Just before March, David Poile locked up two impending restricted free agents in Milwaukee, Laurent Dauphin and Adam Helewka, to two-way contracts for the 2019-20 season. As the Admirals head to another disappointing finish with the playoffs likely out of reach, Rachel and I decided to parse through their remaining pending free agents and discuss who’s likely to be back and who’s not.
Tyler Gaudet - 25 - UFA
44 GP / 8 G / 15 A / 23 PTS
Rachel K (RK): Tyler Gaudet has most definitely earned a closer look by the Predators management. He’s not a guy who puts up massive points, but he could fill a leadership role with the Admirals and might earn occasional recalls to the big club. His season stats would likely be higher had he not spent time nursing an injury.
Eric D (ED): I think this one is pretty obvious for me, but maybe the organization pulls a surprise on us. Gaudet has been a really solid lineup filler for Milwaukee and earned two recalls to Nashville in the midst of a career season in the AHL. While 23 points in 44 games isn’t off the charts, Gaudet has been a useful player throughout the season for Milwaukee and will help with assimilating any new players. I think it’s likely he earns a new deal.
Justin Kirkland - 22 - RFA
56 GP / 7 G / 12 A / 19 PTS
RK: Justin Kirkland might provide a stable presence for the Admirals next season. They haven’t had lots of familiar faces returning season after season. But, as Eric notes below, he doesn’t seem to have a defined role any longer. He moves up and down the lineup but he’s limited in what he can provide his line mates. Do the Predators move on from Kirkland?
ED: I think often about how much hype surrounded Kirkland when he was drafted, with comparisons to Mike Fisher. It blows my mind how much higher his profile was projected much than it should’ve been. Kirkland will likely barely exceed his 21 points from his rookie AHL season, and, at times, has looked completely out of place on the ice. He’s a restricted free agent, so I’m likely wrong, but I think it’s possible Kirkland goes without a qualifying offer.
Cole Schneider - 28 - UFA
48 GP / 15 G / 18 A / 33 PTS
RK: The Predators should absolutely re-qualify Schneider. He’s a veteran leader and a known goal-scorer.
ED: This is an interesting one. David Poile and Scott Nichol made a really solid trade earlier this season, flipping an under-performing Connor Brickley for Schneider, who’s added eight points in 12 games with Milwaukee for 33 on the season.
Schneider is a really good AHL veteran and would be very worthwhile to bring back. But part of me wonders if there is room. Assuming Eeli Tolvanen starts the season in Milwaukee, the Admirals already have six forwards that can play in the top half of the lineup (Tolvanen, Richard, Trenin, Dauphin, Blackwell, and Helewka). Does the addition of Dauphin and Helewka force Schneider out the door? I’m honestly unsure, but this one is probably a toss-up leaning towards no new contract for me.
Phillip Di Giuseppe - 25 - RFA
9 GP / 0 G / 3 A / 3 PTS
RK: Di Giuseppe was a waiver pickup by Nashville a bit earlier in the season. He spent plenty of time as a healthy scratch in Carolina this season, and the Hurricanes were likely hoping that they could send Di Guiseppe down to the Charlotte Checkers, but he was picked up by Nashville. Di Guiseppe’s previous AHL performance has been solid, and he’s only 25. This season hasn’t been his best. I’m not entirely sure what the organization will do with him.
ED: Di Giuseppe has been completely underwhelming in Milwaukee. It was a curious move for David Poile to claim Di Giuseppe, and I thought he could’ve been a slight boost to Milwaukee, but alas. Di Giuseppe is a restricted free agent, so he won’t be completely out of the organization’s control, but I doubt he will be qualified by Nashville.
Jarred Tinordi - 27 - UFA
57 GP / 4 G / 10 A / 14 PTS
RK: The Admirals, as I’ve moaned about several times, shuffle their lineup season to season. Tinordi was an interesting addition to the lineup and he takes big minutes while allowing Frédéric Allard and Alexandre Carrier to develop their play. Tinordi’s effort confuses me. Some nights, he gives 150%. Other nights, he looks like a confused rookie. I have no idea what the Predators are going to do with Tinordi after this season. Would Carrier make a better leader? He’s worn an “A” this season.
ED: This is another interesting one for me. Tinordi is not a good defender, but he’s allowed Alexandre Carrier more stability in playing with Matt Donovan. The captain is probably very useful to the locker room, but I see this one as a total toss-up. Donovan, Allard, Carrier, and Pyrochta will all be in the lineup, with the possible addition of Jacob Paquette and maybe some other moves. Tinordi is one of five players with “veteran” status in Milwaukee right now, and at least Donovan and Dauphin will be back next year (Schneider and Di Giusepppe are the others). AHL rules allow for at the most six of these players to be dressed each night. We’ll see how this one shakes out.
Troy Grosenick - 29 - UFA
31 GS / 2.51 GAA / .918 SV%
RK: Troy Grosenick has been the stable presence in net this season that Anders Lindback was last season. He can provide some solid goaltending mentorship for a young European prospect like Karel Vejmelka or Niclas Westerholm. He’s not a long-term solution; he was never meant to be one.
ED: Well, the organization beat us to the punch on this one. Grosenick was signed to a one-year extension on Friday worth $700K at the NHL level and $225K at the AHL level. It’s not a surprising move at all and a nice reward for someone who has kept the Admirals afloat all too much this year. Grosenick will be the presumed starter for next year with a potential battle for the spot behind him between a couple internal candidates.
Tom McCollum - 29 - UFA
29 GS / 2.90 GAA / 0.893 SV%
RK: Yeah, no. Cede the backup job in Milwaukee to Vejmelka or Westerholm.
ED: Rachel said it best. McCollum signing an NHL deal recently just for the end of this season seems pretty indicative he won’t be back. And why should he? He’s been very subpar this season and you have to imagine David Poile has his sights set on Karel Vejmelka or Niclas Westerholm coming over to snag the backup job.
I could see a scenario where another player in their mid-to-late 20’s gets brought in in case Poile doesn’t find his European options suitable quite yet. I would lean towards Westerholm staying in Finland again, so all eyes could be on Karel Vejmelka.
Like any AHL team throughout a tumultuous season, the Admirals have relied on a heavy amount of AHL-only contracts and tryouts this season. Some of those players have really impressed and should be thrown in this discussion.
RK: Emerson Clark’s pickup was curious. He’s floated around on various AHL and ECHL teams for several years now, never making a huge impact anywhere except in penalty minutes. He only had one goal with the Marlies in 6 games this season. His roster spot might be better used for an upcoming prospect or free agent signing. Further, Mathieu Olivier would be a smart AHL deal. He’s not going to impress on the scoresheet, but he’s a wrecking ball on the ice and the kind of guy you want in your lineup. I’d also like to see Alex Overhardt and Duncan Siemens sign a deal to stay with the Admirals.
ED: For my money, I can see Alex Overhardt and Garret Ross getting re-signed to AHL standard player contracts for Milwaukee-Atlanta depth. Emerson Clark seems likely to be back because why would they trade for him, otherwise? But, I’m not sure. One player that’s stood out to me is Vince Pedrie. Comparing him, Duncan Siemens, and Scott Savage, Pedrie has been a useful addition to the power play at times and is a better skater and defender than Duncan Siemens even though Siemens has been a better driver of offense (3.64 GF% Rel to -1.42 GF% Rel).