The Predators’ Stanley Cup window is wide open

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This post is part of Predators Day on PHT…

Nashville’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final may have ended in heartbreak — in no small part thanks to a blown call by the referee — but with a young core and no glaring roster weaknesses, this team should remain a contender for years to come.

Among the key pieces locked up: Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm.

Of those seven, the oldest is Subban, and he just turned 28.

Among those seven, there is a legitimate No. 1 center in Johansen, and there are arguably two No. 1 defensemen in Subban and Josi.

And now, not only do the Predators have the talent to compete for a Cup, they’ve gained some valuable playoff experience.

“There are so many good things that we learned as a group,” retired captain Mike Fisher said after falling to the Penguins in six games. “How to play. How to come together as a team and believe in each other. I think there’s only positives that can come out of this. Obviously, losing is never easy, but I think we learned a lot of lessons that guys will carry forward, for sure.”

Of course, the Preds aren’t the only ones with championship aspirations. In the Western Conference alone, there are a handful of teams that think they can win it all. In the long history of the NHL, there has perhaps never been such parity.

That’s why the goal of any general manager should be to open a Stanley Cup window for more than a year or two. Because, let’s face it, a team also needs some luck to hoist the Cup. In the playoffs, one never knows when disaster will strike. Like, say, losing your No. 1 center at the very worst time.

“We have our whole core signed up, and for a lot of guys, for a lot of years,” Preds GM David Poile said, per NHL.com. “I hope we’ve chosen correctly, and I believe we’ve chosen correctly… I think our room is a very close room, so I thought it was in my best interests, and in our team’s best interests, if I could get the bulk of our team locked up for a long time so they could play together for a long time. So here we go.”

There are question marks, to be sure.

How much will Fisher’s leadership be missed?

Can Nick Bonino handle the second-line center role?

And maybe the biggest question of all, can Pekka Rinne keep performing at a high level in goal?

Rinne, who will be 35 by the time next year’s playoffs start, is signed for two more years at a cap hit of $7 million. The past few seasons, he’s battled consistency. But to his credit, he was excellent on the Preds’ run to the final, finishing 14-8 with a .930 save percentage in 22 games.

Still, don’t be surprised if Juuse Saros pushes Rinne for more playing time next season. The 22-year-old may be undersized for a modern netminder, but he managed to post a .923 save percentage in 21 appearances during his rookie campaign.

Given the ages of the two goalies, there’s even the potential for some controversy down the road.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. On good teams, there’s internal competition, and the Predators are a good team that’s hoping to be great.