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Wild Speculation Season: An Alignment of Free Agents Nashville Could Target

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Hayley and Rachel speculate wildly on the NHL’s current free agents and who would fit in with the Nashville Predators.

San Jose Sharks v St Louis Blues - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Nashville now has roughly $13 million in cap space cleared after shipping P.K. Subban to New Jersey for a laughable return. What can they do with this money? David Poile has said he’s not in a hurry to spend his extra cash, but it’s safe to say that many fans are wondering how he plans to upgrade the Predators after trading Subban.

We based a list of who Nashville could sign off the alignment system codified for tabletop roleplaying games and popularized by internet memes.

Lawful Good - Joonas Donskoi

Hayley: Jooooooooonaaasssss! I think he’s a bit overshadowed by the other behemoth names on the San Jose Sharks’ roster, and I don’t think he’s the powerhouse Nashville is looking for offensively, but I do think he could fill a bottom six role nicely. With Wayne Simmonds, Cody McLeod, and Zac Rinaldo not returning, that leaves some room for Donskoi without breaking the bank.

Rachel: Donskoi could be a sneaky good signing for any team. The 27 year-old had 14 goals and 23 assists last season. He’d be a good addition to the third line if Eeli Tolvanen still needs marinating. Also, put him on the “All-Name Team.”

This ridiculous poke-in goal is one of the many reasons to love Donskoi.

Incentives to sign in Nashville

Hayley: A welcome to Nashville starter pack (includes a Nash Collection hat, TN Tri-Star t-shirt, local-business-stamped wayfarer sunglasses, a novelty cowboy hat and boots, GooGoo Clusters, six-pack of local beer of choice, and tickets to all Nashville sports and fests for a year) and an IKEA shark for when he misses his San Jose friends.

Rachel: We have so many Finns here! SO MANY FINNS!

Neutral Good - Matt Duchene

Hayley: Way back during All-Star Weekend 2016 when Matt Duchene hit Bridgestone Arena ice wearing a cowboy hat and seemingly letting Nashville win him over heart and soul instead of the other way around, I was here for Dutchy to Nashville. Now...well, it’s been a long and winding road and I have my doubts.

Setting aside the fact that he seemed to be an issue in Colorado before he was dealt to Ottawa mid-game (still an are y’all serious moment for me), his lack of production in Ottawa, and that weird Uber...uh...moment, I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think David Poile is desperate enough to give him an unmovable contract, I think Poile still has enough mojo to talk him down to a longer-term deal for less money. He’ll play off the fact that Duchene wants to be in Nashville, and I have no doubt he’ll use that to his advantage.

Rachel: The Athletic mentioned on Wednesday that there’s too much smoke involving Matt Duchene and Nashville for there not to be a deal. That being said...how much is #95 going to seek? He wants to be here and Nashville’s management seems keen on the idea. As Hayley says...that’s leverage.

A second thought on Duchene involves this question: how many centers does Nashville really need?

Duchene visited the Predators on Thursday. It’s time for #DucheneWatch2019.

Incentives to sign in Nashville

Hayley: A Welcome to Nashville Starter Pack (for novelty), unlimited hot chicken sandwiches, an up-and-coming country music star sidekick, notes on what not to talk about in an Uber, Lyft, or taxi, and an introduction to Victor Bartley for all his AirBNB needs.

Rachel: Victor Bartley skates at Ford Ice Center fairly regularly. Maybe they could skate together and demolish beer leaguers.

Chaotic Good - Mitch Marner

Hayley: He’s young, and if David Poile got him to agree to a long-term deal he could be a driving force for Nashville for the long-haul. Toronto has a lot of cap-space devoted to Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Tavares; it’s hard to imagine they’re going to be able to offer Marner the same amount of money another team with money to burn would.

This is still a long shot for Nashville as it seems unlikely Toronto is willing to part with their leading scorer easily.

Rachel: Marner is a dream. He’s also going to cost four first-round picks. FOUR. Assuming he signs an offer sheet of Nashville’s, what’s his contract going to look like? 7 years at $10 million a season? $11 million? That’s lots of dollars.

But...26 goals and 68 assists? Adding Marner would make the Subban trade worth it.

Incentives to sign in Nashville

Hayley: A Welcome to Nashville Starter Pack (with root beer because how old is he?), a year’s supply of Lunchables and Capri Sun, and a puppy.

