We continue our look at the Central Division by looking at the Nashville Predators.
Last season: 47-29-6, 100 points, 1st place, lost in Central Division semifinals
Key losses: D P.K. Subban
Key additions: C Matt Duchene, D Steven Santini, D Dante Fabbro
The Predators won the Central Division, but had a disappointing postseason appearance, losing to the Stars in the first round in six games. The Winter Classic this season will feature those two teams, so hey, finally something interesting on New Year’s Day! (I kid because I love, NCAA football)
The Predators, have had one of the best defensive top fours in the league the last few seasons, but have also paid a lot of money for them and traded off their most expensive member in P.K. Subban. He was shipped to the Devils in exchange for ... not really much. The vacancy in the Predators’ top four is expected to be filled by 2016 first-rounder Dante Fabbro.
Nashville is getting the last drops of productivity out of Pekka Rinne, while Juuse Saros continues to get more and more starts. One story arc to follow this season will be to see if Saros finally overtakes Rinne, who has only two years left on his contract worth $5 million per season.
Duchene will be added to a center group that already includes Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino. Turris will likely be either moved to wing or bumped to the bottom six, and one of Johansen or Duchene will anchor the first line. With the success of the line combination of Filip Forsberg, Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson in the past few seasons, it would likely be a mistake to separate them.
The biggest question mark remains what the Predators can do offensively. Their 240 goals for last season were third-to-last in the Central ahead of only the injury-plagued Stars (210) and the last-place Wild (211). If the Predators can improve on that mark, they stand a serious chance in being in the same position they were in last season.