When the Nashville Predators acquired former Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin at the NHL Draft from the Vegas Golden Knights, who had just selected him in the Expansion Draft days earlier, it was clear that the team would have a logjam on the blue line entering 2017-18. The roster already boasts a top four that can rival any in the league in Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm, and adding yet another prominent name to the mix meant another regular for the Western Conference champs could be pushed out.

Instead, GM David Poile told Adam Vignan of The Tennessean that the Predators will carry eight defenseman, at least to start the year. With Josi, Subban, Ellis, Ekholm, and Emelin locked into regular roles – and making up only a modest $22MM of cap space – the final spot in the starting six will belong to one of Yannick Weber, Matt Irwin, or Anthony Bitetto. Weber and Irwin were the team’s bottom pair for much of the 2016-17 season and each signed an extension during the year, while the younger Bitetto skated in 29 games and helped to make up for the loss of Subban while he was sidelined.