UFA Options: Nashville Predators

Steve Sullivan

UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Nashville Predators.

David Poile’s situation is similar to Bob Gainey’s in that he has a lot of NHL players eligible for free agency this summer. His situation is dissimilar in that, by and large, they’re depth rather than star players.

That said, with eight regulars entering unrestricted free agency, the Predators could look very different next season.

Steve Sullivan

After missing a good portion of 2006-07 and all of 2007-08, diminutive forward Steve Sullivan attempted a comeback last season. It was largely successful; he recorded 11 goals and 32 points in 41 games.

Sullivan was primarily used in a relatively sheltered offensive role; he did see second-level opposition but he got a lot of starts in the offensive zone. I imagine that he’ll return to Nashville but according to reports that’s by no means certain, and he could bring some offensive depth and versatility to any team that doesn’t mind his size.

Radek Bonk

Radek Bonk brings everything any team could want from its third-line centre except for a hitting game. He’s got good size (6’3”, 210lbs), is very smart positionally and a good skater, and he has a bit of a scoring touch (although this year he was killed by the percentages offensively).

He’s one of the better faceoff men in the NHL (59.9% on faceoffs last season) and he’s used to starting a ton of draws in his own end and playing against top opponents.

Vernon Fiddler

The rather unknown Fiddler is a similar player to Bonk, although he plays with more of an edge and probably isn’t quite as polished or talented as Bonk. Like the former, he’s an excellent faceoff man (54.1% last season) and a defensive stalwart. He could play on the third line, but he’s an even better fit for a 4th line role. He isn’t expensive and can easily slide on to the 3rd line if injuries strike.

Scott Nichol

I never would have bet on Scott Nichol to last in the NHL as long as he has; not only is he tiny by the standards of pro hockey (5’8”, 170lbs) but he plays an aggressive style that leaves him prone to injuries. He’s a good faceoff man (54.6% last season) and relishes the fourth line energy role. A very fun player to watch.

Joel Ward

I have to confess that I haven’t seen much of Joel Ward. He played four years of OHL hockey before going to school at the University of Prince Edward Island, and after four years there he entered the Minnesota Wild farm system as a shutdown guy. He was an offensive revelation this season in the NHL; after never topping 45 points in three AHL seasons he scored 35 as an NHL rookie.

He’s 28 years old, stands 6’2” and weighs 205lbs and quietly played tough opposition all season long. It’s difficult to say at this point if he was a complimentary player or not (for those of you who have seen him more than me, please chime in below) but his defensive numbers are exceptional, and I have to admit that I’m intrigued.

Greg DeVries

Greg De Vries, who used to be a half decent defenseman, had a very poor season this last year. He played low-level opposition, didn’t get tossed out for a brutal number of defensive draws, and he’s never really played a physical game. He scored 35 points in 2005-06; he recorded just five this season. At 36, it isn’t hard to picture him out of the league in short order if he can’t rebound.

Greg Zanon

Smallish defenseman Greg Zanon is solidly built and plays a physical game. He led all Nashville defensemen in blocked shots by more than a 2:1 margin (recording 237) and that alone helps offset the fact that there are generally more shots toward his own net than there are going the other way.

Zanon’s reliable in his own end, and probably not going to get a big raise on July 1st. For any team looking to add some defensive presence and a guy who leads by example, Zanon should be a very appealing target.

Ville Koistinen

Koistinen’s an offensive defenseman and something of a powerplay specialist, but the jury is still out on whether he can produce enough offense to compensate for his defensive shortcomings. He had a nice year in a sheltered role, but his numbers were pumped up by both a great on-ice shooting percentage (10.1%) and on-ice save percentage (.933).

He’s a gamble for anyone interested, and I don’t think he’s shown enough offensively to really be worth pursuing.

  • lj

    @ I'm a Scientist!:

    The article basically says "the Oilers put together a package for Heatley, but Heatley can squash the deal if he doesn't want to go." So Garrioch has done some sleuthing and discovered that Heatley does indeed have a NTC. Well done, The Sun, keep churning out that top-notch journalism.

  • lj

    I'm a Scientist! wrote:

    Whoops… jumped the gun. According to the story on the Sportsnet site, Heatly doesn’t want to come to Edmonton. Suprise suprise. I guess we get to keep Cogs, which is good!

    Sportsnet just took a paragraph out of Bruce Garrioch;s latest article. The long version of why that's just guesswork and means nothing is here, but the short version goes something like: "Garrioch guessing = not worth worrying about".

  • lj

    BigE57 wrote:

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    Jonathan Willis wrote:
    For me, a team can have holes on the firstl ine without getting bent out of shape; these guys aren’t easy to get, after all.
    But there’s absolutely no excuse not to have a capable bottom six, other than massive injury problems. There are enough decent, cheap guys out there to fill holes, so there’s no reason to run Brodziak/Pouliot down the middle when the GM knows his coach won’t play them, and will instead do something crazy (like move Pisani to centre).
    You are right and more often than not many teams juggle their first lines somewhat, usually there is a capable tandem and the third member is just someone who mixes well or fills a role on the line.
    Personally, anyone who can competently replace the Brodziak, Pouliot combination would be a huge improvement, I just have a hard time getting excited about these role players when the Oilers desperately need a goal scorer. That being said seeing the Oilers pk and faceoff percentages improve is going to go along way toward improving bottom line results.

