The Nashville Predators had a chance to do something big when Free Agency started. Something like signing a big name, like the top-line Center to complement newly acquired Winger James Neal. Something like adding a depth Defenseman to bolster the roster.
So, what happened?
To quote Dark Helmet from Spaceballs, “absolutely nothing.”
Wait, what? The Predators were so prepared. They finally found a player that could lure top free agents to Nashville. So what if Jason Spezza blocked a trade to Nashville? So what if Ryan Kesler did too? It was all going to be perfect.
So, what happened?
Well, to put it simply, Free Agency was decided before it even began. Paul Stastny took a discounted paycheck to play in his hometown of St. Louis. Thomas Vanek went to Minnesota, which was his top destination the whole time. Matt Moulson went back to Buffalo, where he played well earlier in the season.
There is no one to blame for this. I was as angry as anyone else when I kept refreshing my Twitter feed and seeing player after player sign with basically every team but Nashville.
The first idea is to blame the GM. I immediately saw the tweets flow in, saying “Fire David Poile!” “This is all his fault!” “He cost us Paul Stastny!”
David Poile is not the problem. He can only be a salesman. He can’t force players to sign contracts. That’s not his job. He probably made pitches to all of the big names on the market. They didn’t want to sign. Plain and simple.
Second, I am terribly confused by all of the negativity coming from the fanbase. Why has the excitement that followed the James Neal trade died? The Predators were three points from making the playoffs last year. With a healthy Pekka Rinne, they probably would have made the playoffs. Now, they have added a new coach and a new top-six Forward to the roster. They have a two young and promising Forwards in Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok. The WHL’s leading scorer Brendan Leipsic is finally going to play at the AHL level this year. We could see him at Bridgestone Arena at some point, too. This is a team to get excited about. Not just for this year, but for years to come. Just because they haven’t picked up a top-six Center doesn’t mean they are suddenly going to finish at the bottom of the West.
Finally, the Predators aren’t done yet. They just signed former Winnipeg Jet Olli Jokinen to provide some depth at the Center position, and to mentor to young center Calle Jarnkrok. Also, their top Center may still be out there. The Predators nearly traded for Flyers Center Vincent Lecavalier, but it fell through when Flyers GM Ron Hextall refused to pick up half of Lecavalier’s enormous contract. After the Ottawa Senators signed former Predator David Legwand, the Flyers lost their only other potential trade partner. A Lecavalier deal is still possible for Nashville. Hextall has to realize that he’ll need to eat half of the contract. When that happens, Nashville should be able to make the move. The return should only be a couple of mid-level draft picks, and maybe a prospect or a bottom-six player. Derek Roy is also still out there as a free agent. According to Josh Rimer, Roy has narrowed his list down to two teams, one of which is in the West. I’d like to think that team could be Nashville.
So, take some deep breaths, Preds fans. It’s not the end of the world. Aliens have not descended from the sky and invaded Earth, only to be defeated by Will Smith. If you’re like me, go ahead and meditate. Calm yourself down. Don’t give up yet, Nashville.