NASHVILLE, Tenn. – General manager David Poile believes the Nashville Predators wiped away two lingering notions with their run to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Final.
The mantle as an expansion team? Ditched forever 20 years after the NHL granted Nashville a franchise.
The label of Nashville as a nontraditional hockey market? Erased by the tens of thousands of fans who filled the streets watching, cheering and celebrating hockey in a party that Poile thinks other teams – and sports – will try to copy.
That leaves Poile and the Predators focused on winning the Stanley Cup.
“We have a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup, and we have a franchise that in my mind is as good as any in the hockey world.”
The Predators were the last team into the postseason with 94 points and became only the third team seeded last in its conference to reach the Stanley Cup Final since the NHL went to its conference-based playoff format in 1994. But this is a very young roster with goaltender Pekka Rinne (34) and captain Mike Fisher (37) the oldest mainstays.
All-Star P.K. Subban is the oldest of Nashville’s top four defensemen, and the top line is Filip Forsberg (22), Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson, both 24.
“We’ll do everything we can to get back to this position next year,” Poile said.
Here are some things to know about the Predators this offseason:
Quick whistles and offside
Poile said he was frustrated over Colton Sissons’ goal not being allowed due to a quick whistle. He said he is disappointed that the system doesn’t allow the goal to count and that he will do everything he can moving forward to improve the league’s system to correctly count goals. The system may not get every call right, but Poile said they should move closer to 100 percent than 50-50.
“We as managers, the gatekeepers of the game, we have to put in place a system where the right call is always made. Everybody knows the goal should have counted, but the system was not there to allow the goal to be counted,” Poile said.
Fisher is one of five unrestricted free agents and someone the Predators want back. Poile said Wednesday they haven’t started talking to the center. Fisher says he needs to pray about his future with faith, family and then hockey key in whether he returns.
Johansen is one of three key restricted free agents with Arvidsson and Austin Watson. Johansen blossomed this season tying Arvidsson with a team-high 61 points and tied for third with 13 points despite missing the final eight games this postseason injured. Johansen and Arvidsson share an agent, and Poile said the Predators will be talking in Chicago at the draft.
Poile has to submit a plan Saturday on which players to protect from the Golden Knights’ expansion draft June 21. Neal, due $5 million next season, along with Colin Wilson and Craig Smith, could be options for that clear salary cap space as well.
Poile said Neal, who scored six goals this postseason, broke his hand in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against Anaheim. Neal didn’t miss a game, though Poile noted the forward didn’t shoot pucks during practice after that. Neal did score two goals after the injury. Smith had a high ankle sprain that limited him to eight games, while Wilson played 13 games despite a hamstring injury.
But defenseman Ryan Ellis, who played in Game 6 despite being injured, needs more evaluation. Poile said the team will share an update likely next week.
Johansen said Tuesday he expects to be cleared to start skating in a couple weeks after needing season-ending surgery for acute compartment syndrome in his left thigh after Game 4 of the Western finals on May 18. Poile said forward Kevin Fiala, who broke his left leg in the opener of the second round against St. Louis, also is ahead of schedule in his recovery.
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