The Nashville Predators offseason theme has been simple: few changes. They are confident they have the formula for success in house.
That said, Preds General Manager David Poile was able to cross off some subtle - but important things - from his summer checklist this week, making deals with forward Ryan Hartman and goalie Juuse Saros.
On the Predators Flagship Station 102.5 The Game, we had a great conversation with Hartman, and got excellent insight from analytics specialist Rob Vollman from Hockey Abstract on the underrated value of Saros. They are both worth listening to - and here is your guide:
SEC Media Days took place this week in Atlanta. Did you know that Hartman has a connection to University of Alabama football and the legendary coach Bear Bryant? Let's just say Hartman has a lot of family down south that is very glad he's playing closer to their home.
Hartman elected to sign a one-year deal. One factor, of course, is the shoulder injury he is recovering from (he goes into detail on the progress he is making). However, his attitude on "betting on himself" caught our attention. Listen to his thought process of using the one-year contract as motivation to drive him to a productive season, with the hopes that it will result in a better deal for him for next season and beyond.
In a lighter moment, my colleague Darren McFarland (pre- and postgame radio host for the Preds) asked Hartman on what he thought of P.K. Subban's recent style of swimwear (posted to Instagram on July 4) and how his tastes compare.
Rob Vollman on Juuse Saros:
Vollman was among the first wave of analytics specialists on the scene as the concept began to infiltrate the hockey world a few years ago. With that in mind, we picked his brain on some of the Predators' offseason moves, in particular the three-year deal for Saros.
Vollman has long been a believer in Saros. As he points out, in the analytics world, they have no bias toward height. The numbers are the numbers. There will be those that question whether a sub-6-foot goaltender can really carry the load as a starter long term. Vollman is not among them. He is a big believer in Saros and is very optimistic that the Predators will get outstanding value from the contract. He shares some numbers that back up that theory.
The versatility of Ryan Hartman is valuable. If you listened to our interview with Hartman, he explains his background on how he gained experience over time playing different roles and positions. Vollman concurs and believes Hartman can be a solid asset for Nashville.
The Predators are different than any other team on defense. There are no other teams that can match their number of first-rate blueliners. This is not news to all of you reading this, but it does create an interesting negotiation with Ryan Ellis, as the Predators attempt to lock him up to a long-term contract. Nashville can spread out the critical minutes and responsibilities among their four aces (Subban, Ellis, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm), therefore from an analytics perspective, it's not as easy to define their value in comparison to a team with only one or two elite defensemen. Vollman elaborates on this conundrum.