As it stands, the most exciting day of the off-season is 23 days away. On July 1st, the free agency period begins in the NHL. The Nashville Predators will be very busy from now until that point trying to get Shea Weber signed to a relatively long-term deal. Obviously, that's the biggest current priority for the Predators. Assuming he gets signed, then Nashville has some decisions to make when free agency begins.
Joel Ward will be an unrestricted free agent, and will probably command more money than his last contract with Nashville. By most accounts, Ward had a below-average regular season last year with the Preds. However, Ward had an excellent post-season, scoring 7 goals in 12 games. Nashville will have to decide if they're truly willing to pay a pretty good amount of money in order to keep Ward.
Marcel Goc will also be an unrestricted free agent. Goc was having a great year on the offensive and defensive sides of the ice. Injuries throughout the year eventually ended his season. He will be healthy going into the 2011-2012 season. My gut feeling tells me that Goc will be back in Nashville.
Out of all of the free agents for Nashville, Shane O'Brien is the one that I don't think has a chance of coming back to Nashville. It's nothing against O'Brien, but the depth of the Nashville organization on the blueline will probably keep him from being re-signed. Younger players like Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi will get serious looks next year for a full-time defensive spot.
Added to all of this is the fact that Nashville needs a legitimate goal-scorer. In order to take that next step toward a Stanley Cup, David Poile is going to have to find somebody in the free agent market who can score. Having said that, Poile also has to get them at the right price. Unfortunately for Nashville, they're not a team that can throw a high dollar amount of money at a superstar type of player. There's no denying, however, that more offense is needed for the Preds to seriously contend.
It's going to be an interesting ride for Preds' fans over the next few weeks. Will the Weber deal be completed before July 1st? Who will the Predators decide to keep throughout this process? What additions will Poile make to the coaching staff and roster? We're getting closer and closer to finding out.