- The Predators and Brian Boyle’s agent have had brief discussions regarding the center potentially returning to Nashville next season, reports Adam Vingan of The Athletic (subscription required). The Preds added Boyle in a midseason trade as they looked to load up for the playoffs and he was a fixture on their fourth lone for the stretch run. He scored five goals in 26 games with the team while splitting time between playing down the middle and on the wing. Boyle’s agent Rick Curran indicated that there is mutual interest in getting something done but that nothing is imminent at this time.
It’s been a very odd year for the 22-year old goaltender, as Ingram was sent down to the ECHL almost immediately after being named an AHL All-Star. Little was explained about the decision, but Ingram spent the rest of the season with the Orlando Solar Bears. In his 22 appearances at the AHL level, Ingram recorded a 14-7 record and posted a .922 save percentage. In a bizarre situation, the trade was actually listed on NHL.com’s trade tracker before either Ingram or his agent were notified, according to Joe Smith of The Athletic.
Originally selected in the third round of the 2016 draft, Ingram was a top goaltending prospect that had competed for Canada internationally and dominated the WHL. He actually stepped into professional hockey in 2017 with no trouble, posting a 20-11 record for Syracuse in his rookie year. That kind of production is exactly what the Predators are hoping for, though obviously whatever came between him and the Lightning organization will have to be resolved if he wants to flourish with his new team.
The NHL and NHLPA released a joint statement this evening outlining the changes recommended by the Competition Committee, which wrapped meetings today. The players’ side, led by NHLPA Special Assistant Mathieu Schneider, included Ron Hainsey, Connor Hellebuyck, Connor McDavid, John Tavares, and James van Riemsdyk. The league side, led by NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Opertations Colin Campbell, included Craig Leipold, David Poile, Ken Holland, Doug Wilson, and Steve Yzerman. Together, the group came up with some intriguing ideas for consideration.
The most notable suggestion, as well as the most expected one, was expanded access to video review and coach’s challenges. Few details were disclosed as to the specifics of expanded review, other than allowing referees to use video review to review calls on the ice. However, after a postseason in which incorrect calls has drawn so much media scrutiny, it’s fair to assume that changes are coming to review procedures to help remedy that situation.
Another suggested rule change bound to draw some attention is a change to the the tie-breaking procedures used to determine final regular season rankings. While the joint release did not outline the proposed changes, Sportsnet’s Elliott Friedman believes that the preference of the Competition Committee is to use simply regulation wins rather than “ROT”, regulation and overtime wins, as the primary tie-breaker. If adopted, this rule change could very well see more teams looking to end games in regular time as opposed to playing for overtime, especially late in the season in a tight playoff race.
Other suggestions included changes to face-off locations based on icing, pucks out of bounds, power plays, intentionally knocking the net over, and goalies unnecessarily freezing the puck, as well as a rule that would require players to leave the ice if their helmet is knocked off during play.
These rules suggestions still need to be approved by both the NHL’s Board of Governors and the NHLPA’s Executive Board, and many of the proposed changes will require more detailed presentations, as well as considerable discussion. After suggestions are adopted, the language will be formalized and they will officially be indoctrinated into the NHL rule book. Stay tuned for further updates on these possible rule changes when these governing bodies meet later this summer.
While the Matt Duchene rumors have been quite exciting already, they show no sign of slowing down. Despite whispers that the top free-agent center is interested in joining the Nashville Predators, more teams keep coming up. The most recent interest comes from the Arizona Coyotes. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun (subscription required) writes that the Coyotes, searching for another top-line center, intend to aggressively pursue Duchene, while the Columbus Blue Jackets haven’t given up on re-signing their deadline acquisition either.
The 28-year-old scored 31 goals and 70 points between Ottawa and Columbus last season, but a solid postseason in which he registered five goals and 10 points in 10 playoff games was enough to make him one of the most sought-after impending free agents, especially with teams in need at the center position.
