Since it looks like Paul's taking his leave, I suppose I need to take it upon myself to broach a very important subject for the Nashville Predators. It's not just this next off-season, but the next two that are going to be crucial for the Preds and their future. There's a lot of big decisions that are going to have to be made, and a lot of them are going to be tough, and we might not like some of them that will have to me made. Let's go over a few shall we?
1. Resigning Juuse Saros. This is a no-brainer and will clearly be one of Poile's top priorities this off-season. He really stepped up mid-season and carried this team on his back through an entire hospital ward of injuries. Rinne's 5 mil per year coming off the books should easily cover whatever raise Saros is going to get
2. Let's just get this out of the way... No matter how much many of us want to see it happen, Hynes and Poile aren't going to be fired this off-season. You don't turn a dumpster fire of a season around to make an improbable run to the playoffs, and then see the guys in charge get the boot. I'm not a fan of Hynes restrictive system, and I lost faith in Poile a long time ago, but they're going to get a lot of the credit for the Preds turn around whether they deserve it or not. Quite frankly, I think they started winning in spite of Poile's growing incompetence. The Team Poile unleashed on the ice at the beginning of the season easily looked like one of the worst in league and were destined for a high lottery pick. Then David's guys started getting hurt, and the guys he buried on the taxi squad came up, who were actually willing to play hard, and the turnaround began. The guys he deemed not good enough were ultimately who saved his job.
3. The Expansion Draft: A couple of months ago, the Predators looked like one of the easiest teams to figure out, mostly due to their lack of talent at forward that you absolutely had to protect, so the 8 skater route seemed to be the way to go. Protect Josi, Ekholm, Ellis, Fabbro, Forsberg and Arvidsson. Tolvy, being exempt helps, so then you just needed to take your pick of whichever two utility forwards you prefer. Kunin might have to be one of them considering how much Poile gave up to get him, leaving Jarnkrok, Sissons, and maybe Trenin. (Grimaldi more or less played himself out of consideration this season) I also wouldn't put it above Poile to protect Duchene or Johansen or both just to protect their egos, but he'd leave both exposed if has any idea what he's doing at all anymore. Seattle isn't going to touch either guy anyway, and even if they did, they'd be doing the Preds a tremendous favor.
The one guy throwing a monkey wrench in the draft plans is Alexandre Carrier. I originally thought he'd be exempt due to his limited NHL experience, but Cap Friendly and a several other sources claim he'll have to be exposed. It presents an interesting dilemma for Poile. Carrier really impressed this season, enough that he basically booted Fabrro out of the lineup. Do you dare protect all five D-men, or try to work out a deal with Seattle not to take him? He'd be on the top of my list if he were exposed.
4: The Dante Fabbro conundrum: What does Poile do with Fabbro? Three years in, his entry level contract is up, and he clearly hasn't developed like Poile and Co. had hoped. He's too valuable of a prospect to just give up on, so Poile almost has to protect him and then decide what to do with him from there. Do you resign him to a bridge contract and hope he improves, or do you risk another Seth Jones situation and use him as trade bait to acquire another piece the Preds might need? It's pretty uncanny how similar Fabbro's situation was to Jones' before he was shipped off to Columbus.
5. Forsberg and Ekholm are both UFA's after next season. Their team/cap friendly contracts are up, and I doubt they're going to be as generous with negotiations this time around. Will the Preds have the money to resign both of them? As much as I love Forsberg, he's the closest thing to a offensive superstar we have, but there's a glaring problem we can't ignore. He's had a very distinct pattern over the past few season. Get off to a hot start, get hurt and miss about six-eight weeks, and never quite seem the same once he comes back from that injury... Forsberg might be the most difficult of all the future decisions Poile has to make. So much talent, and it feels like we've never quite gotten the chance to see it fully unleashed.
6. Arvidsson. A reliable hand for years, but it's clear that mounting injury issues have turned Arvy into a differen't player. Arvy hustle has turned into Arvy take a dive when a stick gets near his skates. He's still a valuable hand to anyone who has him on their team, but the time has come to stop pretending he's a first line talent anymore. He's one of the pieces the Preds have that other teams would have serious interest in.
7. Is it time to finally move on from Ryan Ellis? I know that contract looks daunting, but much of the league puts a lot of value on puck moving defensemen who can produce offensive... So much so, some one would be willing to look past Ellis' shortcomings to acquire him. If you listen to the rumors, teams were asking about him at the deadline, so there is interest there, and some teams appear willing to give up quite a bit for him. If there's one thing Poile has done consistently well over the years, its his willingness to move on from players a year or two early while they still have value.