A multitude of talent has come through the Nashville Predators organization via trades, free agency and the draft.
What if some of the team’s fan favorites who moved on at one point or another stayed and played out their entire career in Nashville and never looked back? I polled Predators fans, asking them to go down memory lane and offer up which players they believe best fit the “what if” category.
Selections ranged from some recent departures to a few notable draft picks who were moved in deals for bigger roster pieces. So, how exactly would the Predators future shake out now if those players never left Nashville?
Below are some of the biggest “what if they would have stayed?” questions in Predators history (listed in alphabetical order):
Jason Arnott, C
The fourth captain in Predators history, Arnott was a gritty forward who won a Stanley Cup championship in 2000 with the New Jersey Devils. He joined the Predators as a free agent in 2006, signing a five-year deal after being the second-highest scorer on the Dallas Stars a season prior. Down the middle, Arnott won 2,244 face-offs for Nashville in the regular season, and he was third on the team in scoring during his tenure, trailing only Martin Erat and J.P. Dumont.
During his four-year run in Nashville, Arnott scored 229 points in 275 games and helped lead the Predators to the playoffs every year. He was traded to the Devils in the summer of 2011 for a second-round pick and forward Matt Halischuk.
Kevin Fiala, LW
Drafted in 2014 out of the SHL, Fiala was supposed to be a pure playmaker in the eyes of the Predators. He joined the Milwaukee Admirals for three different stints from 2014-2017 before finally sticking with the Predators in 2017.
During his first full campaign in Nashville, Fiala scored 23 goals and 48 points in 80 games — good for seventh on the team — but he was traded at the deadline just one season later to the Minnesota Wild for center Mikael Granlund. A season and a half later, Fiala was a premier top-six forward for the Wild scoring 186 points in 215 games, including a 33-goal, 85-point season in 2021.
He was traded for the second time in June 2022 to the Los Angeles Kings and promptly signed a seven-year contract worth $55 million. The 2023 All-Star is coming off a 72-point season now and going into his 10th year as an NHLer.
Scott Hartnell, LW
The third-highest drafted player by the Predators (sixth overall), Hartnell was a curly-haired, point-producing WHL forward with a seemingly bright future in 2000. He made the final cut for the opening night roster — a regular-season opener in Japan — and never looked back.
Hartnell was often found causing havoc in front of goaltenders, and he wasn’t afraid to throw his body around or cherry-pick a few goals in front of the net. Overall, he scored 235 points in 498 with the Predators, which includes his final season of 24 points in 62 games with Nashville in 2017.
Seth Jones, D
The second-highest drafted player in team history, Jones fell into the Predators laps at No. 4 overall in 2013. His time in Nashville was short-lived as former GM David Poile dealt the highly touted defenseman straight up for Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen in 2016.
Jones played 199 games in Nashville, scoring 63 points while being a staple of the blue-line. After six years in Columbus, Jones was traded to the Blackhawks in 2021 where he subsequently signed to an eight-year deal worth $76 million. He’s a five-time All Star and the fourth-highest paid defenseman in the NHL.
The other part of the Jones trade, Johansen immediately became David Poile‘s the No. 1 center — the offensive catalyst that had eluded the franchise since its 1998 expansion season. During his tenure in Nashville, Johansen became a fan favorite as he helped lead the Predators to seven playoff appearances, two Central Division titles, a Western Conference championship and a Presidents’ Trophy.
After eight seasons, the Predators traded the 31-year-old center to the Colorado Avalanche for Alex Galchenyuk while retaining half of his salary for the next two seasons ($4 million per year). The move helped free up some cap space for new GM Barry Trotz to make some offseason signings.
Paul Kariya, LW
The Hall of Fame forward came to Nashville on a two-year free-agent deal after spending nine seasons in Anaheim followed by a one-year pitstop with the Avalanche in 2003. Kariya’s reputation as an offensive threat preceded him as the 31-year-old terrorized many NHL teams throughout his career.
Kariya helped the Predators to the playoffs in both of his seasons with the team, logging 161 points in 164 regular season games as a Predator and his 85- and 76-point seasons stood as the two best in franchise history until both were surpassed by Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene all in 2021. His final three seasons in the NHL were spent with the St. Louis Blues before retiring in 2010 at 35.