Arizona used Derek Stepan as their top-line center this season, but the team would be better served moving Stepan to a second-line role and inserting a new name into the No. 1 spot, giving them two solid options down the middle and allowing Arizona to utilize other forwards like Nick Schmaltz and Alex Galchenyuk at the wing position. Arizona, which narrowly fell short of the playoffs this season, has made it clear that they want to upgrade their team and become playoff relevant after years sitting in the Pacific Division cellar.
As for Columbus, LeBrun writes that the franchise is still negotiating with Duchene’s agent, Pat Brisson, to bring the center back. One question that comes up is whether the team would be willing to offer eight years, and upwards of $80MM to Duchene, especially when they would also have to give Ottawa their 2020 first-round pick if they successfully re-sign him. While many have suggested that being aggressive at the trade deadline was good for Columbus, the team would look even better if it could retain at least one of Duchene, Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, or Ryan Dzingel this summer.
Buffalo Sabres fans were hoping that 40-goal scorer Jeff Skinner would be re-signed by now and each day closer to July 1st increases the nervousness that they are feeling. However, TSN reports that GM Jason Botterill is not worried, at least not yet. Botterill remains confident that the two sides will come together on an extension, which as of the last update was in the eight years and $70-80MM range. Unless Skinner’s rights are dealt elsewhere, which seems unlikely given the GM’s optimism, no other team can match the Sabres’ offer given the benefit of that eight year. Botterill says that talks with Skinner have been ongoing since January, but there was brief pause in negotiations while Buffalo searched for their new head coach. However, Botterill notes that Skinner has since spoken to that new hire, Ralph Krueger, who also believes that Skinner will remain a Sabre. It seems that the two sides are back on a positive path, but with time running out before the free agent market opens, no assumptions can be made just yet.
- The Vegas Golden Knights are also hoping to re-sign a key player, veteran leader Deryk Engelland. However, the Knights are not going up against competing offers, but rather the draw of retirement. Engelland, 37, has enjoyed a decade of NHL action and could be tempted to hang them up. If he chooses to keep playing though, there is little doubt that he would only stay in his adopted home town of Las Vegas. Knowing this, The Sin Bin reports that the Golden Knights have made an offer to their alternate captain. It’s likely another bonus-laded, low cap hit one-year contract like the one he has signed in each of the past two years. At this time, Sin Bin notes that he has yet to accept. Engelland will likely take some time to consider his next step in his career after another long season.
- Adam Pardy has answered the call of retirement, but not after first accomplishing his ultimate goal this season. Pardy, 35, led his hometown Newfoundland Growlers to the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Championship in their inaugural season and now, The Telegram reports, he can ride off into the sunset. Pardy, while technically a free agent, has not been on an NHL contract in two years. He did play in 342 NHL games with five different teams over his long and winding career path though, last suiting up for four games with the Nashville Predators in 2016-17. After a year abroad in Sweden, he returned home to Newfoundland for an opportunity he couldn’t pass up with a pro team in his home province. Pardy recorded a career-best 21 points in 41 games and played a key role in a deep playoff run en route to a meaningful championship.
Speaking about the impending unrestricted free agent class on Sportsnet’s “31 Thoughts Podcast“, Elliott Friedman updated the statuses of several prominent UFA’s-to-be. Of course, few names will draw as much attention (and money) as Matt Duchene. Following a 70-point season and point-per-game postseason, there is little doubt the Duchene is the best available center and will soon cash in on a contract worth upwards of $60-70MM. What remains is simply who has the means and the interest to make that offer to Duchene. Although they would have to move out salary, Friedman echoes the sentiment that the Nashville Predators should not be counted out of the Duchene sweepstakes until a deal is done. The mutual interest between the two sides is well-documented, but the hurdles of clearing the necessary space remain. As such, Friedman also mentions that the Montreal Candiens are expected to be one of the front-runners for Duchene. The Habs have approximately $11.7MM in projected cap space with almost their entire 2018-19 roster locked up and are simply looking to add pieces to help them get into the playoffs after narrowly missing out this season. Duchene is the top center they need and fortunately can afford and Friedman hears that there is interest.
