As sure as the music flows out of the Broadway honky-tonks, there will always be changes to hockey clubs during the summer months. The Nashville Predators are no different, but the summer of 2016 could be a bit quieter than usual.
Preds General Manager David Poile addressed his offseason plans during Wednesday’s closing press conference, outlining his hope to re-sign a number of players already in the organization and continue to promote from within, rather than looking for much help through free agency.
The only two players Poile expects to depart the club are forwards Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom. Gaustad is an unrestricted free agent, and the GM will not try to re-sign the veteran center. Nystrom has one year left on his deal, and Poile will look to try and trade the winger or explore other options.
With the exception of those imminent departures, Nashville’s locker room could have a very similar setup in 2016-17.
“When we have the meetings with the coaches and we go through each area, we’ll identify where we think we have weaknesses and we’ll identify where the opportunities are,” Poile said. “We have a good team. There’s not going to be a lot of changes, but would I like to make a couple of changes? Yes, I think that’s good to always keep people on their toes, to push and challenge people.”
The newcomers within the organization, who have arrived either through trades, free agency or the draft, continue to form a more cohesive unit throughout the lineup, allowing the opportunity for Poile to start with his own roster when looking to make an upgrade.
“If you look at the last two or three years, we have made lots of changes. Every day, I’m liking more and more where we are, and I’m liking what Milwaukee had this year and the depth they have and the younger players coming up. I would probably first like to promote from within rather than to go out and get a free agent, but we’ll use every resource that’s available to us to make our team better.”
Poile will also look for more consistency throughout his lineup in 2016-17, something he felt was missing during stretches last season. Nashville utilized a number of young players in the lineup on a regular basis, and the experience they’ve all gained, Poile believes, will only help the individual players, and the team as a whole when the puck drops once more.
“If Colin Wilson plays to his potential, if Ryan Johansen just plays a little bit more to his potential, Craig Smith with not quite as many ups and downs; that’s a lot of ifs, I get that, but I think we have a lot of the pieces,” Poile said. “We have top-six forwards, we have bottom-six forwards, we have top-four defensemen, we have the goalie, we have to get it together just a little bit more.
“The last two years have been a great improvement.”