Who suffers the most from a shortened Predators season: Predicting potential offseason moves

Is this the end of the line for the Predators as we know them?

Currently, the remainder of the 19-20 NHL season is on pause. This is not new information and the NHL is reportedly still trying to figure out a way for the season to be completed. While it’s a nice thought, it appears increasingly unlikely that the season will resume. That being said, an abrupt end to the season is not necessarily good news for a few players on the Nashville Predators roster.

To quickly recap: the Predators went into the season with their highly coveted new free agent signing in Matt Duchene. Believing his offensive capabilities were the key to postseason success, the Predators signed him to a whopping $8 million contract—the same amount as then-current 1C Ryan Johansen. However, the Predators struggled throughout the entire season (thus far), leading to the termination of head coach Peter Laviolette and associate coach Kevin McCarthy along with some very harsh words from General Manager David Poile.

“It’s not [the coaches], it’s our players,” David Poile says in press conference

“It’s not them [Laviolette and McCarthy], it’s our players. They have to make up their mind to play the way they can,” Poile said Jan. 7 while discussing the team’s struggles.

Poile went on to say captain Roman Josi was the only player performing up to the team’s standards.

At the time of the pause in March, the Predators were on a three-game win streak and were holding onto the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference by the skin of their saber-teeth.

If we’re playing “what could have been,” the win streak could have been the beginning of a season of struggles finally coming together to bring success. However, since it appears we likely won’t see the Predators again this season, GMDP will only have the games played to evaluate a team he was less than impressed with.

Let’s take a look at which players might might be on the raw end of this deal.

Kyle Turris

The season story:

Turris’s tenure with the Predators has been turbulent to say the least. However, at the beginning of the 19-20 season, Turris appeared to have found his rhythm. Unfortunately for Turris, he’d already drawn the ire of Laviolette, which resulted in a multi-game benching. Turris remained a trooper through the entire ordeal and returned to the lineup willing to play his part.

The offseason outlook:

Turris’s time with the Predators appears to be running out. He’s been effective in his given role throughout the season and his contract runs through the 23-24 season. Both could be interpreted as promising signs, but two and a half seasons of performing below the expectation of what he could be when he was signed coupled with a disappointing season don’t provide a positive outlook. Turris could very likely be dealt in the offseason — whenever that comes.

Ryan Johansen

The season story:

The Predators’ previous “Mr. Reliable” was far less than that this season. Let’s be fair, he wasn’t having the worst season, but it wasn’t good either. Compared to his previous seasons Johansen struggled to produce. When the season paused, he was fifth in points (36), sixth in assists (22), and eighth in goals (14). The addition of Matt Duchene shook up the lines. Ideally it could have created double the amount of scoring, but instead it created a lack of chemistry. Throughout the season Johansen went multiple games without recording a point several times. In the Predators’ final game before the pause, he recorded his first point in six games. That’s not what you want from a 1C you’re paying $8 million annually.

The offseason outlook:

Johansen could easily find himself as trade bait in the offseason. His contract runs through the 24-25 season and he was among those on Poile’s list of who he wasn’t pleased with, performance-wise, in January. Though Duchene also struggled this season, his contract is equal to Johansen’s, newer, and GMDP could see fit to free up cap space — you don’t really need more than one 1C, after all.

Mikael Granlund

The season story:

When the season stopped, the Predators were holding onto hope that new coach John Hynes could unlock the offensive abilities they saw in Granlund when they traded for him in the 18-19 season. Many Preds fans expected Granlund to be dealt at the trade deadline, which clearly did not happen.

The offseason outlook:

Granlund is young with plenty of potential, the Predators just haven’t been able to tap into it. Heading into the offseason, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The likelihood Granlund is signed to a new contract isn’t high. Team and fan-favorite Craig Smith is also due to a new contract and is largely seen as the more reliable of the two.

Viktor Arvidsson

The season story:

Once a darling of the highly-touted JOFA line, Arvidsson was among the many who struggled this season. Out of the top ten on the team in points and assists, Arvidsson also only had 15 goals for the season. Those numbers aren’t entirely his fault. Arvidsson was injured after a dirty hit by St. Louis Blues defender Robert Bortuzzo and missed four weeks. The team has a whole struggled with a lack of chemistry, which hindered Arvidsson’s offensive prowess.

The offseason outlook:

You might think, “surely the Predators would not part with Arvidsson” — or something of that nature. I would likely agree with you, but an unsatisfied GMDP after a disappointing season and potentially strange ending to that season doesn’t bode well for anyone — unless your last name is Josi. If he’s looking to make a big splash in the offseason and change things up, Arvidsson is a young name that could be dangled into the offseason waters. As unlikely as it may be, no one is ever really safe when you’re trying to win a cup.

Austin Watson

The season story:

This one might seem like a given, but hear me out. Watson was once a highly-touted rookie that fit well into the Predators’ new, young core. However, off-ice issues and his never truly finding his footing on a line above the fourth line have made Watson expendable. When the team wasn’t scoring this season, Watson was putting up offensive numbers. They’re small, but they’re there. Largely, he’s found his niche in the world of fighting, but fighters aren’t much of a role in today’s NHL and fighting is not Watson’s strong suit.

The offseason outlook:

Watson is under contract through the 22-23 season and there might not be a market for a trade with the numbers he’s put up, as well as the off-ice concerns. The Predators moved him from line to line this season, hoping for a spark of chemistry, but one never really came. I don’t think that’s necessarily Watson’s fault, but it does seem like they’ve exhausted their options with him.

Poile could very well decide not to move anyone from this team, re-sign Granlund, and let this team have one more go at it before tearing it all down. No one really knows what will happen yet. The NHL season could also resume at some point this year, giving this team a chance to prove themselves. Poile, himself, said in January he believes this team has what it takes and it’s easier to keep the team together than to tear it down. Only time will tell.