Andrew Brunette, Barry Trotz, Kevin Lankinen, Nashville Predators, Predators Management, Predators Prospects, Yaroslav Askarov

Nashville Predators Offseason Preview

After a grueling playoff showdown with the Vancouver Canucks, the Nashville Predators saw their Stanley Cup aspirations shattered on home ice in the dying moments of Game 6. Despite the loss, the team surpassed all preseason expectations and laid down a great foundation to build off of next season. Now, with their season over, let’s explore the future for the Preds and the implications of this offseason for the organization moving forward.

2023-24 Season Recap

Bringing in a surprising 47 wins and 99 points, the Predators posted their best record since the 2018-19 season and set a new franchise record for goals scored with 269. 

The Predators’ season was marked by the team’s 18-game point streak (16-0-2), the longest in franchise history, which vaulted them into playoff contention. Despite a heartbreaking first-round exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, losing narrowly to the Canucks with a total series score of 13-12, the Preds showed they belong in the playoffs and are hoping to return with a vengeance next season.

Vancouver Canucks Nashville Predators Handshake
Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks shakes hands with Jason Zucker of the Nashville Predators after a 1-0 win to end the series in Game Six of the First Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Their performance in the series, though ultimately not enough to advance, highlighted the improvements they had made throughout the season and the relentless attitude ingrained in them by the new front office and coaching staff.

Adding to the season’s highlights, Nashville’s new head coach, Andrew Brunette, received significant and well-deserved recognition for his role in the team’s turnaround. He was named one of the three finalists for the NHL’s Coach of the Year (Jack Adams) award. Brunette’s immediate impact and the team’s on-ice success indicate a positive direction for the Predators as they look to build on this foundation during the offseason. 

Key Offseason Questions

The Predators have plenty of decisions going into the offseason. Taking a look at their pending free agents, there are some names they might be interested in bringing back:

  • UFA Jason Zucker
  • UFA Anthony Beauvillier
  • UFA Kiefer Sherwood
  • UFA Tyson Barrie
  • UFA Alexandre Carrier
  • UFA Kevin Lankinen
  • RFA Jaret Anderson-Dolan
  • RFA Spencer Stastney

To start, Beauvillier, Barrie, and Anderson-Dolan do not fit in the long-term plans for the Preds. Unfortunately, Barrie and Anderson-Dolan were healthy scratches for most of the season. Beauvillier did not seem to fit in as well as many thought he would after the trade deadline, putting up just three points in 15 regular season games. 

Regarding Carrier, general manager Barry Trotz considered trading him at this season’s trade deadline, but when he did not, he described him as an “own rental,” which indicated he would most likely not be returning to the team.

Zucker is an interesting piece for the Predators because he fits in so nicely with the roster and game plan. He ended with 10 points in 23 games played and brought energy and physicality to the top six. If Trotz can sign him to a cheap short-term deal, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Zucker back with the Preds next season. 

According to Emma Lingan covering for The Hockey News, a Kiefer Sherwood extension is already in the works and the plan is he will be staying with the team. 

The Kevin Lankinen situation is by far the most intriguing decision on this list. It all depends on what the Predators decide to do with the goalie situation. For more context, here is a previous article discussing the potential options between the pipes in Music City.

Restricted free agent Spencer Stastney is nearly guaranteed to be back with the team after working his way into the playoff lineup before his unfortunate injury. The plan will likely be for him to replace Carrier’s spot in the lineup next season.

Potential for Improvement

The Predators have nine picks in the first four rounds of the upcoming NHL Draft, and from the sound of things, Trotz is looking to make some deals happen. 

It sounds like the front office wants to improve the top six this offseason and is open to making deals happen in free agency and on the trade market. With the number of picks the Preds have this season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them trade up in the draft or ship some off in a package for immediate top-six help.

Related: Predators Prospect Spotlight: Top Defensive Prospects

The Predators will likely have over $10 million in cap space this upcoming offseason and will have space to bring in some free agent help to bolster their scoring. They have already been associatedwith pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) Steven Stamkos by media outlets and even to a Mitch Marner trade which would take up the majority of their free cap. Whatever Trotz and the front office do this offseason, there are going to be some significant moves made to improve the offense heading into next season. 

Player Spotlights

The Predators have many young players looking to make an impact on the team next season, and Trotz has already made it clear he wants to make his roster younger and faster. Players such as Yegor Afanasyev, Juuso Pärssinen, and Philip Tomasino could all look to make an impact by returning to the lineup.

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All three have made their NHL debuts with the Preds but have failed to guarantee themselves a roster spot in the past two seasons. Other youngsters in the system who might be deserving of a first-team look are Zachary L’Heureux, Fyodor Svechkov, and Joakim Kemell, who have all been lighting up the American Hockey League (AHL) for the Milwaukee Admirals who are currently in the Calder Cup Playoffs. 

Nashville has quite a few young players who could step up for them if needed, and I expect the forward group to have a few fresh faces in the lineup at the start of the season. 

Potential Trades

With the emergence of star prospect Yaroslav Askarov, the Predators are going to have to decide on their goalie position this offseason. 

One scenario could see Saros and Askarov as the team’s goaltending tandem next season. This would allow the front office to evaluate Askarov’s NHL readiness while benefiting from Saros’ experience and proven stability between the pipes. If Askarov proves himself capable of handling the NHL full-time, they might consider moving Saros at the deadline, allowing him to assume the mantle of a full-time starter.

Conversely, should Askarov not meet expectations, the Predators could offer Saros an extension, presenting the team with a safety net as they assess Askarov’s future with the team and his potential trade value. Either way, this is a win-win for Nashville and an excellent problem to have.

Marner has also been identified as a trade target who would bolster the team’s top-six production and add a dynamic playmaker and scorer. This trade would most likely involve shipping Saros along with picks or prospects to Toronto, which would also allow Askarov to assume a role in the NHL. 

Heading Into Next Season

As the Predators enter the offseason, they are about to make critical decisions that will shape the team’s future. With the potential of trading star goaltender Saros and the flexibility provided by significant cap space, they have an opportunity to bolster their lineup significantly and add a few high-value pieces. Under Trotz’s leadership, the front office seems poised to utilize their wealth of draft picks, trades and ample cap space to enhance their scoring depth and potency. Critical free-agent decisions around players like Zucker, Sherwood, and Carrier will also define the team’s identity moving forward. As Nashville looks to build on this season’s unexpected success, the actions taken this summer could propel them from playoff participants to serious Stanley Cup contenders.

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