- Friedman believes that the goalie market will be more active than many realize. With the growing trend of having a 1A-1B tandem or at least a well-rested starter, the value of backup goalies is going up and Friedman feels a veteran player like Mike Smith could be a beneficiary. Smith, 37, endured one of the worst seasons of his career in 2018-19, but played much better in the postseason despite the Calgary Flames’ early exit. There is still a chance that Smith could stay in Calgary and continue his tandem with David Rittich. However, the Flames are reportedly considering an upgrade. Yet, Smith could be of value to many other teams looking for an established veteran to be their backup. Smith is no longer a 50-game or maybe even 40-game goaltender, but Friedman feels he still has the pedigree to land a significant deal. Of course, if the goalie market is active, that means others like Semyon Varlamov, Brian Elliott, Cam Talbot, or Curtis McElhinney will be in the running for those priority backup jobs as well.
- Another player whose market may be greater than once expected is power forward Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds had a dreadful year, recording just 30 points on the season, his lowest total since his rookie campaign. Just three of those points came after he was traded to the Nashville Predators and then Simmonds missed a chance at redemption as injury kept him out of all but two of the Predators’ postseason games. With his stock at its lowest, many were reasonably expecting Simmonds to draw considerably less interest this off-season than he may have just one year ago. However, Friedman warns that the performance of a player like the St. Louis Blues’ Pat Maroon may change that. Maroon has shown that hard-nosed, physical forwards still have a place in the game, particularly in the playoffs. Friedman feels Maroon – who is also a UFA – has reinvigorated the market for similar players, such as Simmonds or an experienced two-way forward like Derick Brassard, who himself had a down year. Simmonds is still unlikely to get the kind of contract he would have just a year or two ago, but he won’t be unemployed for very long despite his poor season.
- Friedman wonders what the market will be like for veteran forward Thomas Vanek. After back-to-back seasons of being a valuable trade deadline commodity, Vanek finally stayed put this year with the Detroit Red Wings after requesting not to be dealt. Yet, Vanek finds himself on the move again as a free agent. The 35-year-old saw a major drop-off in production this year and is unlikely to be a fit back in Detroit. In fact, Friedman doesn’t see an obvious fit anywhere for Vanek, who has played for eight different teams in his long and successful NHL career. A veteran “hired gun” who also isn’t keen on moving is a tough player to fit and Friedman says there’s a chance that Vanek is done.
The Nashville Predators have hired Dan Lambert as an assistant coach, adding him to Peter Laviolette’s group for the 2019-20 season. Lambert spent the last two seasons as head coach of the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, where he amassed a record of 81-46-13. Predators GM David Poile had this to say about his new coach:
Dan is an experienced, passionate coach and will nicely round out our coaching staff in 2019-20 and beyond. Having enjoyed a lengthy career as a player and now a coach, he has had success at every level running the power play, and we look forward to adding his knowledge and insight in this area to the organization.
Lambert, 49, was named to the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence last month and was set to serve as head coach for the 2019 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. It’s not clear if he’ll still take on that role, but it goes to show just how he is perceived as an up-and-coming coach in the hockey world. Finishing a long professional career in 2009, he jumped right onto the bench of the Kelowna Rockets as an assistant, only to take over as head coach a few years later and win a WHL Championship. He jumped to the NHL after that with the Buffalo Sabres, and took over as head coach of the Rochester Americans of the AHL in 2016-17.
As a player, Lambert put up huge point totals in his career including a 102-point season in the WHL and an 87-point season in the IHL. As a coach with the Rockets, he helped develop NHL defensemen like Damon Severson, Madison Bowey, Josh Morrissey, and Tyson Barrie. That’s the exact type of development he’ll likely be asked to accomplish in Nashville, where the team already has an incredible defense corps but also a player like Dante Fabbro who the organization expects big things of. Lambert is also known as a powerplay specialist, something the Predators have struggled with for some time.
With the postseason down to just two teams, most squads are now well into their offseason planning. What storylines lie ahead around the league in what is shaping up to be a likely busy NHL offseason? Next up in our Offseason Keys series is a look at the Nashville Predators.
