On Wednesday, the Predators made two big moves, moving two forwards. First, the Predators traded Nick Bonino, the 37th overall pick, and the 70th overall pick to the Wild for Center Luke Kunin and the 101st overall pick. Nashville then boughtout the contract of Kyle Turris. These moves combine to save the Predators $8.1m in cap space.
Additionally, the Predators bought out the contract of defender Steve Santini and let Collin Blackwell enter free agency. In the past weeks, the Predators announced that forwards Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith will test free agency. Free agency begins at 11:00am CT on Friday, October 9th. On Tuesday, the Predators selected Goaltender Iaroslav Askarov with the 11th overall pick.
The Nick Bonino trade does not come as a huge surprise as the Predators are trying to clear cap space. Bonino signed a 4 year, $16.5 contract with the Predators in 2017 and since then, he has been one of the most consistent players on the team. Bonino, 32, was 6th on the team in points last season, scoring 18 goals (2nd highest on the team) and assisting on 17 goals.
This trade was purely a move to clear cap space as the Predators traded Bonino and 2 good picks for a young player in Luke Kunin. Kunin, 22, scored 15 goals and recorded 16 assists in 2019-20, which would have ranked 10th on the Predators in points. Kunin also had 55 penalty minutes (PIM), which would have ranked 2nd on the Predators, 10 minutes less than Austin Watson and 10 more than the next closest player (Roman Josi).
The buyout of Kyle Turris was even less surprising than the Bonino trade. Turris was traded to Nashville in 2017 in a huge three way trade. The Predators traded away young defensman, Samuel Girard, prospect Vladislav Kamenev, and a 2nd round draft pick. Upon arrival, Turris signed a 6 year, $36m contract with Nashville.
In hindsight, this was one of the Predators worst moves in recent history. When asked, GM David Poile was not quite sure why Turris did not work out in Nashville. As Adam Vingain wrote in The Athletic, this is the end of what seemed like a forced marriage. After Turris fell out of favor with former Predators coach, Peter Laviolette, his Predators career went downhill. While Turris certainly could have bounced back under John Hynes, GM David Poile clearly has bigger ideas, showing why he boughtout Turris and cleared cap space.
The Predators made 2 big moves on the second day of the 2020 draft but more moves may be coming. In an interview, Poile said he was not going to change the goaltending situation and he was going to keep the top four defenders intact. He mentioned adding defensive depth and allowing young players to take on a bigger role.
The Predators now sit at around $17.6m in cap space. Among notable free agents is Taylor Hall, who won the hart trophy (MVP) in 2018 under current Predators' coach, John Hynes. Hall attributed some of his success to Hynes and they seem to have a very good relationship. Unfortunately, the Predators have not had good luck with big, expensive goal scorers (ex: Granlund, Turris, Duchene so far). Hall is among many options for the Predators as they will likely make multiple free agent signings.
In addition to free agents, the Predators will give more young players an oppurtunity in 2020-21. Eeli Tolvanen, Rem Pitlick, Philip Tomasino, and Alexander Carrier all have a strong change of playing in 2020-21 and I think they could make an impact. Poile said that if the offensive production improves to the level he expects, the Predators could be a much better team in 2020 and beyond.
These moves do not comes as a huge surprise though more moves are coming. Needless to say, the 2021 Predators will be a much different team than in 2020.