Post-4th of July Weekend Thoughts
I haven’t written a lot lately but I felt perhaps I should collect a few thoughts based on recent events and share them. It’s been hard, even with the July 1 free agent frenzy, to really think hockey. But for some reason today as I was reading about Rick Nash and his approved list of teams, something clicked. Cold air, the whirring of a Zamboni, the distant smacking of pucks against a dasher… for some reason that soundtrack kicked in. And I missed it just enough to start writing.
Speaking of Nash, let’s look at this first. Nash is one of two (Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan being the other) big-name scoring wingers out there on the trade block. Alex Semin is a free agent right now, and while teams wouldn’t have to give up anything but money to get him, perhaps his reputation is forestalling a deal. First and foremost we are talking about a guy (Nash) who has shown he can be among the league’s elite players, although his past two seasons haven’t been quite as good as what he put up pre-contract.
Some say Nash has hit a comfort zone and realizes even his absolute best isn’t enough to transform the team around him. Others believe he does need an All-Star caliber player on his line to be effective. But with the league’s fifth-highest cap hit next season ($7.8M) and a lot of uncertainty heading into this September’s labor deadline, I can understand why a GM would want to exercise patience and reserve. Ryan’s cap hit is a more palatable $5.1M for the next three years, and he’s only 25 years old with three straight 30-goal seasons under his wing.
Plus consider the only six teams approved for Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson to deal him to are Detroit, NYR, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Jose and now you know those teams are going to low-ball because there are so few options. Sure Nash can be a game changing player, but between his salary obligations and questions of is his production really going down and can he be the type of player that can win in the playoffs following him, it might be a little while before a deal gets done. Howson has said he won’t make a hasty deal and is even ok with Nash starting the season on the roster. But then that might lead to a real souring of things in the dressing room, and who knows what that might force for a solution.
I feel that teams might be more willing to acquire Ryan first, and of course for 24 other teams that’s the only option they have. For the six named by Nash, the problem seems to be that what they’d have to part with would be far too steep in terms of taking apart a solid contending core. That’s the other side of the coin here: are teams willing to pay the asking price? Sure you could be getting a player to put you over the top, but if you have to fleece other key parts of your lineup to do it, you might not be so eager. I think the season opens with Nash still in Columbus unless Howson comes off his asking price.
The elephant in the room this summer for Nashville was and is the Ryan Suter movement. I’m not throwing out the baby with the bathwater on this one. Yes, Suter is an exceptional defenseman who will be missed. Minnesota doled out two major contracts and will expect major returns. But Nashville has built itself around a solid team concept, one that means no one player is bigger than the team and life will go on. Sure it’ll be hard to see Shea Weber alongside someone else this season, but perhaps we will see a silver lining coming out of all of this. It might be Roman Josi or Jonathon Blum or Ryan Ellis. Or it might be someone not yet a member of the organization. It might be a different outlook entirely for leadership since the Predators will now need a new “A” for this season. Whatever does come out of it, the Predators will survive. The sun keeps coming up and come September, a few players will have a major chance to step up and audition for pivotal roles.
I mentioned Alex Semin earlier, and I think his odds of staying in North America this year are 50/50 at this point. While Semin has sometimes been regarded as a player who doesn’t go 100% every shift, he is also a phenomenal talent who can produce goals from scratch and lift a team to victory. The question if you’re Nashville would be simply one of buy-in. Would he come around, adopt the system and be a good teammate? If yes, then maybe you take the risk. If not, you’re better off passing up on this particular player.
Finally, I expect all eyes will be on Shea Weber now and for a while, waiting to see exactly what he does as far as long-term possibilities. If he does sign a deal with the Preds it will go great lengths towards cementing exactly where this team is going, and who will lead it there.
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.