    You know the teams scoring totals have actually been average or better, it's the GA that needs the work.

  • lj

    I'm a Scientist! wrote:

    I would like Bonk…for the soul purpose of calling him “Ba-donk-a-Bonk” all year long. He may also do a decent job of replacing Cogs on the third line if he is unfortunately traded for Heatley.

    Whoops… jumped the gun. According to the story on the Sportsnet site, Heatly doesn't want to come to Edmonton. Suprise suprise. I guess we get to keep Cogs, which is good!

    Sigh, oh to be living in California and have any player in the league to choose from, cheap beer, cheap tickets, cheap parking, cheap housing, cheap floozies… What the hell am i doing here? That's it! I waive my no trade clause…

  • lj

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    For me, a team can have holes on the firstl ine without getting bent out of shape; these guys aren’t easy to get, after all.
    But there’s absolutely no excuse not to have a capable bottom six, other than massive injury problems. There are enough decent, cheap guys out there to fill holes, so there’s no reason to run Brodziak/Pouliot down the middle when the GM knows his coach won’t play them, and will instead do something crazy (like move Pisani to centre).

    You are right and more often than not many teams juggle their first lines somewhat, usually there is a capable tandem and the third member is just someone who mixes well or fills a role on the line.

    Personally, anyone who can competently replace the Brodziak, Pouliot combination would be a huge improvement, I just have a hard time getting excited about these role players when the Oilers desperately need a goal scorer. That being said seeing the Oilers pk and faceoff percentages improve is going to go along way toward improving bottom line results.

  • lj

    I would like Bonk…for the soul purpose of calling him "Ba-donk-a-Bonk" all year long. He may also do a decent job of replacing Cogs on the third line if he is unfortunately traded for Heatley.

  • lj

    @ oilerdago:
    @ Steve:

    Thanks for the insight on Ward. I've seen him play, but my memory's pretty hazy (it seems like evry Nashville player is a high-energy forchecker) so he didn't stand out.

    I take it he played with Legwand for most of the year?

  • lj

    I like Joel Ward… he's another one of those passionate players in this league, an i would love to see a hard worker like him on our third line rather than a guy like radek bonk.

  • lj

    JW: Living in Nashville I get to as many games here as possible. Overall I agree with your assessment of Nashville's UFA's but would add a couple of things:

    – Sullivan: Is more than spare parts, but not of interest to Edmonton (too many small guys already). He started to get his scoring touch back though as the season went on and he'll help someone next year.

    – Bonk: Great in the face off dot, but a terrible +/- the last two years (-31 and -12). Some of this could be his linemates and the fact that frequently he his matched against better offensive players, but I think he'd be a bad move (get skinned alive by Oiler fandom). He's not the strongest (I like Malhotra better).

    – Joel Ward: I liked a lot of what I saw with him – very aggressive on the forecheck and would expect he's a high priority re-sign (along w/Sullivan). Would love to steal him though – great energy player.

    – Fiddler: Another good 3rd line option who can give you some offensive and a better contract then a Moreau.

    – Zanon: Solid defensive defenseman. Would be great ina bottom pairing.

    For what it's worth.

  • lj

    Zanon would fill out the bottom pair nicely(assuming we're trading a top 4 and Smid moves up to fil a top 4 roll) and make a nice duo with Peckham(he looked good in his stint, he must be close to NHL ready) IMO.

    Bonk would be a great addition if the price is right and I'm intrigued by Ward-hadn't heard of him, but it might be worth a gamble to see if he's got more game to show.

  • lj

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    @ BigE57:
    But there’s absolutely no excuse not to have a capable bottom six, other than massive injury problems. There are enough decent, cheap guys out there to fill holes, so there’s no reason to run Brodziak/Pouliot down the middle when the GM knows his coach won’t play them, and will instead do something crazy (like move Pisani to centre).

    I couldn't agree with you more. if Maholtra is not available, I would take bonk in a heartbeat. Does he get mych PK time?

    Tambo needs to seriously consider anyone who has a 53% or higher FOP and is decent on the PK. After that, he needs to put them in order of preference and start at the top of the list and start makeing offers.

    I would be much more upset if he doesn't get that type of player than if he didn't get a 1st line shooter.

  • lj

    @ BigE57:

    For me, a team can have holes on the firstl ine without getting bent out of shape; these guys aren't easy to get, after all.

    But there's absolutely no excuse not to have a capable bottom six, other than massive injury problems. There are enough decent, cheap guys out there to fill holes, so there's no reason to run Brodziak/Pouliot down the middle when the GM knows his coach won't play them, and will instead do something crazy (like move Pisani to centre).

  • lj

    BigE57 wrote:

    Unfortunatley the Oilers or their fans can’t get excited about any of these guys until we someone to move into a first line roll.

    Yikes, that should be role, not to be confused with Dustin Penners mid-section.

  • lj

    A guy that can win a faceoff, particularly in your own end, like Bonk might be a good fit on the Oilers third line if he came cheap enough. Assuming the Oilers could unload some of their many other 3rd liners.

    And Fiddler actually reminds me a lot of Curtis Glencross, fourth liner who brings a ton of energy and a bit of a touch.

    Unfortunatley the Oilers or their fans can't get excited about any of these guys until we someone to move into a first line roll.