It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.
Team: Nashville Predators
How they did last season: 41-27-17 (96 points), 4th in the Central, 7th in the Western Conference. Made the playoffs as the first wild card team, lost in the second round to the San Jose Sharks in seven games.
Notable acquisitions: D P.K. Subban, D Yannick Weber
Notable departures: D Shea Weber, G Carter Hutton
When they will play the Caps: Feb. 25 in Nashville; March 16 in Washington
Analysis: First, let’s all take a moment and give general manager David Poile a round of applause for pulling off the heist of the century. Getting P.K. Subban for Shea Weber was a brilliant move.
But wait, isn’t Weber one of the top defensemen in the league? Yes he is, but Weber is 30 and under contract for ten (!!!) more years. Somehow Poile convinced Montreal to trade away their best skater for a player who is older and has a longer contract.
There are some of you who are not fans of Subban and feel that Weber is the better player, but tell me which is the better deal: eight years of Subban in his prime or 10 years of Weber who is already 30? There’s no debate.
Plus, when you can bring in a contract with a $9 million cap hit to a playoff team and still have over $5 million left in cap space, you’ve done something right.
Subban will join a strong stable of defensemen in Nashville including Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm. If there’s one thing the Predators do well, it’s stockpile defensemen.
The main pieces of the offense are relatively young. Filip Forsberg was the team’s leading scorer last season and continues to get better at only 21 years old. He has a bright career in front of him. The Ryan Johansen trade quickly proved beneficial and at 24, he continues to improve as well.
The real question for the Predators this season is at the one position they have found the most stability over the past several years: goaltending. Pekka Rinne did not have a good 2015-16 season with only a .908 save percentage and did not look good in the postseason. And please, don’t tell me he was an All-Star. If the All-Star game was played in anywhere but Nashville, Rinne would not have been close to making the team.
Carter Hutton played well as backup, but he has moved on to St. Louis. That means the Predators will turn to the 25-year-old Marek Mazanec who has appeared in only 27 NHL games in his career. This isn’t a case of the Predators wanting the goalie of the future to learn from the seasoned vet either. By all accounts, Juuse Saros is the more highly regarded prospect. Mazanec seems to just be a placeholder at the backup position.
A year ago this would not have been a cause for concern as Rinne has been a very consistent netminder, but considering the season Rinne just had it seems curious that the Predators would not look for more insurance in net.
Season prediction: The Subban trade made this team better. Despite losing Weber, the defense will not take any steps back and Subban's puck-moving abilities will help facilitate more offense. With another year for Forsberg to develop and a full season with Johansen at center this team should be better offensively, but I’m wary over how Rinne will perform. Was last season a blip on the radar or has the 33-year-old netminder regressed?
Rinne’s performance for the upcoming season is a major question mark, but even with his bad season last year, the Predators still came within one win of reaching the conference finals. I think this team is a year or two (and perhaps a goalie) away from becoming Cup contenders, but I could see them taking a spot in the top three of the Central and competing for the conference in the playoffs.
MORE HOCKEY: JUSTIN WILLIAMS SHARES OFFSEASON VACATION PHOTOS
2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS
— Boston Bruins (coming Aug. 15)
— Buffalo Sabres (coming Aug. 16)
— Detroit Red Wings (coming Aug. 17)
— Florida Panthers (coming Aug. 18)
— Montreal Canadiens (coming Aug. 19)
— Ottawa Senators (coming Aug. 20)
— Tampa Bay Lightning (coming Aug. 21)
— Toronto Maple Leafs (coming Aug. 22)
— Carolina Hurricanes (coming Aug. 23)
— Columbus Blue Jackets (coming Aug. 24)
— New Jersey Devils (coming Aug. 25)
— New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
— New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
— Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
— Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
— Washington Capitals (coming Aug. 30)