Isn’t August just the worst? Hockey seems so close, yet it is still so far away. It is without question the driest of the summer months when it comes to anything NHL related. But for Nashville Predators fans, we have you covered with the answers to your Predators offseason questions.
@MCHisTweeting who do you see slotting in as the number one center?
— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) August 7, 2015
Mike Ribeiro was the team’s No. 1 center a year ago during his first season in Nashville and that won’t be changing this year. He finished the 2014-15 campaign as the team’s second-highest scorer with an impressive mark of 47 assists and a point total of 62 points.
There is no better playmaker on the Predators roster. He is a major reason behind Filip Forsberg’s remarkable rookie campaign, as he emerged as a top-tier talent at just 20 years old. The best puck passing forward in Nashville recently received a new contract worth $7 million over the next two seasons.
@MCHisTweeting does Hodgson make the third line impactful this season? Who do you see him playing with?
— Gerald Saltkill (@Pepperlivin) August 7, 2015
The third line is the biggest question mark entering the 2015-16 season. GM David Poile told The Tennessean that he sees the team moving Calle Jarnkrok to the wing and slotting Cody Hodgson in the middle to take his spot on the third line. These moves likely make the third line identity as so: Steve Moses – Cody Hodgson – Calle Jarnkrok.
Moses has zero NHL experience and Jarnkrok has played in fewer than 90 NHL contests after his 18-point, 74-game season a year ago. The addition of Hodgson could spark a flame in the bottom six, but after his abysmal season last year, it just makes that question mark that is the third line even larger.
Hodgson received the Mike Ribeiro treatment with his one-year $1.05 million “prove-it” contract. If Hodgson does deliver and return to his 40-points-per-season style we saw in 2013-14, he could be the saving grace for a Nashville third line that has been a bit in flux.
Don’t forget that Hodgson was a first-round pick in 2010 and the 25-year-old has yet to have a season that silences the doubters. This year could be that special year that jump-starts his career back on the right path. If things don’t work out, the Predators can simply make him a healthy scratch and/or bite the bullet of his $1.05 million contract and place him on waivers.
@MCHisTweeting if Neal has another sub par season, do you think he's traded? Especially if the young forwards look good?
— Noah Byers (@noza_byers) August 9, 2015
This is an exceptional question because Neal’s sub-par first season with the Predators was swept under the rug. That is easy to do when you have one of the league’s top rookies in Forsberg shining, Ribeiro re-boosting, Shea Weber and Roman Josi controlling the blue line on a nightly basis and the brick wall of Pekka Rinne in net.
In the midst of all of that and returning to the postseason Neal had just 37 points in the regular season. Granted he did play in just 67 regular season games, he had 61 points in just 59 games during his final year in Pittsburgh.
Let’s assume the second question is referring to prospects Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson for the most part and fellow rookie Moses. All three will more than likely see NHL time throughout the season, whether it be opening night or after the All-Star break. However, the biggest threat of Neal possibly being placed on the trade wire is himself.
Let’s pump the brakes on that — he has scored 20+ goals in each of his NHL seasons including a 40-goal 2011-12 season.
Some believe Neal is the trade piece that could bring in a true No. 1 center to Nashville. Dealing away Weber has been a very hot topic as of late for that franchise center, but maybe another average year from Neal throws his name in that hat.
Thank you to all that reached out on twitter with the great questions.