From the outset of the Nashville Predators 25th Anniversary season, General Manager Barry Trotz admittedly did not know precisely what to expect.

Receiving the torch from the winningest general manager in NHL history, hiring a new head coach and thoroughly reconfiguring Nashville’s roster, Trotz always knew the upcoming campaign could go any number of ways.

He also knew that it was going to be an exciting ride. 

And what a ride it was. 

“As a young general manager in my first year, I was trying to sort of navigate through this, and I was very forthright with our fan base,” Trotz said at his end-of-season press conference on Tuesday. “I said to enjoy this journey. And I don't know what the journey is going to be, necessarily. The group started out 5-10-0 and then we went on a 14-4-0 run and we were around .500 for a bit, and then we went on this incredible heater you know after the reset after the All-Star break. We didn't go to Vegas and I loved the way [we responded], where a group of young men acted like men, which was great. They pulled together, they set the standard and they held each other accountable. And that's why they had such a good run and we got in the playoffs.”

Trotz, Brunette Talk 2023-24 Campaign, Preds Future

Though the Predators ultimately fell to the Vancouver Canucks in six games, getting to compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs just one year after missing them only signaled brighter days to come.

“Like I said, it's going to be a journey,” Trotz said. “It's not always going to be a straight line because we're all human and life's not always perfect. But this is a start, it's not the end. And it's something that we're going to continue to build over the next couple of years here.”

As the offseason arrives and franchise-building opportunities like the 2024 NHL Draft and free agency draw nearer, Trotz touched on a few immediate goals he has in mind for the Predators’ future as well as areas he was wholly satisfied with during his first season in the GM’s office:

We Do Talk About Bruno

Like his players, Predators Head Coach Andrew Brunette typically opts to deflect his share of the credit.

Fortunately, Nashville’s general manager had no problem heaping the praise onto his Jack Adams Finalist on Tuesday.

“My vision from day one was I wanted to change the style, I wanted to change the focus on how we played,” Trotz said. “We're in the entertainment business, so I wanted to find someone who had a little more offensive mind and wanted someone who could connect with the star players. I wanted a good hockey person. And I knew [Brunette’s] work, I knew how he played, I knew how he speaks with players, how he connects, [how he] has lots of experience and experience at every level… And he just took the pieces that were handed to him, and he created something pretty good. And that's what he does.

Bruno NSH

VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 30: Nashville Predators coach Andrew Brunette looks on during the second period in Game Five of the First Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on April 30, 2024 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)

“He's a hell of a coach, and he's done a great job this year.”

Building the Top Nine

Though Trotz spoke highly of Brunette’s accomplishments on Tuesday, the Predators general manager knows his head coach’s system demands a higher level of scoring consistency throughout the top nine in order to be successful.

“We relied so heavily on [Ryan] O’Reilly’s line and they all had career years, they were all healthy all year and they carried a lot of the offense,” Trotz said. “There's times where Novak's line would help out and Sissons’ line would help out, but we really need all three lines to be helping out every night. And by building the top nine, you're going to be good. You know what the fourth line will bring, and I don't even call them the fourth line, they’re just an identity line because they can play against everybody and they're a pain in the you know what to play against and a lot of guys don't want to play against them, and you saw that all year. So the top nine is where you need production through your lineup. I watched the Boston game [Monday] night. It wasn't necessarily Pastrnak or Marchand. It was the other guys that were scoring in that first game and it was a 5-1 win. So that's really good to get to on a continual basis, night in and night out.”

Top 9 NSH

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 25: Nashville Predators look on during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on February 25, 2024 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Of course, to give his head coach the firepower and consistency he needs, Trotz is open to anything.

“Everything's on the table,” he said. “If we can get better through trade or through free agency, through acquisition or flip-flopping assets with another team, we'll do that.”

Unrestricted Free Agents

As the business side of hockey often dictates, it’s more than likely that not every player who ended the year with the Predators will return in October.

Trotz is currently looking at six players that are set to become unrestricted free agents once their contracts expire on July 1: Tyson Barrie, Anthony Beauvillier, Alexandre Carrier, Kevin Lankinen, Kiefer Sherwood and Jason Zucker.


While it’s perhaps fair to assume that Barrie will depart Nashville this offseason - the defenseman served as a healthy scratch for the majority of the season and was open about seeking a trade - the other five players’ futures with the Predators remain unclear.

Though Trotz would admittedly like to keep everyone, he knows that the numbers will need to fit within his salary cap constraints and the players within his vision for the team moving forward.

“We're looking for hard people,” Trotz said. “We're looking for people that are winners. I use the term serial winners. That's what we're going to continue to do. Starting from [Tuesday], obviously we're still in exit meetings with a lot of the players. We have a lot of free agents that are UFAs. We’ll talk to all their representatives and we will have some cap restraints this year, so the numbers will all have to fit. So to ask who's going to be back, I can't even answer that, because the numbers will have to fit. I would like to have every one of those young men back and then try to add some more pieces. But the numbers will have to fit.”

In the Crease

For the first time in a long time, Nashville’s future between the pipes is somewhat murky.

With one more year remaining on star goaltender Juuse Saros’ four-year contract, a summer expiration fast approaching on Lankinen’s one-year deal and phenom goaltending prospect Yaroslav Askarov knocking on the door in the American Hockey League, Trotz has many things to consider.


WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 30: Yaroslav Askarov #30 of the Nashville Predators tends net against the Washington Capitals during overtime in the game at Capital One Arena on December 30, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

“I've talked to Saros’ representatives and I've also worked with Lankinen’s,” Trotz said. “[Lankinen] had a terrific year and he would love to come back as well. But like I said, the numbers will dictate that. And Askarov is now in the playoffs, and he's very close, but you can never over-marinate goaltenders. So if the right fit is there, then you might have some more time, but if not, we can go in a different direction. But that direction is not quite clear. We're going to do what's best for us as an organization and also for the growth of young Askarov.”