Predators have an expansion plan dilemma with Viktor Arvidsson

The season ended abruptly in Nashville with Sebastian Aho scoring in the first overtime of their six-game streak against the Carolina Hurricanes. Entering the series, the Nashville Predators were heavy underdogs, but they managed to make it a respectable series by rallying with fans at Bridgestone Arena, winning Games 3 and 4. However, now is the time for the franchise. to look forward again. , and it starts with a critical offseason that will dictate the direction the team takes for years to come. A decision, specifically regarding the protection of Viktor Arvidsson in the expansion plan, will be a key indicator of the team’s direction.

For the first half of the season, it seemed like there was only one way forward and that of a complete rebuild after buying two of the team’s best trading chips from Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm. As we all know, a solid second half thanks to Vezina-caliber goalkeepers by Juuse Saros, which led to a playoff berth, meant this team was believed to be close to ‘be a real contender.

Any team with a goalkeeper playing as well as Juuse Saros can consider themselves a contender. (Jess starr/ Hockey writers)

The reality is that the team is somewhere in the middle, which means there is actually a third path that could be mapped out. The farm system has pieces ready to support the core already in place, and sometimes addition by subtraction is the best way to put together a list on the fly. Reducing the current range to the core and supplementing it with a youthful move would be a smart way to reset without the need for a real rebuild.

These off-season decisions will be centered around three main areas, the Amateur Draft, the Expansion Draft and Free Will. In free will, the Predators risk losing some of their depth, although with some internal growth, that may not be a bad thing as none of the unrestricted free agents are a key piece – Mikhail Granlund is good, but he is not a key. The results of the project are unlikely to be felt in the years to come, unless a big swap takes place on the (virtual) project floor. This means that outside of the usual offseason business talks, the expansion plan is where some of the most important decisions will be made in the immediate future.

The Predators caused a sensation in 2017 by choosing to protect youngster Calle Jarnkrok instead of James Neal. Nowadays, in hindsight, it looks like a gesture of genius. However, at the time the decision has been called into question, but with Neal turning 30 not long after and being one of the highest paid predators at the time, there are a few similarities to be drawn here with another striker. This time around, David Poile has the chance to make an equally bold, but equally rewarding, decision.

Predator protection list

Net, Saros is a lock to protect, and exposing Connor Ingram is an easy decision. Moving on, the Predators have an excellent core defense, and the fact that the team have retained Ekholm, in addition to the presence of Ryan Ellis, Dante Fabbro and Roman Josi, means the team should use the option. protection for the eight skaters. As a result, there are four slots left to protect a bunch of fronts where arguments can be made for up to eight or nine options.

Mattias Ekholm Predators
Mattias Ekholm sticking around means the Predators need to protect four defenders, and just four forwards instead of seven. (Amy irvin / Hockey writers)

It is a given that the Predators’ best forward, Filip Forsberg, will be protected; it is a lower place. Before the start of the year, it looked like Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene were on the cusp of protection as well, but an average game in a time of flat capping meant their $ 8million hits could act like their own. deterrent type to be selected, and both could be left unprotected in order to save some of the younger players.

Luke Kunin is emerging as a key core member after being acquired the last offseason, while Calle Jarnkrok has established himself as a key mid-six member since being protected in the Vegas Expansion Draft. Both would be easy picks by Seattle if left on display, and therefore, they have to fill out protection slots two and three.

Luke Kunin Nashville Predators
Luke Kunin’s growth made him indispensable for the Predators (Photo by Brett Carlsen / Getty Images)

Two members of the famous “Herd Line” are also in the sights, one of Yakov Trenin and Colton Sissons being the last protected attacker. Due to experience and a reasonable contract with a duration, Sissons will likely list above Trenin, who should be able to get through the expansion project. What that does mean, however, is that there’s a piece of fruit on hand to tempt Seattle, and that’s Arvidsson.

Arvidsson in Seattle is a win / win

Selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, Arvidsson even passed highest of expectations from this day of the project. However, in the two years since his exit with 34 goals and 48 points in 58 games three seasons ago, the reality has not been as high as expectations. The 28-year-old has only progressed by one point in every other game over the past two seasons, while struggling to stay healthy and becoming increasingly predictable on the ice. His breakout season ended on career highs in shooting percentage, ice time and early in the offensive zone. He’s not a top forward on a top team, and he lacks the hockey IQ to adapt his game and become the most complete player the Predators need him to be.

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With a cap of $ 4.25 million hit for the next three seasons, Arvidsson is by no means an anchor on the books. However, for a team like Nashville that won’t hit a hard cap and pay precious assets to offload one of its more expensive hubs, find savings at a position where they have depth and depth. youth is something to do. seriously look at it as a secondary consideration.

Nashville Predators Viktor Arvidsson Vegas Golden Knights Nick Holden
Viktor Arvidsson and his tenacious style would call for a rambling expansion franchise. (AP Photo / John Locher)

From Seattle’s perspective, the team gets offensive talent with several years of team control, and they can try to put it in positions for success that Nashville just couldn’t deliver in their fight for them. playoffs. There are a lot of players available from other teams on monster contracts or who have a third line advantage like Trenin, but getting someone with Arvidsson’s tenure and skills isn’t something they have. the possibility of making many other teams.

The final result

Assuming Granlund gets re-signed or Philip Tomasino finally gets the chance to center the top line for the Predators, here’s what the lineup would look like next year without any of the current unrestricted free agents, without any outside additions, and theoretically, without Arvidsson.

Forsberg – Johansen – Duchene
Jarnkrok – Tomasino – Kunin
Tolvanen – Sissons – Grimaldi
Jeannot – Trenin – Cousins

Knocking down Eeli Tolvanen and Calle Jarnkrok on the left wing could also be an option, if the goal were to stack the most offensively gifted players on the second row and the most responsible in the bottom six. Whichever way you slice it up, this lineup looks like one that John Hynes could trust, and one that could bring the Predators back to the playoffs next season. If someone else like Rem Pitlick or Luke Evangelista shows they’re ready for a full-time spot, then we’ve already seen Grimaldi sitting for most of a season, so that wouldn’t preclude either. young people to become new roles.

Ultimately, Arvidsson just doesn’t fit in well with the best version of the squad going forward, and the added flexibility both contractual and positional that players like Jarnkrok, Sissons and Kunin bring instead. is the reason they should be protected on Swedish court. speedster.

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