- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Nashville Predators have taken one big step toward boosting their offense by hiring Peter Laviolette, and now general manager David Poile is looking to give his new coach some additional help.

Poile has made it clear the 11th selection overall in the NHL draft could be available.

The price? A top forward.

“If someone had that top-six forward, I would certainly consider trading our first pick,” Poile said.

The Predators let coach Barry Trotz go after missing the playoffs the past two seasons. Laviolette was hired in May to bring more offense to Nashville after the Predators ranked 19th in the league with 2.61 goals per game. Poile has also made it clear that returning to the playoffs is the top priority.

Nashville is counting on a certain amount of development from players already on the roster for a franchise that builds through the draft.

Viktor Stalberg may be the biggest as one of five players Nashville signed to contracts totaling $36 million in free agency last summer. Stalberg, who had 43 points with Chicago during the 2011-12 season, managed only eight goals and 10 assists in 70 games this past season in Nashville.

“If we were looking for offense this year and Viktor Stalberg was available, we’d probably be very interested,” Poile said. “He didn’t play very well last year for us. Whether that was his fault, our fault, we can go a lot of different reasons.

“But to me, I think Viktor Stalberg will be given a real good chance to play a much higher, more significant role than last year, and hopefully he’ll be one of the reasons we do more offensively.”

Poile said he sees two or three forwards who haven’t played to their potential yet and could benefit from another year of experience, maturity, confidence or simply the coaching change.

Colin Wilson could develop more after being moved from left wing to center late in the season. Other young prospects include Calle Jarnkrok from a trade that sent David Legwand to Detroit in March and Filip Forsberg from a 2013 trade with Washington.

The Predators hold selections in the first and second round for the first time since 2009. They also have an extra pick in the second round from Detroit for the Legwand trade among eight total selections in the draft starting Friday night in Philadelphia.

Poile said he feels the franchise is mostly stocked again with prospects in Milwaukee in the AHL, and Nashville just renewed its affiliation with the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL.

A year ago, Poile went to the draft looking for offense and left with a defenseman as his top pick once Seth Jones fell to No. 4.

If the general manager can’t find the offense he wants in the draft, then he’ll go looking in free agency starting July 1. But Poile said there’s more quality than quantity expected on the market this offseason, and he will be patient looking for the “right fit.”

“Our first shot at this will be the draft, and our second shot at this will be during free agency,” Poile said.


Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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