David Poile has been around long enough to know that he does not really know right now whether or not he has put together a good roster.
“I think you always believe in your team,” the Nashville Predators general manager told the Nashville Post on Monday. “Maybe you tend to overrate it a little bit in your mind. But then, certainly, something happens in training camp or the first part of the season that solidifies what you knew or maybe slaps you in the face a little bit.”
For Poile and the Predators, therefore, all that is left now is to wait.
The team’s offseason business concluded Wednesday when left wing Colin Wilson signed a four-year, $15.75 million contract a day before his scheduled arbitration hearing. Wilson was the last significant piece of the roster that was unsigned and one of numerous holdovers from last year’s team that won 47 games, finished second in the Central Division and ended the franchise’s two-year playoff drought.
Poile’s aim this offseason was to keep much of that roster intact.
Centers Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro each agreed to two-year deals to remain with Nashville rather than become free agents. Wilson and Craig Smith, two players in their mid-20s who each scored at least 20 goals last season, then signed long-term deals that will keep them in the team’s plans for the foreseeable future.
Come opening day, as many as 18 players who were a big part of last season’s team will be back in a Predators uniform.
“The previous couple seasons, you could say, had a little different feel to them,” Poile said. “We lost some playoffs and missed the playoffs two years in a row and it did feel like we were rebuilding the roster. Then replacing [coach] Barry [Trotz] was challenging to me personally. Then we started last season 15-5-2 and we got our swagger.
“I’m really bullish on our drafting the last couple years. We had the sixth best record in the NHL last season. I feel really good about where we are right now.”
NBC Sports Group apparently does not have much interest in coming to Nashville – unless it absolutely must.
In all, 105 NHL regular-season games will be carried live – 12 on NBC and 93 on NBC Sports Network – during the 2015-16 season. That’s the most since NBC became the league’s primary U.S. broadcast partner.
Only one of those games will be at Bridgestone Arena. The Nashville Predators will make three other appearances in national broadcasts, all in road games.
The four national broadcasts are three more than last year for Nashville, which returned to the playoffs in 2015 following a two-year absence. All four national television broadcasts will be mid-week games and will air on NBC Sports Network.
• Oct. 28 at San Jose, 9:30 p.m.
• Dec. 29 at St. Louis, 7 p.m.
• Jan. 19 vs. Chicago, 7 p.m.
• Feb. 25 at Chicago, 7 p.m.
Of course, the NBC will show up in full force when the Predators host the NHL All-Star Weekend, Jan. 29-31. Then, of course, the entire league will be focused on Nashville because most of the game’s top players will be on hand for the skills competition, the actual game and other events that surround that showcase event.
NBC Sports Group announced its complete 2015-16 broadcast schedule Monday.
The Nashville Predators and Colin Wilson could have gone through with their scheduled arbitration hearing.
But what would have been the point? The process is designed to create a resolution in cases when the team and player have dramatically different impressions of the player’s worth. That was not the case this time.
Sportsnet reported Sunday that the Predators had offered $3 million and Wilson had asked for $4.25 million in advance of their hearing, which was scheduled for Tuesday. That gap was small enough that the sides bridged it Monday with a four-year, $15.75 million pact, an average of $3.9375 million per season.
The 25-year-old forward will earn $3.75 million in 2015-16 and $4 million in each of the three seasons after that.
The 2008 first-round pick (seventh overall) had his best season in 2014-15 and was even better in the postseason. He set franchise records for goals (five) and power play goals (four) in a playoff series. The rest of the team had two power play goals in the six-game series with the Chicago Blackhawks.
He set career-highs with 20 goals and 42 points during the regular season. His 22 assists tied his career-high, set in 2013-14. He also had a team-high plus-19 rating, tied with three others for second highest in franchise history by a forward. David Legwand set the team record with a plus-23 in 2006-07.
ON THE PLUS SIDE
A look at the best single-season plus-minus ratings in Nashville Predators history:
David Legwand (2006-07) – plus-23
Shea Weber (2011-12) – plus-21
Ryan Suter (2010-11) – plus-20
Kimmo Timonen (2006-07) – plus 20
Colin Wilson (2014-15) – plus-19
Jason Arnott (2007-08) – plus-19
Scott Hartnell (2006-07) – plus-19
Alexander Radulov (2006-07) – plus-19
(Photo: Getty Images)
Jack Dougherty said there was only one opinion that matters about when it is best for him to turn pro.
