"Our team is just about there,” Poile said in regard to the Preds competing for the Stanley Cup. “I’ll take our goaltending with Pekka [Rinne] against anybody, I’ll take our defense against anybody; our forwards have been under the microscope and are really getting better…We’ve got to be a bit better, but I like what we have right now, and I would like to see a majority of this team come back next year and see how we compete against all the top teams in the League.”
The two areas Nashville may look to the free agent pool for help are for (1) a depth defenseman to replace Anton Volchenkov and/or (2) a top-six forward depending on whether or not center Mike Ribeiro, an impending unrestricted free agent, chooses to ink a new deal with the Preds.
Below is NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen's list of the Top 15 players set, at this moment, to be available on Wednesday:
The next phase in the run-up to the 2015-16 season begins at noon ET on Wednesday, when the unrestricted free agent signing season begins.
The list of unrestricted free agents grew to include forwards Mike Richards, PA Parenteau, Cody Hodgson and Viktor Stalberg in the past few days. Richards cleared unconditional waivers and had his contract terminated by the Los Angeles Kings. The others cleared waivers and were bought out.
Meanwhile, forward Jay Beagle (Washington Capitals), goaltender Antti Niemi (Dallas Stars) and defenseman Adam McQuaid (Boston Bruins) were re-signed prior to reaching free agency. Niemi had his rights traded to the Stars from the San Jose Sharks during the 2015 NHL Draft.
Here are the 15 best unrestricted free agents (in alphabetical order) expected to be available when the market opens Wednesday:
Note: All previous cap charges according to war-on-ice.com.
Matt Beleskey, Anaheim Ducks
Previous cap charge: $1.35 million
Beleskey likely will get a significant raise because of the career-best 22 goals he scored in 65 games with the Ducks this season. There is a risk, however, because he hasn't proven himself during a stretch of multiple seasons. His 22 goals doubled his previous career-high, and he had a 15.2 shooting percentage, also a career high. He had 33 more shots on goal than last season, but he scored 13 more goals.
Christian Ehrhoff, Pittsburgh Penguins
Previous cap charge: $4 million
Ehrhoff is a valuable defensemen but he's coming off a concussion that ended his season March 24. He had 14 points in 49 games and averaged 21:45 of ice time, third on the Penguins. It was somewhat surprising that he signed a one-year contract last summer. The thought at the time was that he could parlay it into another big contract. Now he might have to sign another one-year contract.
Eric Fehr, Washington Capitals
Previous cap charge: $1.5 million
Fehr proved himself as a capable third-line center with the Capitals. He had 19 goals and 14 assists in 75 games. He played in shorthanded situations, won 52.0 percent of his faceoffs and had a 50.48 shot-attempts percentage (SAT) while playing a shut-down role against the opposition's top line on many occasions. He also had surgery on his elbow earlier this month but is expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2015-16 season.
Previous cap charge: $3.3 million
Franson is 27 and a right-shot defender, which are two pluses for him. He didn't deliver as the Predators hoped he would after they acquired him from the Toronto Maple Leafs in February. He had only four points in 23 games and two points in five playoff games. Franson shouldn't have any problems finding a team and a fair contract because of his age, the fact that he's a righty, and his offensive skills.
Michael Frolik, Winnipeg Jets
Previous cap charge: $3.3 million
Frolik could be one of the most serviceable and durable forwards available. He had 19 goals and 42 points in 82 games with the Jets this season. He has proven his ability to play on any line and he's missed four games in the past three seasons. He helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2013 with 10 points in 23 playoff games in a fourth-line role. He's 27.
Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Previous cap charge: $6.083 million
Although his ice time dropped and he played on the third pair with Washington this season, he remained a strong possession player and valuable on the power play. He is 29 years old and has played in 575 regular-season games. He is helped by the fact that he's a righty. Jeff Petry's contract with the Montreal Canadiens (six years, $33 million) could be a comparison.
Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Previous cap charge: $5 million
Martin might be more cost effective than Green and he might be able to deliver more in an all-around package. He can play upwards of 23 minutes per night, play on both special-teams units, in a top-pair role, and be effective in every area. The Penguins have a glut of young defensemen and a need to spend money on a top-six forward or two.
Johnny Oduya, Chicago Blackhawks
Previous cap charge: $3.375 million
Arguably nobody enhanced their value more during the Stanley Cup Playoffs than Oduya. He was effective and played significant minutes (24:45 per game), especially in the final two rounds, to help Chicago win the Stanley Cup. Oduya is a two-time Cup champion who is 33 years old. He would be a good fit for a team that moves the puck well and has young defensemen that can skate, such as the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers.
PA Parenteau, Montreal Canadiens
Previous cap charge: $4 million
Parenteau is a free agent because the Canadiens bought out the final season of his contract Monday. He had eight goals and 22 points in 56 games with Montreal this season. That's two consecutive down years for Parenteau, which could be good news for the team that signs him. He'll likely come at a decent price and he has the potential to score 20 goals if paired with the right center. He could be one of the top bargain signings.
Brad Richards, Chicago Blackhawks
Previous cap charge: $2 million
Richards delivered what was asked of him in Chicago and he's getting his name engraved on the Stanley Cup again because of it. He had 37 points in 76 games, and 14 points in 23 playoff games. Patrick Kane said on the ice after winning the Cup that he hopes Richards stays in Chicago. Richards would like that but Chicago has cap concerns, though.
Andrej Sekera, Los Angeles Kings
Previous cap charge: $2.75 million
The Kings need a player like Sekera, especially with Robyn Regehr's retirement and the cloudy future of Slava Voynov. They also traded a conditional first-round draft pick and a prospect to get Sekera from the Carolina Hurricanes prior to the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline. The hope was Sekera would help the Kings make the playoffs. He had one goal and three assists in 14 games but they couldn't get in.
Jiri Tlusty, Winnipeg Jets
Previous cap charge: $2.95 million
Tlusty hasn't come close to producing the way he did in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, when he had 23 goals and 38 points in 48 games for the Carolina Hurricanes. He has 61 points in 140 games since. However he's 27 and has shown an ability to produce when paired with an elite center (Eric Staal with the Hurricanes). He could be a productive second-line forward on a team that needs help in that area. The Penguins are one of those teams, and GM is Jim Rutherford was the Hurricanes' GM when Tlusty had his best seasons.
Antoine Vermette, Chicago Blackhawks
Previous cap charge: $3.75 million
Vermette was a healthy scratch to start the playoffs but he delivered once he got in the lineup. Three of his four goals were game-winners, and two of them were in overtime. He also won 58.9 percent of his faceoffs, the best percentage for any player who went beyond the second round. Whether he redeemed himself enough to land a lucrative, multi-year contract remains to be seen. It's unlikely he'll be back in Chicago because of the Blackhawks' cap issues.
Joel Ward, Washington Capitals
Previous cap charge: $3 million
Ward can play a power game on any line. He's a constant net-front presence and a threat to score 20-plus goals. He had 19 this season after scoring 24 on 18.0-percent shooting in 2013-14. He is 34 years old. He'll be a valuable signing for any team.
Justin Williams, Los Angeles Kings
Previous cap charge: $3.65 million
Williams is one of the most intriguing free agents because of his playoff success. He is a three-time Cup champion and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2014. He is one of the most clutch playoff performers in NHL history with a League-record 14 points in Game 7s. His seven goals in Game 7s are tied with Hockey Hall of Fame forward Glenn Anderson for the most in League history. His teams are 7-0 in Game 7s. He had 41 points in 81 regular-season games.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer