Just like Imus' comments on the Rutgers women's basketball team, I'm sure I'll take some major heat from hockey purists with what I'm about to say.
To be honest, I'm not much of a fan of the playoffs. It's actually quite uninteresting to me(probably because of the old days of watching the Wings and Coyotes play each other for two or three years in the mid-90's) until they get to the conference finals- when there's actually hardware in the arena.
But I'm really much more of a front-office guy. And that's where having a guy like David Poile can make things so interesting. He's proven now that he can go out and get the best players on the market- Sullivan before the lockout, Kariya after the lockout, Arnott this past summer, Forsberg in early February. And with this summer's free agent class shaping up to be one of the best of the modern-era NHL, the plot will only continue to thicken.
So, imagine you're David Poile for a moment here. First question- how does the massive jump in IQ feel(he's gotta be above 160, easy). Second question- who do you bring back in the off-season?
I think with Zidlicky playing with his head stuck up his... contract... that he'll get dealt at the end of the year, while Poile can still get a strong return(maybe a 1st or 2nd rounder). Mason might be gone as well, because we all know nobody wants to trade for a goalie whose salaray will peak at $6.3 million in his contract year(I still haven't forgiven Poile for that one) who has shown tremendous inconsistency. Plus, Mason opens up cap room, and Pekka Rinne is waiting in the wings.
The Preds' UFAs, in no particular order, along with what I think it will take to re-sign them:
Scott Nichol- 500-600k range- top five in faceoff percentage better get him a raise.
Jerred Smithson- league minimum- he's just not all that good, to be blunt.
Ramzi Abid- league minimum to $500k- this guy showed a lot of promise in his stint with Nashville(which ended last Wednesday), so he'll be back. Might even be convinced to sign a two-way deal.
Sheldon Brookbank- league minimum- continuing to grow and played decent in his short stint with the Predators, but still not worthy of a full roster spot.
Patrick Leahy- league minimum- I honestly doubt he's with the organization next year- he's out there with Smithson. But, like JS, he's a good penalty killer and that's where he makes his money. Plus he was called up today.
Peter Forsberg- $4-5.5 million- he's been the best player on the team since he got here, save Alex Radulov. I honestly doubt he stays, but if he likes it here and thinks the team has a legit shot at the YouLord-KnowStanley's-WhatCup, he might take the lower-end estimate.
Paul Kariya- $5 million- he's a fan favorite and quickly becoming a core part of this team. He's earned a $500k raise, at the very least.
Scott Hartnell- $2.5-3 million- they Kyle Calder arbitration scared the pants off most Preds fans last year until Hartnell signed a deal before his arbitration date. He'll get about what Calder got, except he'll actually earn it.
Kimmo Timonen- $3.5-5 million- depends on his family, really. The overwhelming majority of the players love the small-town feel in Nashville, and Kimmo and his family have put down roots here, which will likely inspire him to take a pay cut or sign with Atlanta(so he won't have to move his family). Being the team captain and clear and far the best defenseman on the team doesn't necessarily hurt either.
Greg Zanon- anything less than $1.5 million- Zanon has been a massive cog in the Predators' defensive unit, leading the team in blocked shots, though not possessing the same offensive prowess as guys like Timonen and Weber. If he wants anything over $1.5 million, though, I think Poile walks away laughing.
Vitaly Vishnevski- does it matter?- this guy is gone at the end of the year. No sense keeping him around if he won't play(he's averaging about 2:00 of ice time when he DOES play, which isn't often).
Karl Goehring- league minimum- solid AHL goalie, which, in other words, means "cheap depth".
The RFAs for Nashville, again in no particular order:
Vernon Fiddler- $500-750k- coming off the best year of his career. Granted, the guy's numbers ARE a bit inflated by the presence of Foppa and the rash of injuries, but he's a darn fine penalty killer and pretty good with faceoffs.
Darcy Hordichuk- league minimum- I really think that even though he's a fan favorite, he's gone next year. He contributes nothing that can't be found from guys in the AHL.
Pekka Rinne- $600-800k- Good goaltender, and there's talk he may replace either Mason or Vokoun(I'd put my money on Mason due to TV's $5 million+ salary) in the off-season.
Alex Henry- league minimum- Just make sure to get him to sign a two-way deal.
Kevin Klein- under $1 million- Give him whatever he wants. He's gonna be on the team next year if you don't do something stupid.
Going on the radio(AM 1260 WDKN Dikson, TN- typo is intentional) to talk playoffs at 6PM tonight. Should be fun. I'll post again on Friday, and next time I'll cover who the Predators will/can/should go after in the off-season(and no, Briere is not on the list).
Be sure to PM me if I have made any statistical errors or typographical errors('cause I'm too lazy to proof-read my own work).