Performance took priority over potential Tuesday as the Nashville Predators continued to trim their roster.
Center Cal O’Reilly and defenseman Alexander Sulzer, two young players expected to be in the lineup this season, will not be on the roster Saturday when the Predators open the regular season in Dallas.
Sulzer was reassigned to Milwaukee. So were three others — forwards Peter Olvecky and Triston Grant and defenseman Nolan Yonkman — all of whom needed to clear waivers first, which they did.
O’Reilly was placed on waivers with the hope that he too will end up in Milwaukee.
That reduced the number of players on the roster to 24, one more than the league maximum, which must be met by Wednesday afternoon.
The only decisions left are those regarding forward Joel Ward, rookie forward Colin Wilson and defenseman Francis Bouillon. The Predators will get to the 23-man limit by placing Ward on injured reserve on Wednesday.
“Our depth overall is much better than it was last year because we had to use so many young guys at the NHL level,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Guys who have been better and more consistent have earned the right to start (in Nashville).”
O’Reilly and Sulzer were two who got their first taste of the NHL in 2008-09. O’Reilly was recalled twice and had three goals and two assists in 11 games. Sulzer also was recalled twice but appeared in just two games before he sustained a season-ending shoulder injury.
Because of his age and experience O’Reilly needs waivers, which means every other team in the league has the opportunity to claim him by mid-day Wednesday.
“We had a big debate about (O’Reilly),” coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s a player who can play and has a good skill set. Right now, there are other people ahead of him. …He didn’t have a good start to his camp and he had too much to catch up.”
Sulzer did not need waivers and was sent directly to Milwaukee.
He signed a two-year contract in January that guaranteed him an NHL contract for the next two seasons ($600,000 in 2009-10 and $700,000 in 2010-11). He even was listed among the team’s NHL players in this season’s media guide.
Two other young defensemen, Teemu Laakso and Cody Franson, were among the seven still on the roster.
“A lot of guys stepped up, and training camp is about opportunity and winning a position,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We have a lot of confidence in Sulzer as a defenseman, but he has to get his game in order.”
Ward has missed virtually all of training camp with a groin injury, which is why he will be placed on injured reserve.
Bouillon played and scored a goal in Sunday’s preseason finale and convinced management to end his professional tryout agreement and to sign him to the one-year, $750,000 contract to which he and the team agreed. General manager David Poile said he expected to make that transaction Wednesday.
Wilson played in one preseason game before he too sustained a groin injury.
The most likely course of action for him will be to classify him as a “non-roster” player. That will allow coaches to take an extended look at him because he will be able to continue his rehab and eventually practice with the NHL team, but in so doing he will not count against the roster limit.
Nashville opens the regular season Saturday at Dallas.