The Predators had a very busy offseason in terms of acquiring defenseman. Most of the moves were overshadowed by the blockbuster swap with Shea Weber and P.K. Subban. Rightly so, but the signing of three free agent defenseman caught many off guard.
Nashville ended up buying out Barret Jackman, but the influx of Yannick Weber, Matt Carle, and Matt Irwin created a log jam at the blueline. Include returning defenders Anthony Bitetto and Petter Granberg and that’s five guys for two spots on the third pair.
When asked about the new defenseman coming in, Bitetto said, “It’s good. It creates a competitive environment early on in the season.”
Now that Irwin has been sent down and Granberg put through waivers, the competition on the bottom pair has likely been cut to three. Some would suggest the two spots will go to more veteran players in Carle and Weber, but Bitetto shouldn’t automatically counted out.
The 26-year-old Long Island native will look to prove he belongs in the starting lineup on opening night just nine days from now. The free agent acquisitions don’t really affect Bitetto’s mindset during training camp and preseason. He isn’t one to need extra motivation from outside sources.
“You don’t need someone else (to motivate you). You have to have the motivation yourself at this level. That’s something I try and always bring,” said Bitetto.
Whether or not he will be in the lineup against the Blackhawks next Friday night remains to be seen, but the Predators without a doubt have created the needed depth and competition among their highly praised blueline.
Carle, 32, was a top pairing defenseman for Laviolette while in Philadelphia and will look to regain form after a less than stellar season with Tampa Bay in 2015-2016. Weber, 28, could be described as Vancouver’s best offensive d-man with 17 goals in his three years wearing a Canucks jersey.
When you add in Bitetto and the limited role they’ll be asked to play in behind the supremely talented top four, Nashville is in an outstanding position to succeed.
How far can this Predators team go?
“To the Stanley Cup,” Bitetto said. “I don’t think there is a ceiling for this team. We have young guys with a decent amount of experience from big games in the playoffs last year. The sky's the limit.”