Rachel: Oh, and a season pass to Nashville Shores.

Lawful Neutral - Gustav Nyquist

Hayley: Nyquist is a consistent 20-goal scorer and has been pretty much his entire NHL career. The Preds could use that type of consistency on their roster. Given how much San Jose just spent to lock down Erik Karlsson, they’re going to have to cut costs where they can, especially if they plan to keep Joe Pavelski...but we’ll get to Pavs later.

Rachel: Nyquist had a very nice playoff series in teal. He will be an afterthought for San Jose, however. He’s averaged around 20 goals per season for a few seasons now. The 29-year-old would have been a better addition for Nashville in the playoffs than Simmonds and Boyle combined. That’s a good reason for Nashville management to send him a card and a cowboy hat.

Incentives to sign in Nashville

Hayley: A Welcome to Nashville Starter Pack and an IKEA shark for when he misses his San Jose friends.

Rachel: Nyquist gets to see all the “Pred Wings” fans coming out of the woodworks when Detroit visits.

True Neutral - Anders Lee

Rachel: I’m a huge fan of Anders Lee. He doesn’t have too many flaws in his game and has the ability to control play in the offensive zone. He’s a left winger who could nicely round out Nashville’s top six or top nine while allowing younger talent like Eeli Tolvanen more time to develop.

A former 40-goal scorer (with John Tavares as his centerman), Lee was named the Isles’ captain at the beginning of last season. Will management want to name another captain after losing two in two seasons? Also, he’s 29 years old.

Hayley: I think Lee would be a stable offensive player for Nashville. Reliable enough to be made a captain by the Islanders, meaning he’s consistent enough to offset Nashville’s bottom six. Even if he didn’t fit right in with the top six he’d give the Preds a well-rounded top nine, something Nashville has never had.

A top nine in Nashville, what a dream!

Incentives to sign in Nashville

Hayley: A limited edition collab with a local brewery to create his own Anders Lee Lager...or root beer. Whatever he wants.

Rachel: What does Anders Lee even need?

Chaotic Neutral - Mats Zuccarello

Hayley: The guy played two games in Dallas after spending his entire career with the New York Rangers, so it’s hard to tell how he really fits in the Central or the Western Conference for that matter. He’s never been able to repeat his 15-16 performance of 26 goals, 35 assists, and 61 points, but his production has stayed consistently the same even if it’s on the lower side. if Nashville’s trying to drain the bottom six so to speak, even landing a bargain on Zuccarello just puts them back in the same revolving door of aging bottom six forwards. Although he’d definitely be a better choice than some of his Nashville predecessors.

Rachel: I love watching “Zucc” play, but his age worries me. The League is getting younger, and an almost 32-year old does not necessarily make Nashville a better team. In addition, we have no way of knowing how Zuccarello will fit with Nashville.

Incentives to sign in Nashville

Hayley: A first-class ticket out of Dallas.

Rachel: Zuccarello left the only team he’s known in New York to play with Dallas. Nashville can be his final destination before retirement.

Chaotic Neutral II - Joe Pavelski

Hayley: While I think San Jose will find a way to lock up Pavelski until he’s ready to retire, that ship may have sailed, given how much cap space is locked up with Karlsson now. Age is also a factor against Pavelski. He’ll be 35 years old going into the 19-20 season and that’s going to weigh heavy on any contract decisions.

Age aside, he’s coming off a 38-goal, 64-point season, not his all-time high but still up there, and his average doesn’t come in too far below it. I’d say he’s still got a few good years left in him and could be solid veteran leadership that Nashville needs. A short-term contract with more money than would San Jose will probably be able to offer would make Nashville a prime landing spot for Pavs. He’s also friends with Smith and Pekka Rinne, so go ahead and bring him on down to Broadway!

Rachel: This conversation between Hayley and myself actually started as a simple conversation about bringing Joe Pavelski to Nashville. His numbers speak for themselves. He is a leader, but Nashville is apparently a team of leaders. There’s always a concern about age, so a nice deal for one or two years makes a lot of sense here.

Pavelski scores a ridiculous number of goals off deflections. He parks himself in front of goaltenders and gets beautiful tap-in goals like it’s easy. Pavelski would be a good net-front presence without Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds (although Simmonds had a minimal impact anywhere on ice for Nashville).

