Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators celebrates with teammates Roman Josi and Rich Clune. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Vancouver Canucks 5-2 victory on Monday over the Nashville Predators officially ended the latter's playoff hopes.
It's been a disappointing season for the Predators, who hoped to build on their post-season progress of the previous two years. The Tennessean's Josh Cooper reported Predators coach Barry Trotz admitted his club could face “a very busy summer” of changes.
Cooper observed the club has around $22 million in cap space entering the off-season, with Patric Hornqvist and Roman Josi as their most significant free agents.
Others include restricted forwards Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk and Bobby Butler, along with blueliner Jonathan Blum. Brandon Yip and Chris Mason are their notable unrestricted free agents.
The Predators struggles this season gave rise to speculation defenseman Shea Weber could become trade bait.
The Philadelphia Flyers signed him last summer to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet, which Predators GM David Poile matched. If Poile were to trade Weber, he must wait until one calendar year from the date he matched the offer sheet (July 24).
Despite Weber's hefty contract, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson considers him among the league's most marketable players.
It's been speculated the Flyers will revisit their interest in Weber via trade, while Matheson mused about what it would cost for the Oilers to land him.
Poile, however, has no desire to move Weber, telling the CBC's Elliotte Friedman his intention is to build around Weber and Pekka Rinne.
Predators chairman Tom Cigarran told The Tennessean there was no need for wholesale change, citing injuries as one factor behind the club's struggles this season.
Cigarran also acknowledged his club was up against the cap ceiling in terms of real dollars rather than cap hit. Rather than economize as in previous years, he claimed the Predators would continue to spend toward the cap.
That will certainly help Poile's efforts to bolster his roster this summer.
A pop-gun offense was the Predators biggest problem this season. They currently rank dead last in goals-per-game (2.23) and shots-per-game (26.0), while their power play is 18th overall (17.0).
Poile could also seek a suitable replacement for Weber's former defense partner Ryan Suter, who shocked the club last summer by signing a long-term contract with the Minnesota Wild.
Ownership's willingness to remain a cap team could also provide Poile with an advantage in this summer's free agent market. As Josh Cooper noted, the reduction of the salary cap to $64.3 million for next season could force some high-salaried teams to shed contracts via trades or buyouts.
Should offensive stars like Philadelphia's Daniel Briere, Colorado's Paul Stastny or NY Rangers' Brad Richards become available through amnesty buyouts, Poile could be in position to add experienced scoring punch via free agency.
Failing that, Poile could have a leg-up on his rivals in bidding for potential free agents such as Mike Ribeiro, Jarome Iginla, Mark Streit, Michael Ryder, David Clarkson or Nathan Horton.
It remains to be seen what moves the Predators make, but it's clear they intend to be very active this summer.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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