Normally at this time of year the Nashville Predators and their fans have their eyes on the prize — the Stanley Cup.
Seven times in the previous eight seasons the Predators made the playoffs and each of the last two years that postseason run extended into the second week in May.
Even with the conclusion of the 2012-13 season pushed back by the lockout that delayed the start until January, the fact that Nashville finished 14th in the Western Conference with 10 losses in the last 11 contests makes this offseason the longest in recent history. There are more than four months between now and the start of training camp but there is a lot that will happen between now and then.
Accustomed as they are to playoff hockey, Predators fans might have forgotten all that a full summer has to offer. With that in mind, The City Paper offers this helpful guide to help them navigate the next couple months and ensure that they do not miss anything along the way. After all, missing out on the Stanley Cup playoffs is enough.
The Predators concluded the lockout-shortened season with a 3-1 loss to Columbus. Their final record was 16-29-3, an average of .854 points per game, the lowest success rate since 2001-02 (.841 points per game).
Players cleaned out their lockers and began exit interviews with coaches and management. Coach Barry Trotz told fans at an event inside Bridgestone Arena: “Our job as coaches and management is to get back to what you demand and what you expect from the Nashville Predators. … We are going to get back to that Predator-way of playing.”
Deadline for signing unsigned draft choices.
This deadline applies to two Predators’ prospects:
Brent Andrews, left wing
Simon Karlsson, defense
Andrews was a sevent-round choice (202nd overall) in the 2011 draft. He had 15 goals and 30 assists in his fourth season with Halifax (QMJHL), which includes two of the top prospects available in the 2013 draft.
Karlssson was a fifth-round pick (142nd overall) in the 2011 draft. He came to North America for the first time this season and played in the Ontario Hockey League, first for Plymouth and then Oshawa. He finished with two goals and 11 assists.
NHL Entry Draft (Newark, N.J.). Nashville has the fourth overall selection, its highest since 1998, when it selected David Legwand, and is in the top 10 for the first time since 2008, when it took Colin Wilson seventh overall.
Nashville currently holds 10 picks, including three in the fourth round, of the 2013 draft. It does not, however, have a second round pick. That one went to Montreal last year in the trade for forward Andrei Kostitsyn.
Deadline for tendering qualifying offers to Group II (restricted) free agents. Teams have the right to match any offer sheet signed by Group II free agents or receive draft pick compensation if they do not match. In order to retain that right, teams must make the necessary qualifying offer to those players by the deadline.
Those who played for the Predators in 2012-13 and are scheduled to be Group II free agents are:
Daniel Bang, left wing
Victor Bartley, defense
Jonathon Blum, defense
Matt Halischuk, right wing
Kevin Henderson, left wing
Roman Josi, defense
Nick Spaling, center
General manager David Poile said he would inform Nashville’s Group II free agents in early June whether or not they would receive the qualifying offers necessary for the Predators to retain their rights. “I think it’s realistic that they’re not all going to be gone,” Poile said.
Free agency begins.
Group III (unrestricted) free agents are players who are 27 or older and have at least seven accrued seasons of NHL experience and are free to sign with any team.
Those who played for the Predators in 2012-13 and are scheduled to be Group III free agents are:
Bobby Butler, left wing
Chris Mason, goalie
Chris Mueller, center
Whether by design or players’ choice, the Predators have seen a lot of talent leave as unrestricted free agents the last two years, most notably Ryan Suter and Jordin Tootoo in 2012 and Steve Sullivan and Joel Ward in 2011. No one is this year’s group will leave a sizable hole if they go elsewhere.
Rookie camp opens
Training camp begins
See you in September
Those who played for the Predators in 2012-13 and already are under contract through next season or beyond are:
Taylor Beck, right wing
Gabriel Bourque, left wing
Rich Clune, right wing
Mattias Ekholm, defense
Ryan Ellis, defense
Mike Fisher, center
Filip Forsberg, right wing
Paul Gaustad, center
Hal Gill, defense
Patric Hornqvist, right wing
Kevin Klein, defense
Sergei Kostitsyn, left wing
David Legwand, center
Joonas Rask, center
Pekka Rinne, goalie
Craig Smith, right wing
Austin Watson, center
Shea Weber, defense
Colin Wilson, left wing