“I guess it’s whenever I think I’m ready,” he said during the recent Nashville Predators prospect camp. “There’s obviously a lot of outside influences, whether it be Nashville or other people who want to see me move on. But ultimately it’s my decision.
“Whenever I think I’m ready to take the step to the professional level I’m not going to be afraid. I want to play in the NHL. I want to play hockey for a living.”
As of Friday, he’s one step closer.
The 19-year-old defenseman, a second-round choice (51st overall) in 2014, signed an entry-level contract with the Predators on Friday, which ended his college career after one season with the University of Wisconsin.
The plan, however, is for him to delay his professional debut. Instead, he will spend the coming season in junior hockey with the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League.
This is not the first time the Predators plucked a player early out of Wisconsin. Defenseman Ryan Suter left after one season, spent 2004-05 in the AHL while NHL owners locked out players for an entire season and then was a full-time NHL player beginning in 2005-06. Forward Craig Smith jumped right to the NHL in 2011 after two seasons with the Badgers.
Blake Geoffrion was the exception. He played a full four college seasons before he finally turned pro.
All of them made some degree of contribution to the franchise. Most notably, Suter grew into one of the league’s top defensemen. Smith recently signed a five-year contract that makes him a foundation piece for the future.
With Dougherty, Nashville is going about it a little differently.
“I’m confident but at the same time you can’t carry that mindset with you,” Dougherty said. “You always want to be better. You always want to beat out that next guy for their spot. You can’t get too comfortable with where you’re at.”
In his case, one season in college was long enough.
Mike Ribeiro is an easy guy to dislike – and one a lot of NHL fans actually do.
Or so says Yahoo.com’s Greg Wyshynski, who offered his take on the “10 most loathsome players in the league” Friday.
Ribeiro came in seventh on Wyshynski’s list, which also includes Arizona goalie Mike Smith, St. Louis’ Steve Ott and San Jose’s Raffi Torres. The reason the Predators’ assist leader last season made the cut was his willingness to try to draw penalty calls against opposing players.
Here is Wyshynski’s reasoning for including Ribeiro, who recently re-signed with Nashville for two years and $7 million:
Even if we leave out the civil suit for sexual assault he just settled, Ribeiro remains a player whose behavior saw him run out of Glendale and whose has a career of FIFA-quality diving. Some Predators fans are willing to stomach it all in the name of second-chances and points at center. Others … not so much.
(Photo: Getty Images)
The Nashville Predators and Craig Smith met in the middle — or close to it. From there, they agreed to travel a long road together.
Rather than rely on a third party to set contract terms for the 25-year-old forward that would cover the next season or two, the parties agreed on a five-year, $21.25 million contract Monday.
The deal was struck following the arbitration hearing but before the ruling was delivered. The average salary ($4.25 million) was closer to what Smith requested ($4.75 million) than what the franchise sought ($3 million) in the hearing. But it gave the Predators security in that Smith, a fourth-round pick in 2009, won’t be a free agent until he is 30.
It also made Smith one of three Nashville players has signed for more than the next two seasons.
A look at the Nashville Predators currently signed for the next three seasons or longer:
SHEA WEBER, D
Remaining years: 11
Average salary: $7.857 million
CRAIG SMITH, RW
Remaining years: five
Average salary: $4.25 million
ROMAN JOSI, D
Remaining years: five
Average salary: $4 million
PEKKA RINNE, G
Remaining years: four
Average salary: $7 million
RYAN ELLIS, D
Remaining years: four
Average salary: $2.5 million
JAMES NEAL, LW
Remaining years: three
Average salary: $5 million
“Craig Smith is an integral part of our team’s young core and we are pleased to have agreed on a long-term contract that both parties are comfortable with,” general manager David Poile said in a statement from the team. “With Craig’s durability, work ethic and intensity, we see him continuing the build on his recent production and be a valuable contributor to our offensive attack for the next five seasons.”
Smith has missed just three games the last two seasons and has played 277 out of a possible 294 in four seasons since he left the University of Wisconsin in 2011.
With 24 goals in 2013-14 and 23 more last season, he is one of only three players drafted by Nashville to score 20 or more goals for the franchise in consecutive seasons.
Now that Smith’s deal is done, the only significant piece of offseason business that has yet to be completed is one for left wing Colin Wilson, who also has filed for arbitration. Wilson’s hearing is scheduled for July 28.
(Photo: Getty Images)
The Nashville Predators want to believe they played the Chicago Blackhawks as well as any team did during the recent NHL playoffs.
And there is evidence to support that line of thinking.
Best, though, that they don’t listen to what the Blackhawks have to say on the matter. During their annual fan convention Saturday, Chicago players were unequivocal about the toughest challenge they faced en route to their third Stanley Cup title in six years – and it was not Nashville.
It was the Anaheim Ducks, which took Chicago to seven games in the Western Conference finals.
“Anaheim had so many components of the game," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said, according to The Associated Press. "The physicality, the speed, the skill of the top-end players like the [Ryan] Getzlafs and [Corey] Perrys we ran up against. They were such a tough team in goaltending and all aspects."
The Predators actually outscored the Blackhawks in their six-game Western Conference quarterfinal series because their two victories were by comfortable margins. They won 6-2 in Game 2 and 5-2 in Game 5. Three of Chicago’s victories were by a single goal, two in overtime.
Chicago outscored each of its other three opponents.
A round-by-round look at Chicago’s goals for and goals against during the 2015 NHL playoffs:
• vs. Nashville (six games): Blackhawks goals – 19; Predators goals – 21
• vs. Minnesota (four games): Blackhawks goals – 13; Wild goals – 7
• vs. Anaheim (seven games): Blackhawks goals – 24; Ducks goals – 22
• vs. Tampa Bay (six games): Blackhawks goals – 13 goals; Lightning goals – 10
Anaheim did win three games, though, all in the first five. That meant Chicago had to win a pair of elimination contests, including Game 7 on the road, in order to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Four straight in the middle of the series were decided by a single goal, including three in overtime.
“It was the hardest hockey I think I've ever been part of," Chicago forward Andrew Desjardins said, according to NHL.com.
The Stanley Cup finals against Tampa Bay lasted six games, the first five of which were one-goal affairs.
The first Cup of Chicago’s current championship run came in 2010. That year the Blackhawks’ first-round opponent was Nashville and that series went six games. Predators officials were buoyed by that performance and saw it as an important step toward the next season, when the franchise made it past the first round of the playoffs for the first time.
From the Blackhawks’ perspective, Nashville was just the first step of this latest Stanley Cup run. The most difficult step came two rounds later against Anaheim.
"That's the series that stands out to me in the last number of years as far as the challenges," Toews said. “…"No disrespect to Tampa [Bay] because I think they far exceeded our expectations for what they were able to do and how difficult they made things on us.”
And no mention of Nashville.
The Nashville Predators apparently did not want to fight with Taylor Beck.
So they traded the 24-year-old forward – and got a fighter in return.
Nashville acquired Jamie Devane, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound pound left wing, from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the deal executed Sunday, a week after Beck filed for arbitration.
Devane (pictured) has 253 penalty minutes in 118 career American Hockey League contests following a four-year junior career in which he had 411 penalty minutes in 237 contests. The 24-year-old has appeared in just two NHL games, both last season with Toronto.
He had 12 fights, tied for the team lead, with the Toronto Marlies (AHL) in 2013-14. He fought just four times in 39 appearances last season.
The Marlies recently signed former Nashville tough guy Rich Clune, which likely made Devane expendable. The Predators bought out Clune’s contract, in part, because the franchise has deemphasized physical play in favor of speed and skill in recent years.
Clune is the only Nashville player in the past five seasons to have more than six fights. He led the team with 16 in 2013-14 (Matt Hendricks was next with six) and with 12 in 2012-13 (no one else had more than two).
DROP THE GOLVES
A season-by-season look at Nashville’s leader in fighting majors (2010-11 through 2014-15):
2014-15: Paul Gaustad – 6
2013-14: Rich Clune – 16
2012-13: Rich Clune 12
2011-12: Brian McGrattan – 6
2010-11: Shane O’Brien – 5
2009-10: Wade Belak – 10
The Maple Leafs drafted Devane in the third round (68th overall) in 2009. The Predators selected Beck two spots later (70th overall, 2009).