Despite a disappointing loss to Winnipeg in the postseason a year ago, optimism was high in Nashville. They opted to keep the team from a season earlier largely intact and added some help around the trade deadline in Mikael Granlund, Wayne Simmonds, and Brian Boyle. But instead of taking that next step forward in the playoffs, they took a step back and lost to Dallas in the opening round. After not making many changes last summer, it’s expected that GM David Poile will be looking to shake things up this offseason. What will he need to accomplish?
Add Scoring Help
Scoring goals hasn’t been a huge concern for Nashville in recent years but they did take a step back in that regard in 2018-19 as they slipped to 19th in the league during the regular season. They struggled even more in the playoffs, averaging just two goals per game against the Stars which didn’t leave them with much margin for error.
Ryan Johansen, their highest-paid forward, had just 14 goals. Kyle Turris, who is tied for the second-highest cap hit among Nashville forwards, had an abysmal season that saw him score just seven times in 55 games and he was even scratched briefly. That’s not a lot of goal production for $14MM although to be fair, Johansen did at least lead them in assists.
Their late-season acquisitions didn’t help much offensively either. Granlund scored just once in 16 regular season games while Simmonds matched that output in 17 contests. Boyle was a little better with five tallies in 26 outings but failed to record a single assist.
Beyond Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, there aren’t a lot of particularly dangerous scoring threats on the Predators. If they’re going to get back into contention in the Central Division, that’s something that they will need to address this summer.
Last summer, getting Ryan Ellis re-signed was Poile’s top priority. It took a little bit of time but a new deal was ultimately done as Ellis inked an eight-year, $50MM contract extension that was viewed as a bargain by many. This offseason, Poile will once again be looking to lock up a blueliner to a long-term extension. This time, it’s Roman Josi that’s in need of a new deal.
The 29-year-old has been the top offensive threat from Nashville’s back end for several years now and has shown no signs of slowing down. He has consistently logged heavy minutes, averaging over 25 minutes per game over the past six seasons. Josi has been a top pairing defender for quite some time but he hasn’t been close to being paid like one as his current contract which runs through 2019-20 carries just a $4MM AAV.
That’s going to change on this next contract which could very well double his current cap hit, even if he takes the hometown discount as many expect. We’ve seen the price of elite defenders jump considerably in recent years and it’s Josi’s time to cash in on that. The Preds are eligible to get a new deal done on July 1st and given Poile’s ability to re-sign his core players early, it’s certainly reasonable to think that the two sides will reach an agreement fairly quickly.
Utilize Defensive Depth On The Trade Market
Defense has been the strength of Nashville for a long time. Their group of defenders are not only strong in their own end but they have also been among the most productive units offensively for several years. However, the time may now be right to break up their big four.
For starters, their back end is starting to get expensive. Per CapFriendly, the cost of their blueline is set to exceed $26MM for next season. Assuming Josi signs a new deal, that price tag could approach (or even exceed) $30MM a year later. Spending that much on defense will make it difficult to fill their vacancies up front.
Of their top four, veteran P.K. Subban seems to be the speculative favorite to be dealt (with Ellis’ new deal just beginning, Josi likely to sign a new contract, and Mattias Ekholm being on a team-friendly contract). His $9MM AAV is pricey and would be the impetus for moving him but many teams are on the lookout for impact blueliners, especially those that play the right side. It also helps that Dante Fabbro has top-four upside and while he may be hard-pressed to step into that role right away, he could take on a larger role than he had down the stretch and in the postseason.
Impact defensive depth is great to have and Nashville’s back end is the envy of many teams in the league. But at some point, teams have had success turning that depth into help up front. Poile did it by turning Seth Jones into Johansen several years ago. The time may be right for him to try a move like that again.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Wednesday: The team has officially announced the contract.
Tuesday: The Nashville Predators, home to arguably the deepest blue line in the NHL, nevertheless value having a wealth of options on defense and have agreed to terms to retain one of their many defensemen. TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reports that the team has re-signed AHL captain Jarred Tinordi to a two-year extension. It is a two-way deal for Tinordi that will pay him the minimum $700K at the NHL level but a comfortable $300K in the AHL.
