The Nashville Predators had every piece in place for another long playoff run chasing the Stanley Cup.
So they thought.
Now they have a longer offseason to fix the NHL’s worst power play and the issues that proved so costly in being ousted in the first round for the first time since 2015.
“It is disappointing that for so many people for us to be here today,” general manager David Poile said Wednesday. “Everything seemed to be in place in my mind. On paper, I believe we had a team that could compete for the Stanley Cup.”
Poile didn’t have any answers for what went wrong when he and coach Peter Laviolette met with reporters. Last summer, the Predators asked Poile to keep their team together after the Presidents’ Trophy winners lost a Game 7 in the second round. Poile said he believed they had reason to give that group another opportunity.
The Predators became the first to repeat as Central Division champs in a decade only to lose in six games to Dallas.
“We targeted this year to be our year, to obviously take another step forward and to get to our ultimate goal of winning the Cup,” defenseman P.K. Subban said. “Our trajectory sort of went the other way where we went to the Cup Final, then second round and now obviously with a first-round knockout it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Poile said he plans to look at himself and management, Laviolette and his assistants and the players themselves. Laviolette took responsibility for the power play woes and graded himself poorly.
“Our objective is to be successful in the playoffs, so ultimately it’s not good enough,” said Laviolette, who’s under contract through the 2020-21 season.
Some things to know about the Predators going into this offseason:
FIX THE POWER PLAY
Not only were the Predators the NHL’s worst with the man advantage in the regular season, they went 0 for 16 against Dallas. Four power plays came in Game 6, including in the final two minutes of regulation, yet they didn’t convert. Laviolette said he tried everything from switching the assistant in charge of the power play two-thirds of the way through the season, to team meetings and even hired an outside consultant.
The top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson had quite the regular season. Arvidsson set the franchise record with 34 goals in just 58 games due to a broken thumb, while Johansen had a career-high 50 assists. But the trio combined for four points against Dallas, and Arvidsson was held scoreless. The contrast with Dallas’ dominating top line was stark. The JOFA line remains under contract together at least through the 2021-22 season with Arvidsson signed for the next five seasons and Johansen through June 2025.
Poile says he has enough flexibility under the salary cap but didn’t know if he’ll need more this offseason. He will be in touch with the agent for captain Roman Josi on July 1 to start talking about an extension with one season left on his current deal. Nashville has a lot of money tied up already in its defensemen starting with Subban, who’s due $9 million each of the next three seasons. Ryan Ellis is under contract through the 2026-27 season at $6.25 million. Rookie Dante Fabbro, signed at the end of the season once his college season ended, made a strong impression on his entry deal and is expected to get more playing time next season.
Kyle Turris was signed to a six-year deal when Nashville traded for him in November 2017. He had what he called a frustrating season with just 23 points in 55 games, making his $6 million salary very costly for the production the Predators have gotten.
SUBBAN AND TRADE RUMORS
With each offseason, rumors start swirling that Subban will be traded. The defenseman ranked ninth with 31 points but played only 63 games because of an injury. Subban said he understands the responsibility that comes with being the team’s highest-paid player and he knows the business-side of the NHL having been traded once in his career.
“All I can hope is to continue to try to help this team win a championship,” Subban said.
PENDING FREE AGENTS
Poile traded for both Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds to help the power play, which didn’t happen. Now both Boyle, who returned a week after having his appendix removed in the playoffs, and Simmonds will be free agents this summer. Boyle said he’d like to return.