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The future is now for Nashville

Updated: October 6, 2011, 10:36 AM ET
By Craig Custance

Their seven wins in the preseason were more than any team in the NHL, and the Nashville Predators discovered a lot about the young players they will be counting on heavily this season.

All told, the exhibition schedule went about as well as it could for Nashville.

"Yeah, but nobody is going to remember or care about it in three days," Nashville GM David Poile said.

He's right. Coming off their most successful postseason in franchise history, the Predators now face the most crucial regular season in franchise history. They've replenished the team with an opening night roster that features six rookies, including forward Craig Smith, who had as impressive a preseason as anyone on the team.

In letting veterans like Steve Sullivan, Joel Ward and J.P. Dumont walk, Poile is betting on the franchise's ability to cultivate talent, something Nashville has long been known for doing. It's a gamble he needs to win because just about everything is at stake.

By now you know. The Predators' three franchise players -- defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter and goalie Pekka Rinne -- will all be without contracts following this season. Weber is a restricted free agent who can become unrestricted in 2013. Rinne and Suter are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Poile's plan now is to sign all three, and all three players are open to returning. But as we saw with the Weber negotiations this summer, it's not going to be easy.

Plan A is to sign all three. When does Plan B kick in?

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