It may look like it’s the offseason since there are no more games to play, but the Nashville Predators hockey operations, coaching and scouting staffs have little time to rest over the summer.
David Poile, president of hockey operations/general manager, is positive the future of the Predators will be even brighter than what was accomplished in the first 10 years.
One of the main reasons for the success of the team has been the scouting of talent from day one. Poile will meet with his scouts from April 28 through May 2 to discuss draft strategy.
This year’s draft, to be held in Ottawa June 20 and 21, is expected to be a deep one. The Predators have two first-round picks, the ninth overall which was obtained from Florida as part of the trade for goaltender Tomas Vokoun last summer, and the 15th.
They also have two second-round picks and one each in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.
“I’ve often said the draft is our bread and butter,” Poile said. “This is going to be a strong draft. We will be filling the cupboard for the future.”
Free agency begins July 1. The Predators plan to sign forward Martin Erat and defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, all restricted free agents, first. Then they will consider the futures of unrestricted free agents like goaltender Dan Ellis and forwards Martin Gelinas, Jan Hlavac and Darcy Hordichuk.
“We are going to start mapping out what the team will look like in 2008-2009,” Poile said. “It is going to take us some time to put it all together.”
Coach Barry Trotz, who along with the rest of the coaching, scouting and training staffs were given two-year contact extensions Tuesday, compares the journey of the Predators in postseason with the early days of the resurgence of the Detroit Red Wings.
“Detroit, before they had their long run of winning Stanley Cups, has a lot of struggles that were similar to ours,” Trotz said. “You feel like they you are there. You get over the hump and then something happens like an injury.
“It makes you hungrier and harder. Each time we are there we become more prepared. We still have to win a playoff game on the road. We still have to win our first playoff series. Once we do, we are going to be a contender for awhile.”
LEGWAND’S FOOT: Center David Legwand is known for his willingness to play with pain. He missed Game 5, but was back on the ice for Game 6 Sunday afternoon.
“When you think of a bruised foot, it doesn’t sound as bad as a broken foot,” Trotz said. “But it was very, very painful, especially the area where the bruise is. There was not only the pressure of the laces of the skates, but the force of the skate against the ice and the weight of the person.
“David has played through some major injuries. His pain tolerance is really high.”
Center Scott Nichol played Game 6 with a broken thumb, even though the doctors told him he probably shouldn’t.
“That’s the hockey player’s mentality,” Trotz said. “That tells me we are getting close to the playoff-type of mentality that it doesn’t matter if you are hurt, it is the playoffs and you have to step up in that situation.”
GOALIE DILEMMA: Chris Mason’s big contract extension begins this year, paying him $3 million a year for the next two years.
Ellis was the No.1 goaltender the final quarter of the season and in the playoffs. And Pekka Rinne is waiting in the wings with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.
“I still believe in Mase, but the numbers speak for themselves,” Trotz said. “Chris never flinched when we told him we were going to go with Ellis. It told me tons about Chris Mason as a person.
“Guys with those types of attributes are what you want in your organization. It wasn’t about him. It was about the team. He was willing to be sacrificed.”
SULLY’S FUTURE: Forward Steve Sullivan sat out the season with back problems and his future on the ice is far from certain at this point.
“We are going have a meeting with Sully, our trainers and our doctors and go over everything,” Poile said. “Right now we are in a nowhere land with him. We don’t have a concrete plan.
“We think he is going to be better and that he is going to play next year. But he has not played in a year-and-a-half. We have to move forward. We have to get a new plan.”