does a tear down, Tolvanen and Trenin would likely get an extended look to see if they can both make the roster.
The latter two would get a full opportunity to prove themselves at training camp as well as many other prospects.
The Case for Keeping
However, the Predators are only three points off of the second wild card spot held by the Arizona Coyotes. Nashville also has three games in hand on Arizona in the chase for that coveted playoff spot.
The wild card looks to be the team’s best option as the Colorado Avalanche are eight points ahead of Nashville for the third and final automatic spot in the Central Division. A run of wins could put the Preds right in the mix for post-season.
Nashville might want to hang onto its big guns if it wants to make a charge at the playoffs. Players like Granlund, Smith and others have the experience of being in a playoff chase. The younger skaters are talented, but haven’t been deep in a chase.
Forwards like Granlund and Smith have seen a resurgence as of late in their respective games. It would be hard to justify waiving the white flag and giving in on a season when the team isn’t that far off a post-season berth.
What it Means for the Future
It’s an unenviable position for Poile. He doesn’t want to give up on the season, but he doesn’t want to have Smith and Mikael Granlund walk away for nothing.
ST. LOUIS, MO- FEBRUARY 15: Nashville Predators center Mikael Granlund (64) reacts after scoring the winning goal during an NHL game between the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues, on February 15, 2020, at Enterprise Center, St. Louis, MO. Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)