The Nashville Predators cleared out their lockers, conducted final meetings and bid farewell to each other on Wednesday, two days after the team was eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“It’s not fun,” team captain Shea Weber said. “Obviously you still want to be playing right now and it’s tough to say bye to all your teammates for the summer, but it is what it is.”
Players completed exit physicals with the medical staff and exit interviews with management before speaking with the media, autographing a few items and heading their separate ways. General manager David Poile and head coach Barry Trotz are scheduled to conduct their year-end press conferences Thursday morning.
Four Predators—Roman Josi, Martin Erat, and Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn—will play on as members of their respective national teams in the 2012 IIHF World Championships, which are under way in Finland and Sweden and continue through May 20.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, players were well aware that the team’s roster could look very different when next season rolls around. Fifteen players are scheduled to enter free agency—eight as unrestricted free agents and seven as restricted free agents—making for a busy off-season for GM Poile.
One of those restricted free agents, Alexander Radulov, said he was happy with his March decision to return to the Predators after his Kontinental Hockey League season ended in Russia. When it comes to next season, he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I would like to come back but I have no contract and we’ll see what it’s going to be in the summer,” he said. “It’s been two days since the season was over so it’s hard to talk about it right now.”
When teammates Mike Fisher and Pekka Rinne were asked if they had recently tried to persuade Ryan Suter -- the team's highest profile unrestricted free agent -- to re-sign with Nashville, both said they had been laying the groundwork.
“I’ve been lobbying all year,” Fisher said with a laugh.