Almost a week after the Phoenix Coyotes howled in their locker room as the Predators trudged through the hallway of Jobing.com Arena, it's still hard to believe the season is over.
The Predators seemed to have all the ingredients to make a deep Stanley Cup run. They had a top defenseman (Shea Weber), a trade-deadline acquisition with a Stanley Cup ring (Hal Gill), an elite goaltender (Pekka Rinne) and a talented scoring winger (Alexander Radulov).
They had a strong regular season that included seven comebacks from two goals back and two from three goals back. They had 104 points, and had one of the top records in the NHL after Jan. 1. They defeated their biggest rival, the Detroit Red Wings, in the first round.
How did the loss to Phoenix in five games happen? Did Mike Smith steal momentum for the Coyotes in Game 1? Perhaps. Was it because Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn broke curfew the night before Game 2? Who knows? Was it Nashville's handling of the Kostitsyn/Radulov situation? Maybe.
What we do know is that the Predators enter a murky offseason, one that could shape the team for years to come.
Ryan Suter is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent if he and the Predators don't come to terms by July 1. Weber and Radulov are scheduled to be restricted free agents, and Radulov also has the option of returning to the Kontinental Hockey League. The Predators have 15 unrestricted or restricted free agents coming off a team that — if it stays together — could challenge again for a championship.
Ryan Suter's exit would shake Nashville Predators lineup
Tennessean | May 12