Nashville Predators Must Add a Forward Now


Last season was supposed to be a transition year for the Nashville Predators after firing the only coach it ever knew, Barry Trotz.  However, 104 points and a second-place finish in the Central Division later under new coach Peter Laviolette, and the Predators sent notice they were a team to watch.  Unfortunately for the Predators, it still needs to add one more key piece if it hopes to build on last season’s success this year.

Specifically, the Nashville Predators need one more forward that can take the pressure off of Filip Forsberg, the 20-year old phenom they stole from the Washington Capitals several years ago.  The organization has a number of solid offensive forwards- Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, Craig Smith, Mike Fisher- but not enough game-breaking talent.  With the Blackhawks and Blues in flux, now is the time for the Predators to make a bold move and grab hold of the division.

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A look at the raw numbers doesn’t look too bad.  The Nashville Predators finished the season 14th in the league in goals for at a 2.76 rate per game, and actually slightly higher than the Cup-winning Blackhawks.  But the offense began to stall as the season wore on which cost the Predators a chance at winning the division as the losses piled up over the last quarter of the year.  Over the team’s last 21 games, they finished 6-12-3 and only managed 46 total goals.  The 2.19 goals scored per game was the fifth worst in the league over the period.

Did teams catch up to the Nashville Predators?  Did the roster of good, but not great forwards, run out of steam?  Did they face an exceedingly difficult schedule over this stretch?  And more importantly, how can it be corrected?

Looking over the forward group the last quarter of the season, only Forsberg, Ribiero, and Matt Cullen had double-digit points (and Cullen signed in Pittsburgh earlier this week.)  Neal and Colin Wilson in particular disappointed down the stretch and with a squad that didn’t have a ton of firepower up front to begin with, it couldn’t withstand the loss of production from two of its key forwards.

But the Nashville Predators can learn from its past mistakes and add more firepower before the season begins.  They have a shade above $59 million in cap space dedicated to the roster right now.  They are in a fortunate position of being able to absorb a larger contract without having to shed money either.  Most teams will be cap compliant by opening night (the Blackhawks may need to move salary, but with Patrick Kane’s issues, it’s difficult to predict what their cap situation will be like in two months) so it’s unlikely the Predators will be able to acquire a straight salary-dump prior to the season.

However, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a “for sale” sign hanging around their necks and could look to move James Van Riemsdyk.  Would Edmonton, in forever need of defensive help, be interested in moving Jordan Eberle in a package involving Roman Josi?  There’s no doubt the Buffalo Sabres would love to unload Matt Moulson’s contract: could the Predators take a chance on the former 30-goal scorer and hope that playing with a play-maker like Riberio would re-ignite his goal scoring prowess?

No one is saying that any one move will guarantee the Nashville Predators hockey in June.  But when you look at the rosters from the Blackhawks (Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad) and Lightning (Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov) last year, it should come as no surprise that those two squads were playing in the Finals and the Predators went home after six playoff games.  Forsberg is a start for Nashville, but more is needed until it can compete with offensive weapons like that.

In all likelihood, Nashville will wait until the season is underway before re-assessing its needs and looking for a forward.  The dangerous part of that game is there will be 15 other teams doing the same thing and when they all wake up and realize they need help, they’ll all be looking at the same players, driving up the asking price.  The Nashville Predators should get ahead of the curve and strike now while everyone else is napping.

The Nashville Predators are a good team.  With just one more piece, they can be great.

Next: Predators: Shea Weber Stays

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