Incentives to sign in Nashville

Hayley: A real life pet shark named Burnsy.

Rachel: Williamson County has a great school system for his kiddos.

Lawful Evil - Artemi Panarin

Hayley: I’ve been a fan of Artemi Panarin since he was in Chicago. *ducks from flying Chicago-hater projectiles*

He’s a force of nature to watch and you could put him on the first, second, third, or even fourth line (not that you would) and he could make things happen. I’m firmly against breaking up the JOFA line, but if you were going to do it, you’d do it for a guy like Panarin. Although a better fit for him would probably be on the second line. Optimistically he could jump-start production for Kyle Turris and even give Craig Smith the boost he needs every once in a while.

It’s a stretch but not unlikely for Nashville to make a move for Panarin if a deal with Duchene can’t be reached. Given Panarin’s first taste of the NHL was with Chicago, and he doesn’t seem to want to be stifled by a market like Columbus for longer than necessary, Nashville might be a stretch for him to commit. Leaving Panarin to fill the what could have been void left when Poile eventually lands Duchene.

Rachel: I don’t think there’s any possible interest in Panarin in Nashville’s front office. He would command too steep of a contract. He’d cost so much that it’d be Panarin on the ice with Dante Fabbro and Juuse Saros. And no one else. Send in the beer leaguers!

Incentives to sign in Nashville

Hayley: What does he want? A Welcome to Nashville Starter Pack...he can have ten! A puppy, a shark, lunch money, a castle made out of bread? Whatever he wants, we’ll make it work!

Rachel: We will offer Panarin LITERALLY ANYTHING to come to Nashville.

Neutral Evil - Corey Perry

Hayley: Honestly...no.

Being bought out by the Ducks is a blow to his value in my opinion, especially given what a huge presence he used to be for them. He would be another bargain and could probably find a decent role on the third or fourth line, but ultimately he would just end up another player in the “aging forwards with withering production revolving door” that Nashville can’t seem to get out of.

Rachel: Negative. Nashville would burn down if Corey Perry ever wore gold.

Incentives to ... uh ... something

Hayley: A PowerPoint presentation of a fully-narrated post-hockey retirement plan and a NASCAR sticker to get those plans started.

Rachel: No offers from me...unless Perry is looking for a beer league team to skate with.

Chaotic Evil - James Neal

Hayley: I don’t care what it costs, I don’t care what it takes, James Neal was the heel Nashville needed and deserved, and we should spend dollars to bring him back. Bring back the revenge goals, the smug goals, the hateful goals, the hair flips. Bring our Sith Lord home.

Rachel: Bring The Real Heel James Neal back to Smashville. He brought the fire and the snipes when Nashville needed it the most. Nealer still calls Nashville home and would seamlessly transition back into gold. The whole team would be so much more handsome. Was last season in Calgary just a down season? Yep! James Neal should be on David Poile’s list if a contract with Matt Duchene doesn’t play out.

What do we give Calgary in return? How about Matt Irwin, Mathieu Olivier, a third-round pick in 2021, and some used hockey sticks?

Incentives to return to Nashville

Hayley: A long and fruitful reign as Nashville’s Supreme Overlord and a permanently-reserved table on the roof of Tootsie’s.

Rachel: A return to Smashville is everything Neal dreams about.

Chaotic Addendum - Ryan Hartman

Hayley: I never felt like Nashville utilized Hartman to his full potential the first time around and his production graphs between Chicago, Nashville, and Philly second that statement. It almost seems like we don’t deserve another chance, but...if he’s open to the idea I think they could work something out.

He would need more than 12-15 minutes of ice time per game and maybe not be on a line with Nick Bonino or Miikka Salomaki. He had 10 goals, 10 assists, and 20 points in 64 games for Nashville. Imagine what he could do with more time and the right line.

Rachel: I fully agree with Hayley’s thoughts. Hartman’s chances were limited and he struggled to find consistency with linemates. He would come very cheaply, but he’s a known quantity in Nashville.

Incentives to sign in Nashville

Hayley: An apology for being collateral damage in a year-long discombobulation of trades that ended with him in Dallas. A first-class ticket out of Dallas. A nice new tree-stand...or whatever it is he hangs out in while in trees.

Rachel: An all-inclusive hunting and fishing experience in East Tennessee and a nice new contract.