The contenders in the Western Conference have seen a lot of roster changes over the past couple of week, and each has taken a step backward with their NHL rosters. However, that is not the case with the Nashville Predators, who might be the best in the West.
Western Conference Foes
The losses from Western Conference contenders have been plentiful. The Chicago Blackhawks had to trade away Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen due to salary cap issues. The St. Louis Blues traded Brian Elliott and lost David Backes and Troy Brouwer in free agency. The Dallas Stars biggest weakness was the play in their end, and they lost two of their top blueliners in Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers, and also look set to lose Kris Russell.
Out in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks lost David Perron (who returned to St. Louis) and Jamie McGinn in free agency. The Los Angeles Kings lost an elite player in Milan Lucic. The only contender out West that did not take a step back with their roster was the San Jose Sharks, who added Mikkel Boedker and David Schlemko.
— HockeyNightInCanada (@hockeynight) June 25, 2016
P.K. Subban Joins Predators
In a shocking trade which saw Nashville and the Montreal Canadiens exchange future Hall of Fame blueliners, the Predators landed P.K. Subban, who turned 27 in May and had a down year (for him) offensively with six goals and 51 points for a bad Canadiens team. Saying Subban was under the microscope in Montreal is an understatement. The franchise defenseman should be able to relax more and just focus on hockey in the music city and probably put up his best season in the NHL next year.
Nashville did however give up one of the best defensemen in the NHL in this deal. Shea Weber, who turns 31 in August, brought physicality, grit and leadership to the Predators. The British Columbia native will be difficult to replace.
However, given their depth and what Weber brought to the table, an improvement was needed in both skill and skating for Nashville. Landing Subban is a huge win.
#NHL trade blockbuster: Habs trade PK Subban to Predators in exchange for Shea Weber, according to multiple reports
— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) June 29, 2016
Experience & Adding a Scoring Forward
The Predators took a big step this past season coming within one game of making the Western Conference Final. The experience they gained in the playoffs this past season against the Ducks and the Sharks will help them immeasurably this coming season.
If Predators General Manager David Poille could have landed a scoring forward on July 1st in free agency, Nashville would be the clear favorites in the Western Conference. Despite making a big pitch to Andrew Ladd the Preds came up short in reeling in a big fish in free agency. The fact that Poille went after Ladd shows that he wants another proven scoring forward. One would think Poille will be aggressive this summer in the trade market.
If the Predators don’t land a top-six forward this summer, they can still improve their scoring prowess from within. Filip Forsberg, who just signed 6-year $36 million contract, turns 22 in August and is capable of taking his game to another level. Most hockey experts believe Ryan Johansen will be a big time #1 center. If Johansen can bring his energy and focus night in and night out there is no reason why he can’t be an elite scorer next season. Finally can super talented youngsters Kevin Fiala and Vladislav Kamenev help Nashville’s scoring depth next season?
If all three of these things happen next year, and with the addition of Subban, hockey fans should watch out for Nashville being a Stanley Cup contender.
Rinne Must Bounce Back
Pekka Rinne has long been one of the NHL’s best goaltenders. However, he had a down year in 2015-16. Given the level of play he has reached throughout his career, most expect that this is just a one-year aberration. If Rinne gets back to his normal level of play next season, the Predators will be a tough team to beat.