Tinordi, 27, is coming off a career year in the minor leagues with the Predators’ AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. Tinordi paced the Admirals defensemen with 75 games played and 85 penalty minutes and a dependable stay-at-home defender and physical force. The former first-round pick also set a career high offensively with eight goals and 22 points on the year. While many will only ever see Tinordi as a first-round bust – the 22nd overall pick by the Montreal Canadiens in 2010, Tinordi has six points in 53 NHL games – he has slowly but surely grown into a reliable depth defender. At 6’6″ and 230 lbs., Tinordi has always been a dominating presence, but his hockey IQ has caught up with his physical stature and he has become a more composed player on the ice and a leader in the dressing room for Milwaukee. Although he has not appeared at the top level since a brief stint with the Arizona Coyotes three years ago, it’s safe to say he has improved in that time.
With Tinordi signed, Nashville now has their top ten blue line options locked up through next season. Even if he resumes his strong play next season, Tinordi will very likely never see any NHL action. The Predators have ten defensemen on one-way contracts next year: top-four mainstays Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm, reliable bottom pair Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin, veteran Dan Hamhuis, and rookie Dante Fabbro. Experienced AHLer Matt Donovan, who led all Admirals defenders in scoring last season, also acted as the team’s first man up on the back end and returns for the second of his own two-year, two-way deal. Barring a trade, Tinordi will likely be asked to again lead the Predators’ young prospects in Milwaukee and to be an emergency depth option, as Nashville is simply loaded on defense.
The Edmonton Oilers and new general manager Ken Holland haven’t announced a new coach and while rumors have suggested that the team has settled on Dave Tippett as the team’s new head coach, nothing has been announced.
Postmedia’s Kurt Leavins reiterates that Tippett to Edmonton is a “done deal,” but the timing of the announcement has been the issue. The deal still has to get onto paper and with both the NHL Draft Combine and the Stanley Cup Finals, there is little time to get the announcement out there that the team has a new head coach. Regardless, the scribe writes that Tippett’s appointment will come in the next few days.
- For a second year in a row, the Nashville Predators top priority will be to sign one of their star defensemen to a extension. The team locked up Ryan Ellis to an eight-year, $50MM deal last summer and must do something similar with Roman Josi, who is eligible to sign an extension on July 1. Josi, however, has made it clear he wants to stay in Nashville. However, the Predators will have to pay up as The Athletic’s Adam Vingan (subscription required) writes that they will likely have to give him the biggest contract in team history, which could overtake Ryan Johansen’s $8MM AAV.
- The Winnipeg Jets have a number of big contracts and potential trades to deal with this offseason, but there are also smaller issues along their roster as well. The team needs to keep their defensive depth, one of the strengths of their roster in recent years, yet they only have five defensemen under contract. The Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe writes that the Jets have indicated that they would like to bring back restricted free agent Nathan Beaulieu, who the team acquired at the trade deadline for a sixth-round pick, as insurance in case they lose Jacob Trouba to a trade. However, in order to offer Beaulieu a qualifying offer, they would have to add 10 percent to his $2.4MM he made last year, which the team is unlikely to do for a bottom-pairing defenseman. The more logical approach, which Winnipeg did last year with Joseph Morrow, would be to not qualify him and then try to sign him for less as an unrestricted free agent.
- The San Jose Sharks got some good news as The Athletic’s David Lombardi (subscription required) writes that defenseman Radim Simek, who has been out since March 12th after having his leg crushed in a collision with Winnipeg’s Andrew Copp and having surgery to repair a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus, has already returned to the ice and is skating again. “The guys who are taking care of me say that my rehab is going really fast, that it’s really unusual to only be two months removed from surgery but back on the ice, skating however I want,” Simek said. Simek, who signed out of the Czech Republic in 2017, played one year in the AHL and made the NHL roster this season, playing in 41 games and making a significant difference before getting injured and hopes to be back for next season.