Since we last got together…
The Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons and shortly thereafter the offseason began. The Toronto Maple Leafs have dominated the headlines there, bringing in Mike Babcock from Detroit to coach, convincing Lou Lamoriello to leave New Jersey to be the general manager of the Leafs and trading elite forward Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh.
Other big moves around the NHL included Colorado trading center Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo; the Kings picking up left wing Milan Lucic from the Bruins; Boston also moving defenseman Dougie Hamilton to Calgary; the Blackhawks sending Patrick Sharp to Dallas and Brandon Saad to Columbus and the Stars signing former Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya. Meanwhile, looking for Cup-winning experience, the Capitals signed free agent Justin Williams away from the Kings.
Most of those were unexpected moves. The top of the 2015 NHL Draft went as expected; Connor McDavid was taken by the Edmonton Oilers first overall, followed by Buffalo’s selection of Jack Eichel.
It was a relatively quiet offseason for General Manager David Poile and the Nashville Predators, coming off a season when they tallied 104 points, sixth-best in the NHL. Gone from last season’s team are center Matt Cullen (Pittsburgh), wingers Taylor Beck (Toronto), Viktor Stalberg (New York Rangers) and Mike Santorelli, along with defensemen Cody Franson and Anton Volchenkov.
Think about who is returning: the top line of Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro and James Neal. Mike Fisher (like Ribeiro, a free agent who re-signed with the Preds) will center the second line. Two restricted free agents who also inked new deals will be candidates to team with Fisher – Colin Wilson (coming off his first 20-goal season) and Craig Smith (who just turned in his second 20-goal year).
The third line could have free-agent signee Cody Hodgson (previously with Vancouver and Buffalo) centering, perhaps with 19-year-old Kevin Fiala and Calle Jarnkrok fitting in.
Paul Gaustad will be ready to take all the important faceoffs, with Eric Nystrom and Gabriel Bourque standing by to reprise their previous roles.
Alphabetically, Viktor Arvidsson, Steve Moses and Austin Watson will try to interject their way into consideration once camp is underway next month.
Captain Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Seth Jones and Ryan Ellis, along with utility man Victor Bartley all return to anchor a strong defensive corps. The big addition there will be veteran Barret Jackman, a long-time nemesis of the Predators, who left the St. Louis Blues to sign with Nashville. Jackman has played more than 800 games in the NHL and was the League’s Calder Trophy winner in 2002-03. He can provide a physical edge and help in many different areas of the game.
Also back is world-class goaltender Pekka Rinne, backed by Carter Hutton and, if necessary, Marek Mazanec.
So maybe the Predators’ offseason has not been all that flashy, but it might be because the substance of this team is so solid. Perhaps a relatively quiet summer will lead to an uproarious winter!