The forward corps of the Nashville Predators will look a bit different next season. Not only is Nashville believed to be in the market for a top-six addition, but they also won’t be bringing back two of their top-nine forwards from this past season. Craig Smith, a career Predator, and Mikael Granlund, a big 2019 trade addition, will test the free agent market. GM David Poile tells Paul Skrbina of the Nashville Tennesean that the team will not re-sign either veteran forward.
In a relatively thin free agent market, Granlund and Smith will be two of the more sought-after names among available forwards. Granlund’s time in Nashville, spent recording just 35 points in 79 total games, did not go as expected for either side. However, Granlund was a premiere forward during his days with the Minnesota Wild, possessing 70-point upside and the versatility to play any position up front. At just 27 years old, a team looking to land a true top-six forward will likely be happy to take a shot on Granlund and hope the fit is better than it was in Nashville. In Smith, interested teams could land an aggressive, goal-scoring right wing. While Smith has shown 50+ point ability in the past, he is probably more of a 30-point player as he heads into his thirties. A strong possession player with great work ethic, Smith will be an excellent third-line option for a contender barring a negative effect of leaving the Predators system.
With the cap space saved by not extending Smith or Granlund, the Predators will have some flexibility to add another piece. However, Poile also stated that he is looking for some promotion from within. One option is another impending free agent, Colin Blackwell, who scored at an impressive clip in limited showings in the NHL and AHL this season. Poile confirmed to Skrbina that the team is currently negotiating with Blackwell and could reach a new deal. Frederick Gaudreau is another UFA-to-be who has solid AHL production and NHL experience. However, Blackwell and Gaudreau are both 27 and the team could look to go younger with their open roster spots. Poile mentions 23-year-old Rem Pitlick and 21-year-old Eeli Tolvanen as names likely to be given a long look at a regular role next season.