The Nashville Predators were not expected to make a blockbuster move in free agency this offseason.
After signing Filip Forsberg became a reality, David Poile’s ability to add another star player to his roster probably wasn’t realistic. With the resources Poile poured into making sure his main attraction didn’t leave town, perhaps it’s no surprise he hasn’t shocked us with another flashbulb move to make the fans happy.
But if the headlining act of signing Filip Forsberg to an eight year contract is assumed to be their marquee move, it is a little surprising that Poile didn’t come out for a least one encore performance.
Even after playing a shiny rendition of “I signed our best forward to an eight year deal at under market value”, most in Nashville expected Poile to come out one more time, acoustic guitar in hand, to serenade the crowd with “I also signed a top six forward to make us legitimate competitors again.”
And they mostly expected it because it’s what Poile promised at the end last season.
Where’s the rest of the roster that David Poile promised he would improve? Where’s the replacement for Luke Kunin, who they traded to San Jose? Where’s the replacement for Nick Cousins, who departed for the Florida Panthers? Where’s the skill and speed that both David Poile and John Hynes said the team needed to add this summer?
In the spirit of that famous commercial, where’s the beef?
This is also a conundrum given Poile’s surprisingly pleasant opening act on July 3rd: trading for veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh. With an opener like that, you would assume the offseason would really be cooking by now. Surely with that strong of a start, you’d expect not only Filip Forsberg to sign, but other exciting moves that re-tool a flawed roster on the fly. Or at least moves that exchange average players for above average ones.
Instead the Preds have added a flurry of AHL-NHL floaters and quasi-prospects that are now on their 3rd or 4th pro team.
Zach Sanford? Mark Jankowski? Kiefer Sherwood? John Leonard?
In the spirit of the infamous NSFW montage from the early scenes of Major League (my personal favorite sports movie)… “who the f*** are these guys?”
Is it reasonable to expect 27-year-old Zach Sanford to step into Luke Kunin’s role and be better than Luke Kunin was (which isn’t saying much)? Or what about Kiefer Sherwood, whose one-way contract all but guarantees the 26-year-old a spot on the opening night roster despite extremely limited experience (and production) at the NHL level?
Mark Jankowski is perhaps the best known commodity Poile has signed, but his five points in 19 games with a lottery pick Buffalo Sabres team last year are hardly worth mentioning. And John Leonard is about as nondescript a hockey name as you can find in the league.
This sort of a follow-up performance from Poile, coming after a smart trade for McDonagh and a crowd-pleasing contract for Forsberg, has a suddenly bored Nashville audience yawning and looking at their phones.
But the offseason is not over for David Poile.
Poile still has time to improve Preds
As of right now, there are still difference makers awaiting NHL contracts. Phil Kessel, an annual 20-30 goal scorer prior to last year’s purgatory in Arizona, still doesn’t have a team. His estimated contract value is high, but going down every day he isn’t signed. Kessel is still a good player and definitely within the bounds of the Preds’ cap room. The same could be said for Nazem Kadri, though with Poile’s recent signings, they could be priced out of Kadri by now.
On that note, over the last five days of free agency, the Preds have watched plenty of forwards sign elsewhere. Not just replacement level, waiver wire guys, but real quality scorers and playmakers like David Perron, Andrew Copp, Ondrej Palat, Vincent Trocheck, Mason Marchment, and Ryan Strome.
Did David Poile even call these players’ agents? Was there any interest at all from Nashville’s side? Was there an attempt to sign “skill and speed” as he mentioned back in May?
Maybe, maybe not.
Some will point to Poile’s recent admission that he was not interested in signing any top six forwards to long term deals. While that makes sense from a business perspective, most of the forward signings listed above signed for four years or fewer, with the exception of Trocheck (who signed a seven year deal with the Rangers). Perron’s two year deal with Detroit looks especially odd… why would Nashville not have any interest in a playmaker like Perron for only two years at below $5 million per year?
Again… did David Poile even make a call to Perron? Or Copp, who also signed in Detroit, albeit for five years?
Mason Marchment was an excellent offense-driver for Florida… did David Poile pursue him at all before Dallas snagged him up?
Maybe, maybe not.
It could be that Poile is working on a trade. That would certainly explain the odd move to add Kevin Lankinen, Chicago’s overwhelmed goaltender last year, to the mix in the Nashville net. Maybe there’s something in the works involving a Nashville goalie that would require Lankinen’s services next year?
Or maybe not.
The biggest question going into this offseason was whether or not Filip Forsber would re-sign in Nashville. That’s been answered.
But no sooner was it answered than other questions were asked, and all of them directed at David Poile’s management of a roster that is still leagues away from being competitive.
The bottom line is that right now, if the roster that David Poile has currently constructed for the 2022-23 season looks on opening night like it does right now, the Nashville Predators are not a remarkably better team than they were in 2021-22.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —