Predators' decision to double up on free agent centers raises questions about Fisher's status

Apparently, Mike Fisher’s injury is worse than the Nashville Predators initially thought or at least have let on.

That’s the clear conclusion to be drawn following Tuesday’s dip into the free-agent bargain bin that resulted in one-year deals for veteran centers Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy. Ribeiro, 34, signed for $1.05 million. Roy, 31, signed for $1 million.
Those signings came two weeks after 35-year-old Olli Jokinen signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal, one day before Fisher’s surgery to repair a torn Achilles.

If franchise officials were confident that the 34-year-old Fisher would miss only a month or so of the season, they would not make this seemingly desperate grab at talent. Or if they viewed any of these players as anything other than a stop-gap for an organization short of forward prospects, they would have given those guys multi-year contracts.

Instead, they took a two-for-one, quick-fix approach in an attempt to stabilize things at center, where Fisher has been the No. 1 guy for the last several seasons. (See also: Preds take flyers, not Flyer, in effort to get better up the middle)

Roy is similar to Fisher in that he is a well-rounded player. He has had as many as 81 points in a season (2007-08 with Buffalo) but his offense has declined steadily in recent seasons to just 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists) in 75 games with St. Louis last season.

Ribeiro was supposed to be Phoenix’s No. 1 center when he signed a four-year, $22 million deal last year. The Coyotes instead bought out his contract three weeks ago due to concerns about “behavioral issues.”

Their additions mean that Jokinen can play on the wing — as General Manager David Poile has said was planned — and Nashville still will have a strong veteran presence down the middle with some combination of Ribeiro, Roy, 37-year-old Matt Cullen, 32-year-old Paul Gaustad and presumably 22-year-old Calle Jarnkrok. Colin Wilson also has been promised the opportunity to audition at center after years primarily spent on the wing.

The question now is when (or even if) Fisher will be added to that mix. The team reported that he would miss four to six months following surgery on July 3. The best-case scenario, therefore, was that he would be back a month or so into the regular season.

It seems the Predators expect the worst.