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Just got done watching the Predators pwn the Sharks, 5-2. The Sharks just didn't seem to be 100% in it after Dumont's short-handed goal and his subsequent 5-on-3 PP goal. Series is now tied 1-1, and Vokoun is playing much better.

And I am now an advocate of extending Alex Radulov's contract by an extra 15 years or so.

Now for the purpose of this blog. Free agents that the Predators will be willing to target- once they get their own house in order, of course. But first, I'm switching out John Mayer for Jimmy Buffett... there we go.

Now, for the purposes of this column, we'll say that the Predators let Hartnell go, trade Zidlicky($3.2 million extra) and reluctantly trade Mason($1.25 million). They'll also let Forsberg go(let's just assume he goes to Sweden). Vishnevski also goes bye-bye. We'll also assume the Predators retain Nichol($600k-700k, we'll say $600k), Fiddler($500k), and Abid($500k).They'll let Hordichuk and Smithson go and retain Kariya(at about $5 million), along with Zanon(at about $900k)

Now, by my math, that gives Predators just about $36.156 million in salary, which gives them $9.944 million to spend before they hit a $46 million cap. Klein will fill the gap left by Zidlicky on defense(at about $750k, previously added in), and Rinne will come up and make $650k, so add that in there and it leaves the cap space at $9.294 million. You also have to remember- Vokoun's salary is at $5.3 million next season(which I already added in).
So, with Erat(RFA), Legwand and Dumont to sign in the following off-season, who can the Predators bring in to bolster the team?

The answer- not much. The Predators will have to look from within and hope some prospects will step up big time. Patric Hornqvist(C) will be coming over from Sweden, coming off a Rookie of the Year season in the Elitserien, in which he joined an elite group- including Peter Forsberg, Daniel Sedin(it may be Henrik, not sure- they're pretty much the same to me), and Marcus Naslund- as a 20 goal-scorer as a junior in the top Swedish league. Cal O'Reilly has been dominating Milwaukee(18g, 45a through tonight) in his rookie campaign. Mike Santorelli(C) allegedly requested $200k to sign with the Admirals for the last 9 games of the year, so he probably will never make the NHL if he keeps that up.
The team is literally loaded with prospects on defense, as Cody Franson(Vancouver, WHL) and Denis Kulyash(somewhere in Russia) are considered blue-chips for the blue-line(no pun intended), along with a number of others.

But, if the Predators want to avoid looking within, they do have a few options:

1) Let Kariya go, and retain Hartnell(extra $2 million in cap space).
2) Let Kariya AND Hartnell go.

Let's say the Predators do the former(because they're going to retain one). That puts you closer to $10 million, but you still have Dumont(who'll want a hefty raise), Legwand(ditto), and Erat(RFA) to re-sign in July '08. So add $2 million to Dumont's salary, $1.4 to Legwand's, and $1 million to Erat's. Tootoo will take $600k, I'm sure. They also have Shea Weber and Ryan Suter(both RFAs), and I cry in my sleep when I think what they're going to want when their contracts are up. Weber will want upwards of $3 million, probably more; Suter will want $1-2 million. That leaves the Predators with between $500k and $0 in cap space after next year.

Here's a safe sumation- the Predators are about to go through cap Hell, even if they get rid of all their UFAs in this off-season. And if they get rid of the UFAs, they lose their chance at the Cup. Nashville's window slammed shut when Vokoun inked that four-year extension that slightly more than doubled his salary, with it peaking at over $6 million in the final year.

So here are some UFAs for a team on a tight budget:

Nikolai Antropov
Stu Barnes
Pascal Dupuis
Nils Ekman
Michal Handzus(played less than 20 games before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the year)
Lang(is well past his prime, won't get too much)
Ian Laperriere
Mikko Lehtonen(who will be in Finland- book it)
Eric Lindros(just can't stay healthy, it's really hurting his value now, if he doesn't retire altogether he'll be very affordable)
Dean McAmmond(though I'm not sure what kind of year he's been having)
Josef Melichar
Glen Metropolit
Jozef Stumpel
Kevin Weekes(not sure if he'd want to play for "cheap", but he's an option)

So, there ya go. The outlook is never good for most Cup contenders, but Poile has really hurt the team with some of the bigger, more unnecessary contracts(Vokoun and Zidlicky especially). But it's not anything new in the cap-era NHL. Buffalo is going through this sort of thing this year with Drury and Briere(they did have Biron on their hands- considering the return, I would've kept him).

In the third and final installment there will be two segments- first, what I would do if I were David Poile. Then, who the Predators will be looking at for the Draft.

*All current salary numbers are from the following source: http://www.nhlnumbers.com/nas.html

If I have made any typographical errors, please send me a PM and I will correct them right away
Filed Under:   Predators   Nashville   Off-Season   NHL  
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