The first-ever draft pick in franchise history, Legwand enjoyed a 17-year career with 956 games played with the Predators. He scored 566 points in those 956 games, and in his final three years in the NHL, he spent time with the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, and Buffalo Sabres.
Legwand held many of the team’s single-season and career records, and he still has the distinction of the most games played as a Predator (956). His records for goals (210), assists (356), points (566), even-strength goals (165), and game-winning goals (41) have all since been broken.
Nashville selected Radulov 15th overall in 2004, and for the next two seasons, he went to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and played for the Quebec Remparts. He made the transition to Nashville during the 2006-07 season and set the team’s rookie scoring record with 37 points in 64 games (which was broken eight years later by Forsberg).
Radulov decided to go back home to play in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League after the 2007-08 season, and he was gone for four years before signing back with the Predators to conclude his entry-level contract and become a free agent. After nine games, he went back to the KHL again for another four years before joining the Montreal Canadiens in 2016.
Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill signed Radulov to a five-year, $31 million deal the following season and once his contract ended in 2021, he went to the KHL for a third time. His most recent season was with Kazan Ak-Bars in 2022. He scored 57 points in 62 games.
Steve Sullivan, RW
Beloved by the fans during his seven-year stint in Nashville, Sullivan was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in 2004 for two draft picks. In his Predators debut, he scored a hat trick and went on to finish the season with 30 points in 24 games. Nashville went to the Western Conference quarterfinal round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and fell in six games to the Detroit Red Wings.
Sullivan’s back injury hindered him from playing for the Predators longer, but he was impressive on and off the ice as a member of the team. Once he recovered from injury, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins and went on to play 121 games over the next two seasons.
Ryan Suter, D
A long boo does not fill the paragraphs here on a player who was a defensive linchpin for the Predators. Taken seventh overall by Nashville in 2003, Suter joined the team full-time after playing one season at the University of Wisconsin then another in Milwaukee.
After 542 games in Nashville, Suter wanted to move closer to home and signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild. He was bought out in 2021 after putting up 19 points in 56 games, and subsequently joined the Stars on a four-year deal that runs through the 2024-25 season.
Timonen was initially told he was too small to be an effective player in the NHL prior to joining the Predators. He ended up being a trailblazer for offensive defenseman in an organization when stay-at-home players were not only more common but preferred.
In his eight seasons, Timonen led the Predators with 301 points in 573 games, and at the height of his game, he was named the third captain in franchise history. Timonen and Hartnell were traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2007 offseason, and the city became a second home to the Finnish defenseman. In his final NHL season, Timonen was traded to the Blackhawks and went on to hoist the Stanley Cup in 2015.
Shea Weber, D
Weber was the right-hand man to Suter on the blue-line, and the duo formed arguably the top defensive pairing in the NHL. Drafted 49th overall in 2003 (the 38-year-old has yet to retire), Weber is known for his bone-crushing hits on opposing skaters and his howitzer of a slap shot. Weber was the second-longest tenured captain in Predators history (six seasons), behind only Josi (seven seasons).
Weber held several Predators marks for games played, goals, assists, and points until Josi took off and started taking down his records. Poile dealt Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban in the 2016 offseason in a franchise-altering decision that ultimately got the team to its first Cup Final.
The NHL has been without Weber since the end of the 2020-21 season and his contract has been traded twice — once to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2022 and again in February to the Arizona Coyotes. His contract is signed through the 2025-26 season and he’s still on long-term injured reserve.
Based on the responses from readers, here is my optimal Predators lineup had each of these players finished their careers in Nashville:
Paul Kariya – Peter Forsberg – Alex Radulov
Scott Hartnell – Matt Duchene – Steve Sullivan
Kevin Fiala – David Legwand – Viktor Arvidsson
Austin Watson – Jason Arnott – Patric Hornqvist
Extra: Tanner Jeannot – Ryan Johansen – Craig Smith
Extra: Jordin Tootoo
Ryan Suter – Shea Weber
Kimo Timonen – Seth Jones
Extra: P.K. Subban