What began as 55 individuals vying for 23 spots has been whittled down to 22.
With the last of the decisions made, the Predators announced their final roster for the start of the 2019-20 season on Tuesday afternoon, the group that will begin the campaign with Thursday's home opener against the Minnesota Wild.
That lineup does not include forward Miikka Salomaki or defenseman Steven Santini, both of whom cleared waivers earlier in the day and were assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. They join forward Frederick Gaudreau and defenseman Jarred Tinordi who joined the Admirals on Monday after also clearing waivers.
In recent memory, the Predators have predominantly kept eight defensemen and 13 forwards on the roster. That extra forward remains, but only one additional skater has been retained on the backend as well, a calculated decision from coaches and management.
In the case of all four of the players named above, the assignments didn't take place because they had poor showings in training camp. Rather, it's simply a numbers game. The Predators can only keep 23 on the active roster, and even though they elected to finish one below that number, there's good reason for it.
"When [Predators General Manager] David [Poile] and I were talking… we really wanted guys to be playing," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said Tuesday. "We felt like we've just had some guys who had been sitting here, Miikka being one of them in and out of the lineup, Freddy being one of them and carrying eight defensemen, and it is great from a depth standpoint, but these guys aren't playing and it's a chance for them now."
Although unlikely, it was still possible the Predators could have lost all four of those players if another NHL club would have claimed any of them off waivers. That was a worse-case scenario for the Preds, but with all four now in Milwaukee, the NHL club has plenty of options if a recall is needed.
"Right now, they're part of our organization, and we're really happy to have them," Laviolette said. "They get to play as opposed to being an eighth defenseman or the 14th forward. Guys are on the ice in Milwaukee and they're playing, and I really feel like that's a real positive for our team. Then, when it comes time where we do need players, there'll be lots of players down there to pick from, and it should push them to continue to fight to make it back to the National Hockey League."
A 6-foot-6 blueliner, Tinordi signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Predators after joining the organization prior to last season. He was named captain of the Admirals, and although he has never played an NHL game for the Preds, that fact could change sometime soon.
"Jared's camp was really strong, stronger than last year," Laviolette said of Tinordi. "He's a great player, and we wanted to really continue to see him playing games, but we do see him as a part of the season. Right now, it's in Milwaukee, but his size and his toughness bring elements that we could be looking for."
A forward who will always be remembered for his three goals for the Predators in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, Gaudreau is in the final year of his contract that has now turned into a one-way deal. Gaudreau skated in 55 games with Nashville last season, and the Preds want him fresh if and when they need him back again.
"The most important thing for him is that he just gets playing," Laviolette said. "He's been here, in and out of the lineup, and this is an opportunity to just get in, have some fun, and find a way back here. There's a good chance for him [to be back in Nashville this season] as well."
Of course, every player who begins training camp with the NHL club wants to stay there. Even though it's not mathematically possible, it's also all but certain the Predators will need some assistance at some point over the next six-plus months.
That's when they'll turn to Milwaukee to make that phone call, and there will be plenty of candidates waiting on the other end of the line.
"There were a lot of players that played well, and just because you're going to Milwaukee doesn't mean it's the end of the world," Laviolette said. "It's a chance to develop, and we think most organizations have this. There are so many good hockey players out there now, that you draft players and they're more pro ready than they've ever been. I think a lot of organizations see the same thing, but I think we're in a good spot just in regards to these guys clearing waivers and being down there. It provides good depth."