Beck became a full-time NHL player for the first time last season and finished with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 62 appearances.
His decision to file for arbitration meant he was not willing to accept the team’s qualifying offer and wanted to try to secure a more lucrative deal. There was, of course, no guarantee the hearing would be ruled in his favor.
Yet rather than risk any hurt feelings on either side, and to avoid the process of preparing an argument, Nashville simply sent him to another team.
When it comes to finding hidden-gem goaltenders in the NHL draft you will be hard pressed to find a team that does it better than the Nashville Predators. Former goalie coach Mitch Korn and current goalie coach Ben Vanderklok have had success mining the talents to players drafted in the later rounds.
Now Juuse Saros looks to be primed to be next in line.
Saros has some buzz surrounding him as me makes the leap from Finland for his first season in North America. He was named 2013-14 Finnish Elite League Rookie of the Year. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2013 and signed a three-year, entry-level contract in June of this year.
“Of course it's a much different game. It’s a new challenge for me but I’m excited,” Saros said Wednesday at the Predators development camp.
Saros played in 47 games last season in the Finnish Elite League. He had a 2.14 GAA and a save percentage of .929 on a team that was not one of the league’s best. The Predators think so highly of Saros that they traded Magnus Hellberg, their top draft pick in 2011, to make room for him down in Milwaukee this season.
Saros will have to adjust to a smaller rink size and a change of lifestyle. Typically Milwaukee splits playing time equally between its two goaltenders but he will still face some completion from fellow prospect Marek Mazanec.
“You know of course there are some different angles because the rink is smaller so I think that's the biggest thing. I’m excited of course, everything is new so we will see.”
Having countryman Pekka Rinne in the organization should help make the transition easier.
“Of course its good that I know someone here already. He’s a Fin, so I think he can definitely help me a lot.”
The Predators drafted Rinne in the eighth round in 2004 and he has since gone on to become a three time Vezina Trophy finalist and one of the best goaltenders in the world. Additionally, Nashville drafted Mazanec in the sixth round in 2012. Mazanec won eight games in 2013 for the Predators and was named Rookie of the Month in November of the same year.
Saros served as Rinne’s backup for Finland at the World Championships earlier this year.
“We talked a little bit at the World Championships and a little bit when I came here and that was good for me.”
In Saros’ lone start of the tournament he stopped all 22 shots he faced against Slovakia. His shutout was Finland’s third of four consecutive shutouts during the tournament. Saros credits facing NHL-caliber shooters at the World Championships in helping prepare him for the North American style of play.
“Of course they have harder shots and they are more accurate so that's a big challenge for me too but I think I’m fitting in just fine.”
Similar to Rinne who made the jump to North American one year after being drafted, Saros knew that two years was long enough.
“I’ve played a lot the past two seasons and had two good seasons so I think this is a good time for me to come over.”
— By MICHAEL GALLAGHER
For some time, the Nashville Predators showed no interest in drafting players from Russia.
That philosophy changed last year and the switch in philosophy was cemented Friday when the Predators signed two Russians, second-round picks in each of the last two drafts, to entry-level contracts.
Vladislav Kamenev (42nd overall, 2014) and Yakov Trenin (55th overall, 2015) are under contract and officially a part of the team’s future.
In 2003 and 2004 the Predators drafted six Russian players but only one of them, Alexander Radulov, ever signed and came to North America. Ultimately, the Radulov thing did not work out too well when he elected to go home and sign a contract with the Kontinental Hockey League despite the fact that he still had a year to go in his entry-level deal with Nashville.
From 2005 through 2013, Nashville did not draft a single player out of Russia.
Trenin is an exception because he already is in North America. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound center scored 67 points (18 goals, 49 assists) last season as a rookie for Gatineau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
At 18 years old, he must return to the QMJHL this season if he is not in the NHL roster, which almost certainly will be the case.
Kamenev, on the other hand, played the last two seasons with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL.
General manager David Poile said last week that the decision to sign Kamenev was made because the 6-foot-3, 182-pound forward planned to play in North America this season. The plan is for him to spend the season at Milwaukee (AHL).
Both players currently are participating in the Predators prospects camp, which concludes with a scrimmage, 11 a.m. Saturday at Ford Ice Center.
POSTDATA: WARRANTY DEEDS