Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Nashville Predators 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 31-23-2, 64 points

4th in the Discover NHL Central Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Carolina

Additions: F Cody Glass (acquired from VGK), F Matt Luff, D Philippe Myers (acquired from PHI), G David Rittich

Subtractions: F Viktor Arvidsson (traded to LAK), F Michael Carcone (signed with Tucson Roadrunners, AHL), F Lukas Craggs (signed with Rochester Americans, AHL), F Erik Haula (signed with BOS), F Calle Järnkrok (expansion, SEA), F Sean Malone (signed with Rochester Americans, AHL), F Nolan Patrick (acquired from PHI, traded to VGK), F Brad Richardson (signed with CGY), F Josh Wilkins (HockeyAllsvenskan), D Erik Gudbranson (signed with CGY), D Josh Healey (signed with Milwaukee Admirals, AHL), D Tyler Lewington (signed with BOS), G Pekka Rinne (retired), G Kasimir Kaskisuo (SHL)

Still Unsigned: D Luca Sbisa

Re-signed: F Mikael Granlund, F Tanner Jeannot, F Michael McCarron, F Mathieu Olivier, F Rem Pitlick, F Anthony Richard, F Cole Smith, F Eeli Tolvanen, D Frédéric Allard, D Jeremy Davies, D Dante Fabbro, D Ben Harpur, D Matt Tennyson, G Juuse Saros

Offseason Analysis: The transition in the crease initiated last season as Juuse Saros took on the role of the starter from Pekka Rinne prior to Rinne’s final time around in 2020-21.

Rinne retired this offseason– wrapping up a National Hockey League career that spanned 15 seasons and garnered the Vezina Trophy in 2017-18 and King Clancy Memorial Trophy honors in 2020-21, as well as 60 shutouts to go with his 369-213-75 record in 683 career games.

The 38-year-old amassed a career 2.43 goals-against average and a .917 career save percentage since making his league debut in the 2005-06 season after the Predators drafted him in the 8th round (258th overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft.

Rinne exits his playing days as the leader in games played by a goalie (683), wins (369), losses (213), ties plus overtime/shootout losses (75), goals against (1,598), shots against (19,225), saves (17,627), goals-against average (2.43), shutouts (60) and minutes (39,413) in Preds franchise history.

Only Saros (.920) has a better save percentage in his Nashville tenure than Rinne (.917), while guys like Tomas Vokoun (.913), Dan Ellis (.912) and Chris Mason (.910) round out the top-five.

Rinne took the Predators to their only Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history thus far, where they faltered in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Nashville hasn’t missed the playoffs since the 2013-14 season, but things are going to be different heading into 2021-22.

The Preds are in transition as they are about to embark on the new season after being eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes in six games in the 2021 First Round.

Rinne is gone, Ryan Ellis was traded and General Manager, David Poile, didn’t hold onto much depth in the offseason.

Though it may feel like trying to convince Nashville or the Dallas Stars to make the playoffs down the stretch last season felt like pulling teeth, the Preds made it to the postseason and gained some experience for their young players in thrilling overtimes before bowing out.

Don’t expect it to be the same this season, despite a return to normal division alignments and a full 82-game schedule.

Viktor Arvidsson, Erik Haula, Calle Järnkrok and Brad Richardson are gone, love them or hate them.

John Hynes is still head coach. Poile made four trades– two of which involved players.

The depth departures might be a sign of things to come as the Predators look to restock their patented Poile system (draft a ton of defenders and pick from the best while trading the rest).

There is a promising sign in the last couple of entry drafts for Nashville to replenish their prospect pool quickly– not that it’s really dwindled, short of the players that have made and/or are currently making the jump to the NHL-level.

Anyway, on July 17th Poile made a pair of related trades. First, he dealt Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers for Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick.

Patrick was then flipped to the Vegas Golden Knights for Cody Glass.

Ellis was limited to 35 games last season and had 5-13–18 totals in that span, while Myers produced 1-10–11 totals in 44 games. At 24-years-old, Myers is still entering his prime as a defender, while Ellis departs Nashville for Philadelphia as a grizzled 30-year-old veteran with a chance to take the Flyers’ defense to the next level.

Glass, meanwhile, had 4-6–10 totals in 27 games for Vegas after making his NHL debut over 39 games with the Golden Knights in 2019-20. As a result of trading Glass to Nashville, the Golden Knights have traded away all three of their first 1st round picks in franchise history from the 2017 NHL Draft.

Vegas is looking for a career revival for Patrick, who missed the entire 2019-20 season due to migraines as a result of post concussion syndrome. He had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 52 games with the Flyers last season and previously had 13-18–31 totals in 72 games with Philadelphia in 2018-19.

David Rittich joins the picture in Nashville as Saros’ backup netminder after spending last season with the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs.

In 134 career NHL games since breaking into the league with the Flames in the 2016-17 season, Rittich has a 64-40-16 record, as well as four shutouts, a 2.82 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in that span.

Last season, he went 5-8-2 in 19 games played with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. Rittich recorded one shutout in his time with Calgary in 2020-21 prior to being traded to Toronto at the trade deadline.

Don’t expect the 29-year-old goaltender to get too comfortable, however, as he only signed a one-year deal worth $1.250 million.

That said, the Preds have about $11.284 million in cap space to work with, so Poile could get quite creative down the line.

Offseason Grade: C

Nashville didn’t get better and (probably) didn’t get that much worse this offseason as Rinne retired and the team continues to transition from what was once a competitive team built for a deep postseason run to just a playoff contender looking to survive on scraps until they’re ready to strike again.

In short, the Predators could make the playoffs in 2022, but they likely won’t go much further than the Second Round.

Or they could miss the postseason entirely– ending a decent seven-year run of playing extra hockey– and be just fine with a little bit higher of a draft pick and whatever else might come with buying and selling.

By Nick Lanciani

Three years in live sports production (TV/radio), a degree in communication, a minor in sport management and yet I paint things in my spare time to distract myself from my unemployment. Anyway, I write stuff on Down the Frozen River, make/appear on podcasts, used to write stuff for Couch Guy Sports and still apply to jobs for a living.