Predators have decisions to make regarding Milwaukee blueline
With the Admirals seven most frequently dressed defensemen heading to free agency, Paul Fenton must decide who stays and who goes.
The Admirals could be in for quite the turnover in their defensive corps next season. Many of the team's most top defensemen are free agents, including Scott Ford, Joonas Jarvinen, Anthony Bitetto, Charles-Olivier Roussel, Scott Valentine, Bryan Rodney, and Joe Piskula. Together they were their seven most frequently dressed defensemen for Milwaukee.
Rodney and Piskula are unrestricted free agents, Ford was signed to a one-year AHL deal, and the entire of the group are RFAs.
It's highly unlikely that none of the free agents return, but it is safe to say that they won't all be back. Among the defensemen still under contract are some players that will need to get playing time next season. The remaining defensemen under contract are Johan Alm, Garrett Noonan, Jonathan Diaby, Mikko Vainonen, Jaynen Rissling, and Taylor Aronson.
Vainonen, Nashville's fourth round pick in 2012, was the sixth overall selection in the CHL import draft by the Kingston Frontenacs later that season. He had 18 points in 57 games and won the Gold medal with Finland at the World Junior Championship last year.
Diaby joined Milwaukee this season after completing his time with the Victoriaville Tigres. Nashville's third round pick in 2013, Diaby scored nine goals and 19 assists in 38 games with Victoriaville. He played in four games for Milwaukee, netting one assist.
Rissling is an intriguing prospect. Originally a seventh round pick of the Capitals, he emerged into a very solid scoring defenseman with the Calgary Hitmen. While wearing the captain's C on his chest this last season he scored eight goals and 29 assists in 54 games for Calgary.
Noonan will be playing his first year of professional hockey after graduating from Boston University. In 34 games he had four goals and 16 assists. The BU captain his senior season, Noonan inked his entry-level deal with the Preds this off-season.
Alm, who signed an entry-level deal with Nashville a few weeks back, would be another big name patrolling the Ads blueline. However, there is a solid chance that Alm could be called-up to Nashville sooner rather than later. Aronson has bounced between Milwaukee and Cincinnati for a few seasons and will likely serve in a similar role again next year.
The Admirals will need to make room for some of these defensemen to have a spot on the roster, meaning that likely half the free agents will not be returning to the organization next year. So who stays?
Ford returned to Milwaukee after one year away and was once again named the team's captain. He was the veteran leader of the group last season. Re-signing Ford could come in handy, as he would serve as a solid teacher for all of the young defensemen that are about to join the fold.
Piskula was the only Admiral on the roster from Wisconsin. He's gotten a small look in Nashville, but at 29 he can be penciled in as a career AHLer. He had a strong season in Milwaukee this year though, notably posting a very impressive +20.
Roussel is a former second round pick of Nashville and is only 22 years old, so parting ways with him this early is likely out of the question.
This was the first full season with Milwaukee for Bitetto. He was the Admirals top offensive defenseman this year, finishing eighth on the team with 36 points (11+25). After showing the progress he did this season, he is a front-runner for a spot.
Left is Rodney, Jarvinen, and Valentine. Rodney had a solid scoring season, second behind Bitetto in points. Jarvinen played 20 less games than he did last season for Milwaukee, but had one more point. Valentine might be the odd man out after his third season in Milwaukee. He had two goals and nine assists in 65 games.
The question is not will there be moves, because there will have to be. The question is who and when. So who do you think should be back with the organization next season? More information will be out in the coming weeks as teams need to tender their RFAs.