After making two headline-grabbing trades this afternoon, Nashville Predators GM David Poile has cleared a significant amount of salary from his books, with which he has the opportunity to retain or acquire talent to set his roster for the 2010-11 season.
Follow after the jump for a look at the situation today, and the options going forward...
Per CapGeek.com, the Preds currently have $38.9 million committed to 17 NHL-level players. Toss in Alexander Sulzer's $650,000 as well, given his one-way contract.
Over the last two seasons, the Preds have spent between $4-5 million above the minimum allowed team payroll, and it's likely that this benchmark will be the guideline this fall. If, as expected, the salary cap goes up by $2 million, that would leave the Predators with a payroll target of $47-48 million.
So, with $7.5-8.5 million left to spend (let's use $8 million), we need to get a backup goaltender, two defensemen, and a couple forwards. Expect the backup goalie to come in for less than $1 million, either being Mark Dekanich from Milwaukee or another NHL netminder. So with $7 million left, let's go shopping...
#27 / Right Wing / Nashville Predators
Jan 01, 1987
|2009 - Patric Hornqvist||80||30||21||51||18||40||10||0||8||0||275||10.9|
As a Restricted Free Agent this summer, Hornqvist is due to get a large increase in his salary, likely landing somewhere between $2.5-3.5 million per season depending on the length of a new deal. Let's split it down the middle and use $3 million for our figures here, leaving $4 million to go.
#32 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators
Aug 08, 1987
|2009 - Cody Franson||61||6||15||21||15||16||1||0||3||0||90||6.7|
Another restricted free agent, Cody Franson made a good impression in a somewhat limited role. Similar to Ville Koistinen a couple years ago, however, there's no guarantee that past results will predict future success. Let's slot him at $1 million per season on a new deal, leaving $3 million on the table.
Hornqvist & Franson are the two players that are generally considered locks to be re-signed, so now is where we get speculative...
#37 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators
Oct 11, 1983
|2009 - Denis Grebeshkov||51||7||14||21||-16||32||1||0||0||0||47||14.9|
Another Restricted Free Agent, Grebeshkov will likely command $3.5-4.0 million on a new contract as a gifted offensive blueliner. He represents perhaps the best chance to improve the team's power play, and would fit in a Top Four role on the left side of the defense, which, after Ryan Suter, is led by Francis Bouillon and an assortment of young guys (Ryan Parent, Alex Sulzer, etc.). It would be a bit of a stretch to fit him in, depending on how the Hornqvist and Franson contracts play out. Besides, perhaps there's a more pressing need up front...
#9 / Center / Florida Panthers
Apr 03, 1983
|2009 - Stephen Weiss||80||28||32||60||-7||40||12||0||2||0||180||15.6|
The departure of Jason Arnott leaves a gaping hole centering the #1 line, and Weiss might represent the most affordable, yet viable option available. New Panthers GM Dale Tallon has been quite candid about looking to move players and recraft his team, and Weiss' contract (which pays him $3.1 million per season for 3 more years) is a relative bargain for a guy coming off back-to-back 60 point seasons.
#12 / Center / New York Rangers
Dec 05, 1978
|2009 - Olli Jokinen||82||15||35||50||3||75||3||0||3||0||236||6.4|
He's put up big numbers in the past, but is generally viewed as a poor competitor who can't win a faceoff and doesn't play smart hockey. He's likely to take a pay cut from his $5 million+ salaries from previous years, but I can't imagine this guy as a Nashville Predator.
#12 / Center / San Jose Sharks
Sep 15, 1979
|2009 - Patrick Marleau||82||44||39||83||21||22||12||4||6||0||274||16.1|
Probably the best all-around forward on the free agent market this summer, Marleau would blow the Preds' budget right out of the water (he'll go for more than $7 million, presumably). It would be nice, but it ain't gonna happen.
#19 / Center / Ottawa Senators
Jun 13, 1983
|2009 - Jason Spezza||60||23||34||57||0||20||11||0||5||0||165||13.9|
Spezza is one of the NHL's elite playmakers, and is supposedly available via trade, but he makes $8 million for each of the next three seasons. With the Preds looking over the horizon at a contract extension for Shea Weber, Spezza just doesn't fit.
So what do you think, folks? After all these deals, assuming that Franson & Hornqvist get signed, which area would you seek to address? A top-line center, or a power-play quarterback for the defense? Are young players in the organization ready to fill any of those roles yet?
Just for reference, I'll toss a putative depth chart out here for discussion. Obviously, some of these centers spend a decent amount of time on the wing:
Centers: David Legwand, Colin Wilson, Marcel Goc, Jerred Smithson, Dustin Boyd, Nick Spaling, Cal O'Reilly
Wingers: Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat, Patric Hornqvist, J.P. Dumont, Joel Ward, Jordin Tootoo, Wade Belak
Defense: Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Francis Bouillon, Kevin Klein, Cody Franson, Ryan Parent, Alexander Sulzer, Teemu Laakso
Goal: Pekka Rinne, Mark Dekanich, Chet Pickard, Jeremy Smith, Anders Lindback, Atte Engren.