Today marks a significant day for Nashville sports as the Predators must release their list of protected players for the upcoming 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and Nashville SC faces Chicago in the final match of their homestand.
Following a decent 2021 season, the Predators must protect a number of players on their roster due to the Seattle Kraken's upcoming NHL Expansion Draft.
Teams are given two options with who they can protect and prevent Seattle from taking from their team:
Protected: Forsberg, Sissons, Kunin, Jarnkrok, Duchene, Johansen, Haula, Granlund, Josi, Ekholm, Ellis, Saros
Unprotected: Fabbro, Carrier, Cousins, Trenin, Benning
Protected: Forsberg, Kunin, Josi, Ellis, Ekholm, Fabbro, Sissons, Carrier, Saros
Unprotected: Haula, Granlund, Duchene, Johansen, Jarnkrok
For me, option 2 is the better choice for Nashville, primarily because of the importance of Nashville's defense. Option 1 limits the protection to 3 defenders, exposing Dante Fabbro and Alexandre Carrier while Option 2 can protect each of the top 5 defensemen.
One of the biggest headlines is the possibility of leaving Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen unprotected. Both of their contracts come at a high price of $8m/year which could lead GM David Poile to leave one or both unprotected in an effort to clear a serious amount of cap room. Both players have greatly underperformed in relation to their price tag, making the possibility strong. I believe both players improved greatly as last season progressed and will be much better next season if kept together.
Notably, Eeli Tolvanen is exempt as he does not yet have 2 years of NHL experience. Also, since Haula and Granlund are unrestricted free agents, Seattle can select them.
Regardless of how the protection process and draft goes, Nashville's team will likely be hurt. You could make the argument that the exit of Johansen or Duchene could ultimately help the team because of the resulting cap room but regardless, the draft will lead to further serious changes following the trade of Viktor Arvidsson and retirement of Pekka Rinne.
Nashville SC is facing the Chicago Fire at home on Saturday, a team which has not won an away game since Marcus Mariota was the starting Quarterback for the Titans. Nashville currently sits at 4-7-1 (W-D-L) and are 5th place in the Eastern Conference, 2 points above the playoff line.
"How did Nashville tie?" is a question I constantly find myself asking after NSC outplays teams for 90 minutes but ends the game with 1 point. Tonight, their is no excuse as they face a very week Chicago team with 7 losses on the season.
Nashville is coming off a 2-2 draw which shockingly, they should have won commandingly.
Atlanta was without a large number of starters and was able to escape with a point. Nashville was without Walker Zimemrman, Aníbal Godoy, and Alistair Johnston, and will be for the next few matches, but that is no excuse.
Last week, Nashville completed the record signing of Ivorian striker, Aké Loba. After eyeing Loba since the 2020 Winter Transfer Window, Nashville pulled the trigger and payed $6.8m to Mexican side, CF Monterrey for Loba. This is Nashville's largest signing in the team's 2 year history and could prove to be the most beneficial as well. Loba, 23, is a quick but technical Striker with major upside. We could see Loba's debut against Chicago as he has trained with the team throughout the week.
Overall, this match should help Nashville build distance between them and the playoff line. Nashville has continued to prove why they are among the best teams in MLS as they constantly get results and I believe tonight will be no different.