This is the latest document in THN.com’s ongoing “Three Burning Questions” sequence of columns. In this selection, we pose 3 main questions for every NHL staff previous to the start of the 2022-23 steady season. In this document, we’ve were given Three Burning Questions in regards to the Nashville Predators.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS FOR THE PREDATORS IN 2022-23:
1. Is this the remaining gasp for the Predators’ present core? The Predators certified for the general wild-card playoff berth remaining season, however were given rag-dolled and swept within the first spherical by way of the eventual Stanley Cup winners from Colorado. This confirmed the adaptation in the place the Preds assume they’re and the place they in reality are within the NHL’s pecking order. But reasonably than disassembling Nashville’s lineup, Predators GM David Poile doubled down on his present core of high-level ability, first, preserving celebrity heart Filip Forsberg within the fold by way of an eight-year, $68-million contract growth, then obtaining veterans Nino Niederreiter and Ryan McDonagh to reinforce his ahead and protection teams, respectively.
This has made an already-old-ish Preds staff even older. Of their top-six forwards, 4 are both 30 or 31 years outdated. And at the again finish, 4 in their top-six defensemen are both 32 or 33. This isn’t the craze for many NHL groups, who’re looking to get more youthful and sooner. Poile is below drive by way of new Preds staff possession to get the staff into the second one spherical of the playoffs for the primary time in 5 years, and if he doesn’t, you need to wonder if Poile will likely be driven to make intensive adjustments. The Predators have maximum in their lineup signed throughout the 2023-24 marketing campaign, but when they fail to make the playoffs this yr, why must any person in Nashville need this staff stored in combination?
The final analysis: make the playoffs, win a spherical or two, and handle the established order for the Preds must be an excellent assumption; fail to make the playoffs, and all bets must be off for this crew. Mediocrity has been the result of too many Preds seasons, and Poile both must-see giant dividends paid off, or in the end admit this lineup simply isn’t the right combination to win all of it.
2. Can Nashville give extra day without work to celebrity goalie Juuse Saros? The 27-year-old Saros had an amazing 2021-22 season, making 67 appearances and posting a 38-25-3 file along side a 2.64 Goals-Against Average and .918 Save Percentage en path to incomes his first Vezina Trophy nomination as one of the vital NHL’s best possible goalies. The Finn used to be the manager reason why the Preds made the playoffs within the first position, as evidenced by way of Nashville’s sub-par efficiency within the playoffs with Saros sidelined by way of a foot harm suffered within the ultimate week of the steady season.
Poile selected to move a completely new direction for Saros’ understudy this yr, signing every other 27-year-old Finn, former Blackhawks goalie Kevin Lankanen, to a one-year contract. Lankinen has two years and 67 video games of NHL regular-season revel in, however his numbers (3.50 G.A.A., .891 SP in 32 video games performed) aren’t spectacular. If the Predators need to stay Saros recent and wholesome in time for the arriving of the post-season, they’ll want to hand off some assignments to Lankinen. But they are able to’t simply give away video games to the third-year, NHLer; within the Central Division, there are going to be 5 groups contending for what’s going to most likely be best 4 playoff berths, and Saros can’t scouse borrow a complete season for them. Their delight with Lankanen will likely be a sign of the way excessive within the Central standings they’ll cross.
3. How will the Predators’ new acquisitions have compatibility in? Niederreiter simply grew to become 30, whilst McDonagh turns 34 in June. As such, neither veteran will likely be requested to do nearly all of the heavy lifting this yr, however at a mixed wage cap value of $10.75 million, they’re additionally no longer going to be bit avid gamers. McDonagh does make an already-deep Preds protection corps smarter and higher on offense, whilst Niederreiter solidifies Nashville’s 2nd line of forwards, giving them every other 20-plus goal-scorer.
Poile has best $2.3 million in cap area, so it’s not going the Preds be able to tackle every other skilled hand. If they did, it’s solely imaginable they’d spend their last cap area on every other goaltender, however another way, what you notice heading into camp is what you’re going to peer in February, March and April. It’s tough seeing McDonagh and Niederreiter no longer becoming in, however the larger query stays – will they be sufficient to get them again within the post-season, or will they end within the dreaded smooth center of the league (which means, too excellent to complete on the backside of the standings and lock up the most productive odds at a height draft pick out, and too unhealthy to be a playoff staff)?