By Jim Diamond
Tuesday afternoon brought news from 501 Broadway that the Nashville Predators signed forward Taylor Beck to a one-year, $550,000 contract. The deal is one-way, meaning Beck gets the same salary whether he is on Nashville’s roster or if he is sent to the American Hockey League.
Although not huge money, the one-way aspect of the contract likely signifies that Beck has solidified a spot on the opening night roster.
As the roster stands now, the Predators have 17 forwards, nine defensemen, and two goaltenders still in camp. They will need to get down to 23 players or fewer before the opening night roster can be finalized.
With Pekka Rinne and Carter Hutton, they are set at the goaltender position. It would be hard to imagine Nashville keeping more than seven blueliners heading into the season. So with those being nine of the 23 spots, that leaves space for 14 forwards.
One name that can be subtracted from the group of 17 current forwards is Mike Fisher, since he will start the year on Injured Reserve as his Achilles continues to heal.
That math indicates 16 players fighting for 14 spots.
First round draft pick Kevin Fiala has been impressive in camp, but it would be hard to believe that he would stick with the team and is likely headed back to Europe for at least another year.
And then there was one.
If Fiala does not stick and barring a trade, one of Beck, Gabriel Bourque, Rich Clune, Matt Cullen, Filip Forsberg, Paul Gaustad, Calle Jarnkrok, Olli Jokinen, James Neal, Eric Nystrom, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, Craig Smith, Viktor Stalberg or Colin Wilson will not be on the final 23.
There are some obvious ones will will stick, but the same can’t be said for many others.
Forsberg has skated in three preseason games on a line with Neal and Ribeiro, so odds are that he has a spot pretty well secured.
Cullen, Stalberg, and Wilson are all battling injuries right now, so they too could conceivably start the season on IR if their maladies will last beyond next Thursday’s start of the regular season, but their current injuries are not thought to be long-term.
Someone is not going to be here, so let the speculation begin as to which one(s) aren’t in the final 23.