While Ryan Hartman may not be quite ready to hit the ice when the Predators report to training camp on Sept. 13, he's sure to have every opportunity to carve out a solidified role for himself when the time comes.
That's according to Preds General Manager David Poile and Head Coach Peter Laviolette, who addressed the media on Monday to officially conclude the 2017-18 season, a campaign that saw Nashville acquire Hartman at the Trade Deadline from Chicago.
Poile revealed Monday that Hartman will undergo offseason shoulder surgery - a procedure that carries a four to five month recovery period - but the GM is hopeful the winger will be ready for regular-season action come October. A restricted free agent, Hartman will need to come to terms on a new deal this summer with Nashville, but the Predators certainly want him in the fold and are anxious to see what he can do with the right chances.
"Lavi said to him in the exit meeting that basically the cupboard is open," Poile said of the conversation between Laviolette and Hartman. "So, when you come to training camp, take whatever you want, meaning we're open to him playing up in the lineup, different positions, maybe power-play opportunities; Lavi and our coaches had Ryan killing penalties, which he didn't do in Chicago. In doing that, he did it very well for us, so it'll be his best chance to with the whole year to know exactly where he fits in."
After posting 19 goals and 31 points during his first full NHL season in 2016-17, Hartman recorded three goals and six points in 21 contests with Nashville after arriving in late February. He then added an additional two goals and three points in nine postseason outings with the team.
Not only are the Predators looking forward to having Hartman begin the 2018-19 season with the club, they're also anticipating his potential with a completely healthy shoulder, an ailment that may have affected his play down the stretch, according to Laviolette.
"I think one, [playing with an injury is] in your mind, and two, there's the actual physicality that comes with the game," Laviolette said. "We were able to manage Ryan's [injury], but I'm sure he probably wishes he wasn't dealing with it or didn't have to worry about that."
Hartman won't have to think about it the next time he dons the Preds logo and those in charge believe he can become an integral piece for the foreseeable future.
"I think he's going to be a player with us for a number of years," Poile said. "In my mind, I kind of compare him to a [Colton] Sissons, a [Calle] Jarnkrok in terms of value and where he can move up and down the lineup and do different things."