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Operation Rebuild: A Competitive Rebuild

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The phrase “tear it down” wasn’t an instant process for the Predators.

Carolina Hurricanes v Nashville Predators - Game Six Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

This piece is mostly inspired by some roster-related thoughts I had that ended up in tweet-form last October.

Yesterday, I took those thoughts and modified them for the changes we’ve seen this offseason (so far), including the Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson trades and the Calle Jarnkrok expansion draft pick.

Here’s the thread:

Basically, my premise is this:

The Nashville Predators have indeed been working on a “competitive rebuild” since the 2017 Stanley Cup Final loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Several players have been added and been traded or signed elsewhere since then, including Kyle Turris, Ryan Hartman, Erik Haula, Wayne Simmonds, Dan Hamhuis, Sam Girard, Brian Boyle, Korbinian Holzer, Zac Rinaldo, Scott Hartnell, Alexei Emelin, and Nick Bonino. There’s likely some fringe NHL-AHLers I’ve missed here (Editor’s note: How DARE you forget Freddy Gaudreau).

But here’s the thing - Nashville has made the playoffs (with the exception of 2020’s play-in debacle) every single season since 2017. The players that have come and gone have been impactful, important, and possibly even fan-favorites. That playoff experience, even if it’s only one or two rounds, is valuable experience.

In 2021, the only players we see on the roster that carry over from the 2017 team are Ryan Johansen, Alexandre Carrier (a Black Ace in 2017), Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, and Colton Sissons. It’s possible that Anthony Richard was a Black Ace in 2017, too.

Aberg-Sissons-Forsberg

Arvidsson-Fisher-Neal

Wilson-Jarnkrok-Smith

McLeod-Gaudreau-Watson

Ellis-Josi

Ekholm-Subban

Irwin-Weber

Rinne

Saros

Out of the 20 dressed players from June 11th, only 5 remain with the team (plus the injured/scratched Johansen and Carrier).

With this week’s free agency moves (so far), it’s clear that Nashville wanted guys like Mikael Granlund around to mentor the youngsters - Phil Tomasino, Eeli Tolvanen, Cody Glass. I would posit that Forsberg, Johansen, Ekholm, and Josi would serve as leaders and mentors, too. In my book, that’s a great mix of exciting youth with some seasoned, skilled, and highly impactful veterans.

If Nashville were to sign any additional free agents, I would expect that these players would serve as additional depth. It’s pretty clear that Nashville isn’t going after any big-name free agents because that wouldn’t fit what management’s mindset seems to be.

For me, it’s tough seeing guys like Viktor Arvidsson find homes on other teams. He is a fan favorite, as is Ryan Ellis. Up until a few weeks ago, I’d have considered both part of the core of the Predators. However, injuries have played a part in how well both Ellis and Arvidsson have played for the Predators since the Cup Final in 2017 - both have missed time with various ailments, and they’re not getting any younger.

David Poile commented on Wednesday that he has high hopes for Eeli Tolvanen, Phil Tomasino, Luke Kunin, Yakov Trenin, and Tanner Jeannot (among others) this coming season. “I am all in on the changes and the youth and trying to get these younger guys a chance to get their game to the highest it can be.”

As this coming season gets started in the fall, it’s not clear whether any additional trades or acquisitions might be made. Injuries, of course, might impact what Nashville does at the 2022 Trade Deadline.

For what it’s worth, there’s been no progress on contract extensions for Forsberg or Ekholm...two of the longest-tenured Predators. Roman Josi, the captain, has been with Nashville since he was drafted in 2008. Nashville is now one of the youngest teams in the League, but this “youth movement” is absolutely necessary. I think about teams like the 2016 and 2017 Penguins and the 2020 and 2021 Lightning...their mix of youth and veteran players worked out nearly perfectly on their quest for the Cup. They remain competitive, but they’re a “work in progress.”