To know what the Predators have to do before June 30th, you have to understand the basics of RFA qualification. Ultimately, there are two scenarios for every RFA under Nashville's care: the team tenders a qualifying offer, meaning they are intending to negotiate a deal with said player, or the team simply decides not to qualify the player, allowing them to become an unrestricted free agent and sign where they please.
In some cases already, players have taken it upon themselves to go ahead and sign overseas. Prospects Taylor Aronson and Max Reinhart have deals in place to play in the KHL. While this does occasionally happen and, depending on the league they depart to, those RFA's will remain the property of the team in case they should ever return.
But, who should Nashville tender and who should they not?
We've already listed out Jarnkrok, Bourque, Granberg and Mazanec. Those four have spent some, or the majority, of their time in the NHL over their previous contract length. This list won't include Filip Forsberg, who's going to get paid like he's a mafia hitman coming to collect. This list also will be without Mazanec, who was re-signed to a one-year, two-way deal on Monday.
Other than that, here's the remaining list of who Nashville will have to decide on:
- Cody Hodgson - $1,050,000
- Johan Alm - $792,500 (Signed with Skelleftea AIK of the SHL on May 30th)
- Kristian Nakyva - $667,500 (Signed with Linkoping of the SHL on May 18th)
- Garrett Noonan - $652,500
- Stefan Elliott - $650,000
- Taylor Aronson - $605,000 (Signed with HC Lada of the KHL on May 23rd)
- Max Reinhart - $575,000 (Signed with Cologne of the DEL on June 6th)
That leaves seven players excluding Forsberg. Not as many as we've seen in recent years, but the leftover crop should be enticing enough for David Poile to qualify the majority of them.
Player Pros, Cons and Odds
2015-16 Stats: 22 games played, one goal and three assists.
2015-16 Salary: $866,250
Pros: Bourque has been a mainstay for Nashville's bottom-six over the last five seasons, playing wherever the team needs him to including short stays on the first and second lines as well -- most notably when he started last season on the top line under head coach Peter Laviolette's first season. He's a quick, tenacious forward who hovers around the 20-point mark nearly every season. That's plenty for a guy who usually hovers around the third and fourth lines.
Cons: He's injury-prone. Bourque played a fair chunk of games over the last two seasons, but missed a hefty portion of this year and also the 2012-13 season. While his latest injury has yet to be disclosed by Nashville, it affected him enough to where he didn't play another game for the Predators after November 27th. If healthy, he's a fantastic addition to the bottom-six or possibly in Milwaukee where they'll need a veteran presence.
Odds: I'd like to think that Nashville could get Bourque signed to a cheap two-year, $2 million dollar contract ($1M AAV), which would make the most sense. It would take him to unrestricted free agency and, if he somehow bounces back from his latest injury and has a stellar outing, he could become trade bait as the contract progresses.
2015-16 Stats: 27 games played, zero goals and two assists
2015-16 Salary: $600,000
Pros: Granberg offered Nashville an options on the blue-line after the departure of defenseman Seth Jones in the trade to acquire Ryan Johansen. He may not have been the quickest defenseman on the roster, but his 6'3", 200-pound frame and general defensive awareness were enough to shuffle back and forth into the line-up alongside Anthony Bitetto.
Cons: Possession-wise, he was awful. Granberg ranked dead-last in Corsi among Predators defenseman during the 2015-16 season, coming in at 44.8 percent. Granberg's failure at base possession statistics hampered his on-ice partner, Mattias Ekholm, as well. Whenever Granberg was out of the line-up, Ekholm showed a seven percent increase in his possession metrics. That's a lot for a player in Ekholm who played quite a bit of hockey this season.
Odds: Poile noted in his end-of-season press conference that the team was working to work out a new deal with Granberg. Odds are it will happen. Another two-year deal would be my guess at somewhere between $1.5 million and $2 million.
2015-16 Stats: 81 games played, 16 goals and 14 assists
2015-16 Salary: $735,000
Pros: Jarnkrok turned into one of Nashville's best utility players this season, seeing him excel on any line he was placed -- including alongside Johansen and James Neal on the first line for a fair portion of time. Departing centerman Paul Gaustad took Jarnkrok under his wing to teach him the art of winning a face-off, taking the second-most faceoffs on the team, but only winning 45.8 percent of those.
Cons: There's not much about Jarnkrok's game that I'm not a fan of, but importantly he could stand to gain some body mass going into the 2016-17 season. Per the Predators website, Jarnkrok weighs in at 186 pounds. Five to ten more pounds of muscle would do well for him, especially for pushing his way around in the faceoff circle.
Odds: Jarnkrok will likely be the second-most expensive RFA signed this summer, coming in right behind Forsberg. A three-year deal would be a very likely scenario for Jarnkrok, possibly hovering around the $3 million to mid-$3 million range. BUT, don't be overly surprised if this one goes to arbitration.
2015-16 Stats: 39 games played, three goals and five assists
2015-16 Salary: $1,050,000
Pros: Hodgson is a decent utility player that has the ability to play wherever he's needed. He did especially well in Milwaukee this season after being sent down from Nashville. He can score and he's fairly decent at faceoffs
Cons: Hodgson was limited to only 14 games with the Admirals after being waived by the Predators in January. That's a huge issue, especially for his long-term health and if it has any correlation to the back issues that nearly derailed his entire professional career a few years ago. It reminds me a lot of the issues Steve Sullivan dealt with in his time with Nashville
Odds: Slim. For lack of a better term, Hodgson would be dead-weight for the Predators if he was re-signed. He could help the Admirals, for sure, but if he's injured and he will be for the near future, there's just no point.
2015-16 Stats: Zero games played with Nashville. 17 games played with Milwaukee, zero goals and one assist
2015-16 Salary: $665,000
Pros: Nice left-hand shooting defenseman that can play defensively sound hockey, but also has the ability to score as well. He's spent the majority of his first two professional seasons with Cincinnati in the ECHL, but has only grown since he graduated from Boston University.
Cons: He's on the smaller side for defensemen and he hasn't grown like the Predators were hoping he would have by now. He hasn't showcased enough since leaving Boston to earn a call-up with Nashville and that's worrisome.
Odds: I'd say he'll be re-signed. Two year deals, especially with Noonan being 25, are helpful because they get the player to unrestricted free agency. Expect the same here, but for a low-dollar amount.
2015-16 Stats: Two games played with Nashville, zero points. 35 games played with Milwaukee, eight goals and 11 assists
2015-16 Salary: $650,000
Pros: We didn't get to see enough of Elliott when he earned his cup of coffee with Nashville late in the regular season, but he's another right-hand shooting defenseman and you can't have enough of those. Plus, Milwaukee's cupboard of defensemen is running low.
Cons: He's slowly becoming a life-long AHL player. Since leaving the WHL during the 2010-11 season, he's played 237 games in the AHL as opposed to 84 in the NHL. He's also played for three separate NHL teams, sticking with neither of Colorado or Phoenix before being traded to Nashville.
Odds: As Milwaukee's defensive cupboard is a bit bare, seeing Elliott re-signed wouldn't be all that surprising -- much like I assume Noonan will be as well. I'd expect the same type of term and money, too.