If the Nashville Predators are ever to win a Stanley Cup, this seems the most likely year. Their window is far from closing, to be sure. But for a team that doesn’t often spend to the cap, their long-term finances may become complicated. They have a multitude of players performing well above their contract levels, are benefiting from Entry-Level Contracts (Viktor Arvidsson and Kevin Fiala), and the bulk of their team is in their late twenties. Nashville isn’t the most dynamic offensive force, but have gotten enough scoring this outing to support the absurdly good top-four defense and brilliant goaltending from Pekka Rinne (.951 SV%).
That said, if they fail to win the glorious prize at the end of four series, will their draft plummet be seen as worth the hassle? They finished with the West’s lowest seeding in Wild Card 2, and the worst overall record in the playoffs at 94 points, edging out the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs. Their draft plummet is quite the precarious one, similar to the 8th seeded 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings in the entry draft. Of course, that team went 16-4 in the postsesason to win the Stanley Cup, and certainly didn’t mind sacrificing a higher first-round pick to win their franchise’s first title.
But what if they hadn’t won? By advancing to the post-season’s final four, Los Angeles automatically shifted from drafting 16th to 30th. If the Predators were to lose in the Conference Finals, it would mean a drop from 17th to 28th. A Finals loss would mean 30th. Obviously, fans aren’t concerned with these sorts of trivialities when rooting on their team to glory, nor necessarily should they be. However, for management, this is quite the potential concern. Finding failure late in the playoffs and then also suffering the sting of a draft position dive is tough to stomach. After all, deals can sometimes hinge on whether a first or second round pick is early, mid, or late round.
For reference, let us look at the last 10 years draft history with regard to the 17th and 28th selections to see the potential disparity:
2016: 17th D Dante Fabbro (NSH), 28th F Lucas Johannson (WSH)
2014: 17th D Travis Sanheim (PHI), 28th Josh Ho-Sang (NYI)
2013: 17th F Curtis Lazar (OTT), 28th F Morgan Klimchuck (CGY)
2011: 17th F Nathan Beaulieu (MTL), 28th F Zach Phillips (MIN)
2010: 17th F Joey Hison (COL), 28th F Charlie Coyle (MIN)
2007: 17th F Alexei Cherepanov (NYR), 28th Nick Petrecki (SJ)
The jury is still completely out on last year’s draft class, but as you can see, the two prior years have worked out quite well for the New York Islanders at the 28th spot. Beauvillier and Ho-Sang have both developed into studs quite quickly, while Connor and Sanheim still have a lot to prove. As we look at the last decade of entry drafts, there seems to be no real discernible advantage in terms of NHL projection. So although 11 spots seems like an awful long way to drop, Nashville (and any other future conference finalists) can rest easy that their relative success will still hinge upon being able to scout and develop talent properly.