Now that the smoke from the Seattle expansion draft has cleared, the Nashville Predators can turn their attention to the next part of their roster rebuilding.
The Predators aren’t expected to make a huge splash in free agency after General Manager David Poile tried unsuccessfully to move on from both Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene. But now, he has to live with the inflated $8 million per year contracts of both.
The team’s top priority is presumably Mikael Granlund. The 29-year-old had 13 goals and 27 points in 51 games last year and he’s tallied 31 goals and 62 points in 130 games with Nashville.
Granlund, who re-signed with Nashville before the start of last season on a modest one-year, $3.75 million contract, likely earned a decent raise. He has been far and away the Predators’ best forward under head coach John Hynes.
His 24 goals are the most since Hynes took over as the third head coach in franchise history, and Granlund also leads the team in ice time (19:20 per game) and shooting percentage (18.8) and ranks second behind only Filip Forsberg with 43 points in the 84 games Hynes has been the coach.
Reports indicate that Granlund could be asking for a deal in the $5-6 million per year range.
Sportsnet NHL insider Elliotte Friedman said Thursday on 102.5-FM that a quick decision from Granlund in unlikely as there is probably a larger-than-expected market for the unrestricted free agent.
“I think Mikael Granlund is a really good player,” Friedman said. “The other thing that’s going on here is, I think there’s a lot of ‘tampering’ going on…I think these teams and players are really good about knowing the market and what actually is out there and what isn’t…If Granlund is not getting signed, it’s either because he sees something out there that is better than what Nashville’s offering, or Nashville is squeezing him because they don’t think there’s something out there that he hopes to get.”
Not one to tip his hand, Poile told reporters on Thursday that he had spoken with both Granlund and unrestricted free agent forward Erik Haula, who had nine goals and 21 points in 51 games for Nashville this year, but no news should be expected this week as both likely have several options to consider.
“We’ve had some conversations with Granlund,” Poile said. “We’ve had some conversations with Haula. Nothing has been done there. I think we’re going to be heading into next week just to see where we are, where they are, what other opportunities they have, what other opportunities we have. I think that’s about where we are.”
The Predators, who have roughly $29 million in available cap space, theoretically have the money to re-sign both after trading away Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Ellis and with Seattle taking Calle Jarnkrok’s $2 million off the books.
Granlund’s agent Todd Diamond said two weeks ago that he hadn’t talked about a new contract with the Predators yet, but he told The Athletic on Wednesday that negotiations with the team were “stuck in purgatory.”
If Granlund signs elsewhere, that likely locks Johansen in as the No. 1 center and Duchene as the No. 2.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_