It’s impossible to look at the agreement the Preds reached with forward Paul Gaustad without recognizing the special skills Gaustad brings to the Preds – his faceoff expertise, his penalty kill excellence, and his veteran leadership inside the locker room.
But beyond those skills is what Gaustad means to the Preds roster. He – along with the qualifying offers extended earlier this month to Sergei Kostitysn and Colin Wilson – gives the Preds 12 proven NHL forwards to form the backbone of the team’s offense. Saying nothing of the group of young prospects ready to push for an NHL opportunity from the start of training camp.
Gaustad’s signing structures the group of forwards into roles well defined for each player. Fisher and Legwand will likely center the team’s top two lines with Gaustad and Spaling likely entering camp anchoring the shutdown defensive lines and Smith sliding over to the wing, but serving as a quality injury replacement down the middle when the inevitable bumps and bruises occur. Erat, Hornqvist, Kostitsyn, Wilson, and Smith will enter camp with the best chance of earning time on the wing across from Fisher and Legwand. Bourque, Halischuk, and Yip appear well entrenched filling out the roster.
And the likelihood is strong that the Preds will further strengthen the group – be it an addition from outside the organization in free agency or trade or be it growth from within the organization. Preds GM David Poile, in addressing the Nashville media on Sunday, noted the team's involvement in the Zach Parise free agency sweepstakes, among other potential forward targets. Prospects Bang, Beck, Lajunen, Latta, MacLellan, and Mueller all have the potential and development pedigree to contribute in the NHL this season in various roles.
Still, without any additions, the current group is – at least on paper – more impressive than the group the Preds iced upfront for the majority of the 2011-12 season, the group that finished the 2011-12 eighth in the NHL in goals.