Nashville Predators GM David Poile met with the local media yesterday to set the stage for the NHL Draft this weekend, setting up what should be a pivotal time for the franchise. With the chance to select a star in the making at #4, obviously that first pick will draw a lot of attention, but there are several other issues in play which will transform the roster as well, however...
RFA Qualifying Offers
With a qualifying offer having been extended to Nick Spaling, it looks like the team is more interested in bringing him back than Matt Halischuk and Jonathon Blum, who haven't received theirs yet. Poile is keeping his options open with Halischuk and Blum, as perhaps he might be able to swing a deal this weekend that nets an extra mid- to late-round draft pick, which could come in handy during this deep, talented draft class.
There's still time to retain Halischuk and Blum, too, if Poile so chooses. As of right now, however, it looks like they're heading out of Smashville this summer.
Sergei Kostitsyn & The KHL
Poile also confirmed that there have been overtures from the KHL and that SK74 might head overseas, but nothing is nailed down yet. Under the CBA there is the option of loaning a player to a team outside North America, in which case the Preds wouldn't have to pay Kostitsyn's salary or take his cap hit.
Poile's Shopping List
"Ideally we'd like to get a Top 6 forward, we'd like to get a Top 4 defenseman, and we need to get a backup goalie behind Pekka Rinne".
Bingo, Bingo, Bingo.
Going in reverse order, Poile talked about the decision the team needs to make between going with a younger guy like Magnus Hellberg, or picking up a veteran backup via free agency. Considering that Hellberg played 39 games in his first North American season, I would think he could use another season as the full-time starter in Milwaukee (and seeing how that goes) before moving him up to the big leagues.
When it comes to the D, if a suitable, proven Top 4 defenseman can be found on the market (trade or free agency), that would be the preferred option to return this team to playoff competitiveness. Mattias Ekholm is working his way up the developmental ladder, and Vic Bartley made a nice impression this season, but is probably better suited to a 6th/7th D role.
As for a Top 6 forward? With Martin Erat gone and SK74 on his way out of town, there's definitely a need for proven performers, above and beyond what they pick up this weekend...
NHL Draft Preview
As to the draft, Poile offered his comment that Colorado has taken an "unusual posture" by publicly declaring their preference for Nathan McKinnon over Seth Jones, and that the Predators likely won't move from the #4 spot, either up or down. The top four players in most estimates (Jones, McKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Aleksander Barkov) would all make great additions to Nashville's organization, so it would take the proverbial "deal you can't refuse" in order for the Predators to move.
Personally, I'd be very, very surprised if Jones drops to #4 (at which point Poile said he'd pick the defenseman), so Nashville should come away with a dynamic forward. Without a pick in the second round (due to the Andrei Kostitsyn trade), however, what could be in play are other deals to try and move up in the draft in those middle rounds and go for "quality over quantity", as Poile said.
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
It all goes down Sunday afternoon in New Jersey - the first steps in Nashville's efforts to right the ship after a woeful 2013 season. Stay tuned, because I have a feeling it's going to be a busy couple of weeks ahead!