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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 DAL 56 36 15 5 182 150 77
2 CHI 59 36 18 5 162 137 77
3 STL 57 31 17 9 138 133 71
4 LAK 54 33 18 3 151 128 69
5 ANA 54 27 19 8 123 127 62
6 COL 58 29 25 4 155 160 62
7 SJS 53 28 20 5 154 143 61
8 NSH 56 26 21 9 147 148 61
9 ARI 54 25 23 6 143 164 56
10 MIN 55 23 22 10 135 138 56
11 VAN 55 22 21 12 127 149 56
12 CGY 54 25 26 3 144 160 53
13 WPG 55 25 27 3 139 157 53
14 EDM 57 22 29 6 138 168 50

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Josi 56 11 31 0 42
F. Forsberg 56 18 18 -7 36
S. Weber 56 15 21 -2 36
M. Ribeiro 56 6 30 3 36
J. Neal 56 21 14 19 35
M. Ekholm 56 6 19 3 25
R. Ellis 55 6 16 2 22
C. Jarnkrok 55 11 8 2 19
C. Smith 56 11 7 -1 18
R. Johansen 16 4 12 6 16
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 20 18 8 .902 2.57
C. Hutton 6 2 1 .924 2.10