The Nashville Predators hope to speed transition and rebuild with new GM, coach


COACH: Andrew Brunette (51-18-6 in one season as Florida's interim coach).

SEASON OPENER: Oct. 10 at Tampa Bay.

DEPARTURES: D Mattias Ekholm, C Ryan Johansen, F Matt Duchene, F Tanner Jeannot, F Mikael Granlund, F Nino Niederreiter, coach John Hynes.

ADDITIONS: C Gustav Nyquist, C Ryan O'Reilly, D Luke Schenn.

GOALIES: Juuse Saros (33-23-7, 2.69 GAA, .919 save percentage) and Kevin Lankinen (9-8-1-, 2.75 GAA, .916).


LAST SEASON: The Predators missed the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons by finishing three points out of the Western Conference's second wild-card slot. They came up short after taking the first steps toward a rebuild at the trade deadline. That included the Predators announcing Feb. 26 that their first coach, Barry Trotz, would be taking over as the franchise's second general manager with David Poile's retirement after the NHL draft.

STRENGTHS: Saros finished fourth in voting for the Vezina Trophy after facing more shots and making more saves than any goalie playing at least 30 games. Captain Roman Josi, the 2020 Norris Trophy winner, led Nashville with 59 points in 67 games with five game-winning goals.

WEAKNESSES: Nashville will be leaning heavily on its AHL pipeline in Milwaukee. Brunette has to blend veterans like Filip Forsberg, O'Reilly and Colton Sissons with the likes of Luke Evangelista, Tommy Novak and Egor Afanasyev. Forsberg remains a scoring threat but was limited to 50 games last season by injuries.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Trotz, who won a Stanley Cup in Washington as a coach after leaving Nashville, needs the Predators to be competitive to keep fans in the seats as this franchise celebrates its 25th season. The Predators always have had a knack for playing better than expected, having made the postseason 15 times in their first 24 seasons.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Saros. He literally carried them to their last playoff berth in 2022 with how he played down the stretch. The native of Finland has two years left on his contract with a very affordable salary cap hit of $5 million each season.



The Associated Press