David Poile is trying to save money with the hope that money will save the Predators.
The general manager made two moves Wednesday to ensure some insurance that he hopes will provide some reassurance for the direction of the franchise: He put Kyle Turris on unconditional waivers for purposes of buying out the remaining four years and $24 million of his contract and traded Nick Bonino and his $4.1 million cap hit to the Wild for a younger and cheaper Luke Kunin.
Yes, the Predators are on the hook for a $2 million cap hit through 2027-28 because of the Turris deal. But they save $4 million for the next four years against a cap that will remain at $81.5 million next year at least by doing so.
According to capfriendly.com, the Predators have more than $17.6 million with which to work as the free-agency period begins Friday at 11 a.m. Central.
Poile said he has no orders from ownership about spending, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll empty the team’s pockets by signing a big name in the coming days.
“I don’t have any financial restrictions,” Poile said. “This is tough times for the Predators because we don’t have any revenues. Our owners have been very fair and want to be as competitive as we can be, so we have all the means to spend up to the cap if I find areas that will make us a better team.”
First, he said, he wants to shore up the bottom of the defense, with the departures of Yannick Weber (free agent) and Dan Hamhuis (retired).
“It would be my hope that maybe through free agency I can say … that we’ve improved our defense,” Poile said. “What I’m looking for from our top forwards is improved play. I’m not asking them something they can’t do. It’s just they all had down years from a production standpoint.”
Poile is banking on that not happening again in regard to Matt Duchene ($8 million cap hit), Ryan Johansen ($8 million cap hit) and Filip Forsberg ($6 million cap hit).
With nearly a third of his cap space tied up in those three players, he’s going to need more than the 47 goals and 78 assists they contributed, combined.
Yes, there are several “big names” the Predators could try to sign, such as forward Taylor Hall, who won the Hart Trophy in 2018 under coach John Hynes in New Jersey, or Mike Hoffman. There also are several defensemen he could chase, such as Sami Vatanen and Tyson Barrie.
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But does Poile want to risk making the same mistake he did when he signed Turris, whose deal was negotiated after he was acquired in a three-team trade, especially right after he just signed Duchene to a seven-year, $56 million deal last summer?
“We have to make the right decisions,” he said. “Decisions like the Kyle thing, it’s painful. It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating.”
It’s a mistake he can’t afford to make again.
Poile said each decision is thought out at great length. He said ultimately it’s up to him and his team to “get it right, period.”
Poile kept on with the theme of wanting to be younger and improving from within, meaning younger players such as Eeli Tolvanen and Rem Pitlick are likely to have bigger roles.
As for Turris’ time with the Predators, Poile said he’s rather not look back.
“When you make a decision, you’ve got to move past it,” he said. “All I know is it didn’t work.”