Yesterday, the Predators announced that center Mike Fisher will miss 4-6 months with a ruptured Achilles tendon. This is not good news for a team already struggling at the center position, and the Predators should begin to explore some new options.
Fisher probably would have seen top-line minutes this season. He could still return by midseason. Until then, the Predators are left with Olli Jokinen, Calle Jarnkrok, Matt Cullen, and Paul Gaustad. Compared to the bulked-up rosters of the rest of the Central Division, that is almost laughable.
If the Predators want to compete for the playoffs, they need a bold move. Whether that’s a signing, a trade, or simply a roster move, they need to do something. Here are a few of their options:
Start Calle Jarnkrok on the First Line
While this is not a headline-making move, it could prove to be helpful for Nashville. With Fisher out, the natural choice on the first line is veteran Olli Jokinen. However, Jokinen’s production has declined over the past few years. Jokinen had only 18 goals in a full season last year. That’s not first-line production. Not even for the Predators.
Jarnkrok will probably be spending his first full season at the NHL level. The 22-year-old Swede flourished in Milwaukee before joining the Predators. He showed great promise during his short stint with the team last year. Plus, under new Head Coach Peter Laviolette, he could meet his potential even more. This move comes with plenty of risk. In this case, potential trumps experience.
Joshua Cooper of The Tennessean has also suggested Colton Sissons as a possible top-line center for Nashville. Jarnkrok seems like the more reliable option, however.
Sign Derek Roy
This seems like the best option at this point. Roy is currently a free agent, having last played for the St. Louis Blues. His numbers were more than subpar last year, scoring just nine goals in 75 games. However, he did not see top-line minutes with the Blues. Roy is probably not a top-line center on any other team in the NHL. But, he is a better choice than the current centers on the roster. According to Josh Rimer, Roy is deciding between two teams. One of those teams could easily be Nashville. Roy would probably come with a pretty cheap contract, too.
Sign Mike Ribeiro
This option has been rather unpopular until the Fisher injury. Now, it seems more and more feasible. Jason Zito of On The Forecheck made his case for signing Ribeiro. He had 47 points last season with Arizona. Once again, this is not great, but it would work for the current situation in Nashville.
The big downside to Ribeiro is his recent conduct off the ice. Reports of missed meetings and repeated outbursts have hurt Ribeiro’s stock. However, at this point, the Predators should be willing to take a chance on him. The Stars took a chance on a head case in Tyler Seguin, and it has worked out for them.
Trade for Vincent Lecavalier
Originally, this option seemed to be the most tempting. But, after recent developments, Lecavalier is looking less and less appealing. The upside to this potential deal is that the Predators would likely only send mid-level draft picks to Philadelphia in exchange for him. Plus, Lecavalier has Stanley Cup experience and has played for Peter Laviolette (if only for a few games).
The downside is, of course, Lecavalier’s massive contract. Even if the Flyers pay half of his contract, the Predators will still be paying Lecavalier way more than what he’s worth. Also, he is 34 and in the waning years of his career. The Predators will probably be looking to make some more moves in the coming years. Lecavalier’s contract would hinder those efforts.