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Predators Free Agency Preview

Wednesday, 06.25.2014 / 7:21 AM CT / Features
By Matthew Bontorin
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Predators Free Agency Preview

In the midst of draft preparations, Predators General Manager David Poile and his hockey operations team are busy putting together a plan for the upcoming free agency period beginning July 1. Poile is scheduled to meet with a handful of Predators restricted free agents who must be tendered qualifying offers before the deadline on Monday, June 30.

“We’ve started negotiations with just about everybody,” Poile said. “To me it would be nice to have it done but it isn’t an urgent situation such as if you’re dealing with an unrestricted free agent. I think in due course we’ll get these players taken care of.”

The players that Poile is referring to are defensemen Michael Del Zotto, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and left winger Nick Spaling. Predators right winger Patrick Eaves is the lone unrestricted free agent heading into July 1. Poile confirmed last week he would not be making Eaves a contract offer.

Unrestricted free agents can begin meeting and interviewing with potential new teams Wednesday before being able to sign contracts Tuesday, July 1. With Eaves off the books, the Predators enter free agency well below the projected salary cap. With the cap estimated to rise to around $71 million, Poile feels like he has much more flexibility with free agents.

“It was a paralyzing situation with the cap going down a year ago,” Poile said. “Nobody had any flexibility. This year with the cap going up you could see some action.”

Despite the ability to spend more money this offseason, the free agency pool is arguably the scarcest it has been in years. With most of the top unrestricted free agents expected to re-sign with their current teams, it may turn into an overpriced bidding war for those few players left.

After signing five players – Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom, Carter Hutton, Viktor Stalberg and Matt Hendricks – on the opening day of free agency a year ago, Poile is looking to sign just one or two high-caliber forwards this free agency period.

“Last year I think we had a lot of holes in our hockey club,” Poile said. “I wasn’t happy with our team the previous year and we needed to make a lot of changes. This year we’re looking for more quality than quantity.”

With a wealth of young, talented players, Poile has made it clear he is confident in his current roster going forward. With one of the League’s best young defensive corps and an All-Star caliber goalie healthy and back from injury, Poile believes his team is close to being able to make a playoff push.

“I’ve got patience,” Poile said. “I think we have got a lot of players that can play better than they did last year at the forward position and I think we have a lot of prospects coming along.”

Poile and the Predators will enter free agency with list of players they intend to entertain with offers. Currently, the Predators have 11 forwards under NHL contracts heading into next season.

Poile reaffirmed he would bump one of those players out if he’s able to acquire the top forward he’s seeking. With that being said Poile also made it clear he would not overpay or force a fit here in Nashville.

“We go into free agency with a plan,” Poile said. “We’ve identified a handful of players we would like to approach on July 1. If it’s a fit for us that’ll be great, but I’m not going to be over promising that something is going to happen.”

Below are links to a handful of evaluations of the top free agents in this year’s class:

Sports Illustarted

USA Today

Bleacher Report

SMASHVILLE CENTRAL

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STANDINGS
 

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
F. Forsberg 82 33 31 1 64
R. Josi 81 14 47 -3 61
J. Neal 82 31 27 27 58
S. Weber 78 20 31 -7 51
M. Ribeiro 81 7 43 11 50
C. Smith 82 21 16 4 37
M. Ekholm 82 8 27 14 35
R. Johansen 42 8 26 10 34
R. Ellis 79 10 22 13 32
C. Jarnkrok 81 16 14 1 30
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 34 21 10 .908 2.48
C. Hutton 7 5 4 .918 2.33