Saturday, May 10, 2008

Decision, decisions - The Forward Edition

While I must admit that this year’s off season is drastically different than last year’s, there are still a lot of unknowns left hanging in the air. Who stays, who goes and how much are we willing to shell out for those key players that we just can’t live without? Predators GM David Poile is a man faced with a multitude of options and I would like to think that he’s more excited about the possibilities of what could be rather than nervous about who/what he has to lose.

We were fortunate enough during the season to lock up JP Dumont, David Legwand and Jordin Tootoo for a few more years. However, we still have a plethora of players that need to be either re-signed, traded or set free. I originally set out to breakdown all of the RFA/UFA’s in one post but after I realized that like HALF THE TEAM is one or the other, I decided to divide this up between the forwards, defense and goalies, with a new post each week.

So, here’s list of the forwards (in alphabetical order) with my predictions as to whether or not they stay/go/retire/fade into oblivion:

Brandon Bochenski (RW) – RFA; a trade deadline pickup but definitely not someone to write home about. Poor Bochenski though…he has been through it all with being placed on waivers (don’t even get me started on the poor plight of players when that happens), not being picked up off waivers, being basically handed to another team to just to free up some space on a roster and then being picked up by us at trade deadline with future considerations given to the Ducks later on. I think he might hold the promise of being a good player if given the chance to play more than a handful of games a season. I just don’t think he’ll show up on our roster again.

My prediction: Gets picked up by another organization or goes to play for the minors somewhere.

Martin Erat (L/RW) – RFA; got a terrific start to the year and then a couple of minor injuries sidelined him for small stretches of time mid-season. Even though he had a career year for goals scored (23), I think he lost a little bit of himself with all the line changes and injuries that took out key players on his line(s). There’s no question whatsoever that I want him to be re-signed and the Predators organization should be actively pursuing whatever it takes to make it happen. Both David Poile and the ownership group have been quoted on more than one occasion as saying that they will make sure to lock Erat up before July. I couldn’t imagine this team without him so let’s hope those quotes ring true. I think he will really start playing to his full potential when Coach Trotz can find the right fit for a finisher on the line with both he and David Legwand.

My prediction: Re-signs to three-year deal for at least $3.5 million/year.
Update (5/12/2008): It was confirmed this afternoon that Erat has signed a seven year, $31.5 million contract with the Preds. I guess I was a little off! Who cares?! We've got him for seven more years and that makes this girl very happy.

Martin Gelinas (LW) – UFA; acquired during the off season last year; missed remainder of the season following an ACL tear that required immediate surgery in February; a good veteran player who brought more to the table than I ever expected; also a great guy to have in the locker room as a mentor for the younger players. I would like to see him stick around for the locker room factor alone.

My prediction: Gelinas retires (he IS 37, people) or re-signs for one year.

Jan Hlavac (LW) – UFA; who knew he would be this season’s trade deadline pickup surprise hit? For his short stint with the Predators after being traded from Tampa Bay, he was quite impressive as the replacement for the injured Martin Gelinas. All comments about him as a player were some of the most complimentary I had ever heard come from our coaching staff so I wouldn’t be too surprised if David Poile decided to add him back to the lineup next season. And if he can play center or winger, I could see him replacing Mr. +/-31 Radek Bonk for a few games.

My prediction: This one’s a toughie…maybe a one-year deal?

Darcy Hordichuk (LW) – UFA; Darcy had his moments of above-average play in a few games but he knew what his role was on the team; he was the enforcer…even though we already had one in Jordin Tootoo. While Tootoo stepped up his game this season and had a career-year all around, Darcy managed to score just one goal all season, ending a scoreless streak that started in November 2006. I was more than a little upset that Trotz played him more than Jed Ortmeyer during the first half of the season because at least Jed had good penalty-killing instincts. I hate to say it but I would almost bet we keep him around just to have extra players to “sweeten the pot” should we make a trade next season.

My prediction: Re-signs for one year.

Rich Peverley (C) – RFA; while Rich wasn’t an “official” part of our team all season, we called him up so much that he might has well have been. He played more games than some others who didn’t have a two-way contract. At first I didn’t care for him as a player all that much but on his second call-up of the season, he really stood out to me and I began to see that this kid was definitely NHL-ready. Unfortunately, I think his NHL career will only start with us as he’ll surely be picked up by another organization this summer. With all the injuries healed, Pev would end up being just another scratch every night; and he’s way better than to be stuck in that situation.

My prediction: Signs one-way contract with another team. [single tear]

Next week: Dissecting the Defensemen

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