How will the Subban trade affect the Predators’ free agency decisions?

Deals for Sissons and others could shape the Preds’ free-agency strategy.

I’m glad my deadline for this story wasn’t immediately after Saturday’s trade, because it probably would have been one line: “WHO CARES. HOCKEY IS STUPID. NOW LEAVE ME ALONE I HATE YOU.” At which point, after submitting, I would lock myself in my room and blast System of a Down loud enough for the whole house to hear.

Luckily though, I’ve had two days to decompress, and I think I’m finally ready to admit that P.K. Subban is no longer a Predator.

So…let’s jump into it, shall we?

The cap situation:

  • The 2019-20 salary cap is $81.5 million
  • The Preds currently have 21 players on the active roster at a combined $68.3 million
  • Which means, in the simplest of simple terms, that the Preds have $13.2 million in cap space, with 2 open roster spots/

The roster situation:

(AAV numbers in parenthesis)

Forwards (11): Arvidsson ($4.25M), Bonino ($4.1M), Forsberg ($6M), Gaudreau ($666K), Granlund ($5.75M), Järnkrok ($2M), Johansen ($8M), Salomäki ($750K), Smith ($4.25M), Turris ($6M), Watson ($1.1M).

Defense (8): Ekholm ($3.75M), Ellis ($6.25M), Fabbro ($925K), Hamhuis ($1.25M), Irwin ($675K) Josi ($4M), Santini ($1.416M), Weber ($675K).

Goalies (2): Rinne ($5M), Saros ($1.5M).

And the 6 players from last year’s final active roster currently without a contract.

RFA: Grimaldi, Sissons

UFA: Boyle, McLeod, Rinaldo, Simmonds

The breakdown:

A quick note on the current cap/roster situation. $13 million+ in cap space with 21 players already on the active roster is a FANTASTIC position to be in, especially when you compare the Preds to some of the other contenders around the league.

Pittsburgh is at 18 players and only $4 million below the cap… Tampa is at $10 million below the cap with four RFAs, including Brayden Point. Regardless of your thoughts on the Subban trade, the one positive you can all say is that it’s given the team more flexibility than most current NHL contenders.

That being said, Poile has to use this wisely. We’ve seen how easy it’s been for teams to spend up to the cap, only to realize they’ve dug themselves into a hole 3-4 years down the road.

There are also other priorities besides “a big name forward” (who’s probably maybe definitely named Matt Duchene). Sissons and Grimaldi need new deals, and there seems to be a mutual desire to bring back Brian Boyle. Not only do you have to do all that, you also have to keep an eye on next year’s cap situation, and see how Roman Josi fits in.

Luckily, none of those three bottom-six forwards mentioned above should be super expensive.

  • Sissons: Most projections have him getting an offer between $2.5 and $3 million annually, depending on the term. Poile has a history of offering longer-term deals to keep the AAV down, so I’m going to go about $2.5 million for a five-year deal.
  • Grimaldi: The advanced metrics loved Grimaldi’s five-on-five ability last season, and the Preds seem to love the change of pace he brings to the fourth line. He’ll likely get a small raise and another two-year deal to prove last season wasn’t a flash in the pan. Based on projections from Evolving Wild and The Athletic, I’ll go $825K.
  • Boyle: He’s not going to get the $5 million+ deal he signed in New Jersey, but he’s still an effective fourth-line guy. And, as mentioned earlier, there’s mutual interest in a return. I see a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.
  • Poile stated Saturday that McLeod, Rinaldo, and Simmonds won’t be back, so you can wipe them off the board./

You do all that, the Preds have about $8.325 million left, and 24 players on the active roster.  So one way or another, the Preds are going to have to make more roster substitutions. It’s a safe bet Salomäki and Gaudreau will battle for the last forward spot, meaning a little over a half-million will come off the books. And depending on whether or not the team wants to carry an eighth d-man, they could also waive Matt Irwin for an extra $675k.

There’s also still the option of another trade. Nick Bonino’s and Austin Watson’s names have both come up as possible trade candidates. Bonino would add an extra $4 million in wiggle room (assuming the Preds don’t retain salary), more than enough to comfortably go after the aforementioned “big name forward” and keep the flexibility for the next few years.

The final takeaway:

The Preds look like they’ll have at, the bare minimum, a little north of $9.5 million dollars worth of “spending money” towards guys on the open market (i.e. the Duchenes and Pavelskis of the league)…and as much as $13 million depending on trade options. It’s absolutely enough to throw a big money offer out there, and still have enough to land another “value player.”

It’s exactly the position David Poile wanted to be in when he decided to trade away Subban. It’s also the position that can give GMs a false sense of confidence.

He’s going all-in on a forward this summer. That’s no secret. The big questions remaining are 1.) Will he actually land a marquee forward, and 2.) Can he do it at a reasonable enough price to keep the team flexible down the road?

If the answers to either of those are “no,” the Predators might have just given up their best defender for no reason.

Salary information courtesy of