The Nashville Predators’ second line was a mess last season. The most regularity it saw was when the Jeannot-Sissons-Trenin line was considered the second line. Outside of that, Ryan Johansen centered a line with Luke Kunin on the right and a revolving cast on the left that featured names like Eeli Tolvanen, Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Tanner Jeannot, Nick Cousins, and Yakov Trenin. The most common thread between this group of players is that the majority of them belong to other lines. Offseason acquisition Nino Niedereitter looks to be a lock for the left wing and should bring more offense as well as stability with him. But with Luke Kunin gone, there’s a hole on the right side. Bringing in McDonagh and Niederreiter are master strokes, but if David Poile really wants to mark his offseason as a success, he’s going to have to solidify that right side with an upgrade to make this line a offensive threat each night. But who will fill that role?
Possible Solutions to Preds Second Line Problem
Many dreamed it would be none other than hot dog enthusiast (and Stanley Cup champion) Phil Kessel, but the Vegas Golden Knights scooped up the 34-year-old winger on an affordable $1.5 million one-year contract. With one of the best options off the board, who’s left?
Evan Rodrigues played with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. The 29-year old spent a lot of time on the right sides of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and put up decent numbers (19-24-43). His contract should fall within the Preds available cap space (currently around $2.4 million). Rodrigues might be worth a shot on a short term (1-2 year) contract for the Preds. However, last season was a career year and at 29, Rodrigues may not be able to reproduce those results.
Sonny Milano is another interesting option for the Predators. Milano has spent several years as a fringe NHL player with Columbus and Anaheim. Last season, however, he spent a lot of time with the dynamic Trevor Zegras and reaped the rewards. His best season yet produced a solid stat line (14-20-34) and proved he could make the most of a golden opportunity. Again, his contract should fall in line with what the Preds have available, but similar concerns about being able to reproduce the results of last season would be the issue with signing him.
Perhaps the most intriguing name that’s out there to fill the void on the right side of the ice on the second line is one that’s already familiar to Nashville Predators fans–Philip Tomasino. Last season, Tomasino bounced around the lineup for 76 games and managed to put up 11 goals and 21 assists. These numbers aren’t far off from Rodrigues and Milano, but Tomasino is only 21. After a full season to get acclimated to NHL life, a regular spot on the second line would bring stability and build chemsitry with linemates. A big, playmaking center like Ryan Johansen will help create space for Tomasino. And, when paired with Nino Niederreiter, the duo would prove to be a threat on both sides of the ice. If Tomasino plays on the second line consistently next season, look for his numbers to jump beyond what Rodrigues and Milano did last season.
With Tomasino on a cheaper Entry Level contact, this seems like a slam dunk. However, adding either of the other two players would be a great depth add for the Nashville Predators.
–Featured image via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports–