The NHL's 32nd team - the Seattle Kraken - are set to begin play this fall, and as was the case four summers ago with the Vegas Golden Knights, the League will hold an Expansion Draft to allow the Kraken to select one player from each team, excluding the Golden Knights, for a total of 30 (14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies).
Protection lists are due to be submitted by July 17, with the Expansion Draft scheduled to take place on July 21.
"We're starting to work on that in terms of meetings with our people and going over different scenarios, mock drafts and what have you," Preds General Manager David Poile said last week. "[We'll] see what is available and what we want to do, whether it should be trades before that, so I certainly won't be able to answer your questions right now as to who we're protecting or who we're leaving available."
The Preds may choose to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie, with additional conditions that must be met.
Once the Expansion Draft concludes, the 2021 NHL Draft is up next with Round 1 set for Friday, July 23, and then Rounds 2-7 coming Saturday, July 24. The Predators currently hold seven picks in the 2021 Draft, including a first-round selection.
"We're going to do [the Draft] virtually again here in Nashville, and it's our hope that because of the COVID restrictions and protocols loosening up a little bit that we'll be able to bring the majority of our scouts into Nashville," Poile said. "That will make us much more effective if we can do that."
The NHL's free agency signing period is next up with teams allowed to ink deals with free agents starting at 11 a.m. CT on Wednesday, July 28, and the Preds will have a number of decisions to make on their roster.
Forwards Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Brad Richardson and Michael McCarron, defensemen Erik Gudbranson, Luca Sbisa and Tyler Lewington, as well as Rinne are unrestricted free agents. Forwards Eeli Tolvanen, Rem Pitlick, Mathieu Olivier and Tanner Jeannot, defensemen Dante Fabbro, Jeremy Davies and Ben Harpur, plus goaltender Juuse Saros are restricted free agents.
"We'll have to make some changes to continue to evolve as we look to build on what we experienced this season in order to take the steps forward that we want to do," Poile said. "Summer now is starting, and there are a lot of things to do there. We have a lot of unrestricted free agents…and we've got to discuss whether we're going to be bringing those players back and do that probably in the next couple of weeks. We also have a number of restricted free agents…so we have our work cut out for us to get a lot of those contracts done."
Video: Poile recaps 2020-21 season, looks at the future
Perhaps there will be a moment or two for relaxation in the month of August, but September is expected to bring about a return to schedule normalcy for the first time in two years as the NHL and the rest of the continent continues to recover from the pandemic.
In the meantime, mark your calendars for the summer months, because the puck will be dropping once more before long.
"It is our belief, and what we've been told by the League, that we're probably going to return to have more of a traditional starting time next [season] and in September for training camp and October for the start of the season," Poile said. "[We expect to have an] 82-game schedule and probably the same divisions that we had prior to this year. So, there's lots to do for sure, but I know with Coach Hynes and his staff, and our hockey ops group, we're anxious to dig in and find a way to be better next year."
Preds, 102.5 The Game to Host 615 Day Celebration at Ford Ice Center:
Speaking of summertime events, you'll want to plan for this one next week.
The Preds and their flagship radio station - 102.5 The Game - will host a 615 Day celebration at Ford Ice Center Bellevue on Tuesday, June 15. Benefiting Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee, the day-long event will feature fun for the whole family while paying tribute to Nashville's annual 615 Day, an occasion that pairs Music City's area code with the date of June 15.
From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT next Tuesday, Ford Ice Center Bellevue will play host to a wide variety of activities and activations for fans of all ages.
During the entire 12-hour window, 102.5 The Game's on-air talent will broadcast from Ford Ice Center Bellevue, and GNASH and the Predators Energy Team will also be on hand for the excitement. In addition to catching 102.5's live radio shows, fans will have multiple opportunities to take the ice during donation-based public skate sessions, the registration information for which will be available @FordIceCenter on Twitter or at NashvillePredators.com/FordIceCenter. Draft Picks Restaurant & Bar will also be open all day.
