NHL Free Agency 2014: Who should the Predators look at, and who should they avoid?

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is still several weeks away, but that doesn't mean we can't go to sleep thinking about all the shiny new players that could be suiting up for Nashville next year.

The Predators are trying to reestablish their identity under new head coach Peter Laviolette. Even though they don't make a big splash in free agency, (last year's signings withheld) there are some interesting names floating around this year, especially when it comes to forwards.

With their backup situation resolved and their RFAs being regular defensemen, their most glaring need is a scorer. (When is it not?) Below are a some of the forwards that could best fit the Preds roster, along with other big names that are hitting the market, and a few to stay away from.

Yes, Please

Players that need to get out of our dreams and into our jerseys.

Paul Stastny

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Center 28 71 25 35 60 50.2 $6.6 mil

This is the dream. An extremely talented, two-way center to lead the top line. Stastny still hasn't reached a deal with the Avalanche, and signs are pointing to him testing the market. His 25 goals and 60 points last season were better than anyone else on the Predators roster. Though his possession numbers are average, they are still around where Craig Smith and Matt Cullen were this season.

Stastny is a type of player that should thrive in the type of system that Laviolette employs, and having Smith and Hornqvist on his wings would give Preds fans a balanced line the likes of which they've never seen before. It's a long shot he signs here, but if he's looking to be the guy on a team, Nashville fits perfectly.

Mikhail Grabovski

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Center 30 58 13 22 35 51 $3 mil

One of the bigger mistakes last offseason (of which there were many) was letting Grabovski slip through waivers. Though he's probably suited better as 2C, he could very easily take top line duties in Nashville. His future with the Capitals is still up in the air, but considering their lack of center depth, they should be pursuing him at all costs.

Getting away from misuse by Randy Carlye, Grabovski scored more than twice as many points last season than he did the season before. There's no reason to think he wouldn't be a regular contributor for Nashville were he to sign here. He will definitely sign for more than the $3 million he took last year. But with the automatic $5.5 million cap hit gone, maybe David Poile won't be as sticker shocked as he may have been last summer.

Radim Vrbata

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Right Wing 32 80 21 31 51 51.3 $3 mil

Vrbata would bring an immediate scoring threat to the Predators. Arizona is often compared to Nashville because of the similar systems they use, and the Czech native has had success there. There's even a chance playing in Laviolette's more open style could improve him for a time. He reached a career high of 62 points in 2011-12 (including 35 goals) and could be counted on for 40-50 here. Of any of the scoring wingers available this summer, Vrbata gets me the most excited because of his talent, and because it's not a farfetched notion he'd sign here.

He does have a tendency to go on cold streaks in the goal scoring department, though. Something to keep in mind if he does sign here.

Matt Moulson

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Left Wing 30 75 23 28 51 46.6 $3.13 mil

My biggest concern about Moulson is how high the market is going to drive his price up. He would definitely be one of the more talented forwards the Predators have ever worked with, but it'd be a mistake to pay $6-7 million for a guy that could maybe get 60 points.

On the other hand, parking a couple of dump trucks in his driveway would not only tell fans the organization isn't afraid to spend big anymore, but it could also entice other free agents in the coming years. (Personally, I think the dump truck method should be saved for Stastny.) Especially with how Laviolette can squeeze the most out of his forwards, there's a very real possibility Moulson would thrive here. Also, dem playoff possession stats...

Eh, Maybe

These guys could help the team, but the Preds should think long and hard before offering a contract.

Thomas Vanek

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Left Wing 30 78 27 41 68 47 $7.143 mil

Basically apply everything I just said about Moulson to Vanek and you have his situation as well. (Vanek has been around longer and put up better numbers.) Even though he didn't mesh very well with the Canadiens, he's going to get paid. Granted, he's going to get paid by Minnesota, which is why pining over him seems like a waste of time.

Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek: Thunder Buddies for Life

Marian Gaborik

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Right Wing 32 41 11 19 30 54.2 $7.5 mil

Boy, did this dude catch fire for the Kings. He's a three-time 40-goal scorer and is incredible to watch... when he's healthy. Gaborik has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, most recently in Columbus, where he played just 22 games this season before being traded. His stats this season took a heavy hit because of it. Still, it's hard not to look at his career numbers and drool.

Because of his output in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year (1st in goals, 5th in points) if the Kings don't resign him, there are going to be plenty of teams launching money at him.

Mike Cammalleri

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Left Wing 31 63 26 19 45 50.8 $6 mil

Cammalleri could be another interesting name to consider. He doesn't put up incredible numbers, but he's still a reliable forward that helps his team in just about every way. He also players around him better. It's not a flashy name by any stretch of the imagination, but the Predators aren't a flashy team. Hopefully he's not looking for more than the $7 million he made last year, though.

Milan Michalek

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Left Wing 29 82 17 22 39 51.9 $4.33 mil

The 29-year-old may have over performed when he scored 35 goals a few seasons ago, but it wouldn't be out of the question to expect 20-25 goal outputs from him. (That hinges on the Lavy Effect, of course.) Though, if Viktor Stalberg rebounds from said Lavy Effect, it would be like spending $4.5 million on Michalek, and make his signing unnecessary.

No Thanks

These guys may seem like great signings, but I promise you they aren't.

Ryan Callahan

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Right Wing 29 65 17 19 36 50.7 $4.275 mil

The Predators have a wealth of hard-nosed, gritty players. Sure, Callahan has a little more offensive upside to him and could slot onto either the 1st or 2nd line, but his contract requirements got him traded away from New York.

Jarome Iginla

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Right Wing 36 78 30 31 61 53.6 $6 mil

There's no debating Iginla had a fantastic season last year with the Bruins. But Boston is filled with depth and talent, Nashville is not. That's not taking anything away from the incredible season he had. I would not be surprised to see the former Flames captain thrive on a team for another few years, but the Predators are not that team.

Dany Heatley

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Left Wing 33 76 12 16 28 44.5 $7.5 mil

Is there a player that has fallen off a cliff faster than Heatley? Nothing about his play seems to suggest that he'll make a huge turnaround to even half the player he used to be. Some team may take a chance on him hoping he'll break out just once more, but Nashville is better off spending their money on a 39-and-a-half foot pole.

David Legwand

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Center 33 83 14 37 51 49.5 $4.5 mil

Pffft. Moving on.

Bargain Bin

Some possible game changers that could be had for very little.

Mason Raymond

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Left Wing 28 82 19 26 45 44.2 $1 mil

Technically, he won't be as cheap as he was last offseason, but the Maple Leafs for once look like geniuses. For a million bucks they got a 40 point performer, when it looked like he peaked in his junior campaign. He'd be a nice addition for the second or third line. His possession stats are the worst on this list, but remember: Maple Leafs.

Olli Jokinen

Position Age GP (2013-14) G A P CF% AAV
Center 35 82 18 25 43 49.2 $4.5 mil

Though the Preds lineup is rife with centers, Jokinen could slot onto the 2nd or 3rd line should any trades or buyouts happen. Even at 35 he seems to still have a little in the tank and rebounded nicely from his first dreadful season with the Jets. Plus, it would give me an endless excuse to use my favorite hockey GIF of all time.

What say you? Which of these guys would you most want to see playing for the Preds next year? Is there anyone not on the list that you want? Which one do you want the team to stay away from?

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