Since making the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 the Nashville Predators have been seeking a solution to consistent playoff disappointment, losing at the first-round stage in each of the past four seasons.
Most recently they were swept by the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche and have responded by upgrading their line-up in a significant way with veterans - defenceman Ryan McDonagh and forward Nino Niederreiter.
|What||NHL Season 2022/23|
|Where||USA and Canada|
|When||7th October 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch||Premier Sports & bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
COL Avalanche 17/4, TOR Maple Leafs 8/1, FLA Panthers 9/1, TB Lightning 10/1, CAR Hurricanes 11/1
Heading into his fourth season as coach John Hynes believes the addition of McDonagh and Niederreiter fix a couple of his team's needs and proves to his returning players that the franchise is committed to having a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
33-year-old McDonagh knows what it takes more than most having helped the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final three times running, winning back-to-back in 2020 and 2021. He also appeared in the 2014 Final with the New York Rangers.
A former captain with the Rangers and alternate captain with the Lightning, McDonagh has 337 points (71 goals, 266 assists) in 783 regular season games and 64 points (12 goals, 52 assists) in 185 playoff appearances.
He waived a no movement clause to join the Predators saying he likes their potential and drive to be a cup contender.
Niederreiter, 30, has been a regular offensive contributor over 12 NHL seasons with New York Islanders, Minnesota wild and Carolina Hurricanes.
Last season the Swiss international scored 44 goals (24 goals, 20 assists) in 75 regular season games and five points (one goal, four assists) in 14 playoff games.
Star forward Filip Forsberg committed his long-term future to the Predators by signing an eight-year, $68m contract in July.
He will again be partnered with Matt Duchene who combined to score 85 goals and 85 assists between them last season.
Forsberg scored 42 goals with 42 assists in just 69 games and Duchene 43 goals, 43 assists in 78 games.
The tally of goals and points was a career high for both players, who will be highly motivated to continue their offensive success together in 2022/23.
Another star of Nashville's fifth place finish in the Central Division (45-30-7) was Captain Roman Josi who had an NHL career-high 96 points last season (23 goals, 73 assists) and finished second in Norris Trophy voting to Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche as the league's best defenceman.
Josi's tally was the most points in a season by a defenseman since Phil Housley had 97 points in 1992/93. He also led defensemen in powerplay goals (11) and shots on goal (281).
The 32-year-old was eighth in the NHL in average time on ice per-game (25:33), and he's had at least 50 points in six of the past eight seasons. His 402 career assists is currently a franchise record.
Nashville added some snarl to their fourth line by adding 6'4" forward Zach Sanford who had career highs of 169 hits and 67 blocked shots in 80 games for the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets last season.
The 27-year-old scored 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) during what was his fifth season in the NHL.
He has appeared in the playoffs 25 times with eight points (two goals, six assists) and won the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019.
The Predators benefit from having one of the best netminders in the world in Juuse Saros.
Smaller than his main competitors at 5'11", few can match Saros' lateral movement and he has truly cemented himself as Nashville's number-one following several seasons of sharing duties.
In 67 games last season, the Finn went 38-25-3 with a .918 save-percentage and 2.64 goals-against-average (GAA). He was selected to the NHL All-Star game and ended the season third in voting for the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goalie.
Unfortunately for him and the Predators he was injured for the playoffs, and his absence was hard felt.
Over 222 career regular season games, Saros is 114-72-20 with an excellent, 920 save-percentage and 2.54 GAA. In the playoffs he has appeared 17 times with a .914 save-percentage and 2.63 GAA.
With Saros entering his prime and an improved defensive core and deeper offence, the Predators, 50/1 to lift the Stanley Cup, enter the new season high in confidence that they will extend their run as a playoff team to a ninth season.
Forsberg, Duchene and Josi will likely find it hard to match last season's career-best performances, but will still make the Predators a dangerous prospect and they are 4/7 to make the playoffs.
With no series wins since 2018, the playoff hump for Nashville is a steep one and that is where the value of their new recruits will ultimately be judged.
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