Outside, the Ford Ice Center Bellevue parking lot will be overflowing with numerous food and beverage options, including Hunt Brothers Pizza, Chick-fil-A and others. Additionally, Nashville Locker Room will be selling Predators merchandise, and multiple Preds and 102.5 The Game partners will be activated throughout the day and offering giveaways.
To further benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee - which provides kids and teens a safe place to develop essential skills, make lasting connections and have fun - the Nashville Predators Foundation empowered by SmileDirectClub will facilitate a silent auction on June 15. Featuring exciting sports merchandise and signed Predators apparel, 100 percent of the proceeds will go directly to the charity, which was jointly selected by the Predators and 102.5 The Game.
As the 615 Day Celebration approaches, stay tuned for additional details to be shared at NashvillePredators.com and TheGameNashville.com, and also @PredsNHL and @1025TheGame on Twitter.
Sign Up for Preds Blood Drive with the American Red Cross:
Preds fans helped to save more than 10,000 lives in 2020, and you can continue to raise that number in 2021.
The Nashville Predators have once again teamed up with the American Red Cross again to host blood drives all over the region from June 14-18. All presenting donors will receive a Preds and Red Cross branded foam puck and be entered to win a Preds and Red Cross branded puck signed by a current Preds player.
To make an appointment visit www.redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code Preds19, and click here to learn more about the partnership.
Milwaukee Admirals Set to Return for 2021-22 Season:
The Ads are back.
After electing to sit out the 2020-21 season due to the pandemic, the Milwaukee Admirals - Nashville's American Hockey League affiliate - are set to return to the ice this October to give Predators prospects a spot to continue to develop into full-time NHLers.
Milwaukee's home opener for the 2021-22 season comes Saturday, Oct. 16, one of 76 games the Ads will play while residing in the AHL's Central Division. The opponent and time for the home opener will be announced when the AHL schedule is released later this summer.
"We are so excited to get this date set for the beginning of our 2021-22 season," Admirals Owner/CEO Harris Turer said via press release. "The past 15 months have been a tremendous challenge for everyone, but we have kept our focus on preparing for next season. Oct. 16 can't come soon enough so we can be back to Panther Arena with the best fans in the AHL."
Upcoming Bridgestone Arena Events:
Hockey will return to Bridgestone Arena this fall, but summer events are back at the home of the Preds.
June 12: Cinch World's Toughest Rodeo, 1 p.m. CT & 8 p.m. CT. Click here for tickets.
June 19: Happy Hiller USA Cornhole Club Championship, 4 p.m. CT. Click here for tickets.
July 2-3: ALABAMA with very special guest Martina McBride, 50th Anniversary Tour End of Tour Celebration, 7 p.m. CT. Click here for tickets.
Predators Official Podcast:
Predators players and management conduct their final press conferences of the season and share their comprehensive thoughts on the 2020-21 campaign (7:30). Will Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne retire or return (27:00)? Thomas Willis and Brooks Bratten discuss, recap and look at the future of the team (14:30). Plus, Thomas says his final goodbye to the podcast and the Predators (38:00) and is surprised with special messages to conclude his last show (71:20).
Week in Review:
Preds Impressed by Rookies, Looking for Continued Impacts Next Season
Poile, Hynes Address State of Preds, Look Ahead as Offseason Arrives
Rinne Named Finalist for King Clancy Memorial Trophy
Preds Players Sense New Belief, Fresh Outlook Following 2020-21 Season
Rinne Will Take Time to Decide Future, Grateful for Support from Preds
Borowiecki Reveals Health Issues, Looks Toward Bright Future with Preds
Predators Sign Juuso Parssinen to Three-Year, Entry-Level Contract
Thomas Willis: Goodbye and Thank You
Postseason Run Concludes as Preds Fall to Hurricanes in Game 6