One NHLer, two minor leaguers sign one-year deals with Predators

The Nashville Predators engaged in a little diversified spending Thursday morning, but it had nothing to do with the future.

They made short-term investments in three players. One who has been a part of the team for the past several seasons. One was acquired a day earlier in a trade and the other was a minor league free agent.

Forward Gabriel Bourque, center Max Reinhart and defenseman Conor Allen all agreed to one-year deals.

The rundown:

• Bourque (pictured) became the first of this year’s restricted free agents whose rights Nashville retained to re-sign. He accepted the club’s qualifying offer of one-year, $866,250. That’s a bump of nearly 12 percent from his 2014-15 salary of $775,000.

Following a career-high 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 2013-14, his production decreased by half (three goals, 10 assists) last season. Likewise, his average ice time dropped from 13:48 to 12:11. Either he will re-establish himself as a quality role player or the Predators, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2009, will move on.

• Reinhart, acquired in a trade with Calgary on Wednesday, agreed to a two-way deal for an NHL salary of $575,000 and an AHL salary of $80,000. A third-round selection by the Flames in 2010, he has made 23 NHL appearances in his career.

“He’s a young guy that was rated pretty high coming out of junior hockey but just hasn’t lived up to his advance billing or what his own expectations are,” general manager David Poile said. “So we’ll see how that works out. … Realistically, he’ll probably be one of our top two centers down in Milwaukee.”

• Allen is a 25-year-old who has played one full professional season. He spent most of 2014-15 with the New York Rangers’ AHL affiliate, Hartford. He had six goals and 25 assists in 72 games there. His two-way deal is the same as Reinhart’s, $575,000 in the NHL and $80,000 in the AHL.

The Predators’ top eight defenseman on the NHL roster are set, which means Allen’s addition is strictly about organizational depth.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 2, 2015 12:26 PM

Predators finally set at center, but for how long?

Much of David Poile’s attention for the last week has centered on centers.

Undeniably, the efforts of the Nashville Predators general manager have provided some much needed clarity for the position, both for the present and future. He signed two veterans to new contracts, acquired two more – one in free agency and one in a trade – and used the majority of the team’s seven draft picks to secure the rights to some others.

There’s one thing, though, that he does not -- and cannot – know. When will the present give way to the future?

“I’m realistic that we have two 35-year-old centers that we eventually have to replace,” Poile said Wednesday. “Whether that’s in two years, three years … I’ve said to both of them I hope they play a lot longer than that. But you just never know when Father Time catches up to you.”

The 35-year-olds are Mike Fisher (pictured) and Mike Ribeiro, both of whom re-signed with the team in recent days. Fisher agreed to a two-year, $8.8 million deal last Friday and Ribeiro signed on for two years and $7 million on Wednesday.

The plan is for them to center the Predators’ first two lines.

Also Wednesday, Nashville signed 25-year-old free agent Cody Hodgson with the idea that he would be the third-line center, a move that will force Calle Jarnkrok to play right wing. Paul Gaustad is locked in the middle of the fourth line.

Later Wednesday, the Predators acquired 23-year-old Max Reinhart to provide center depth at Milwaukee. There he will carve out a role amongst other centers Colton Sissons, a long-time Nashville prospect, and 2014 draft pick Vladislav Kamenev, who is expected to sign an entry-level contest next week.

In between the Fisher deal and all of Wednesday’s activity, Nashville used its first three picks (and four of seven overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft on centers.

“(Fisher) and (Ribeiro) are our two oldest guys that eventually will have to be replaced,” Poile said. “But we’ve been drafting centers the last couple of years, whether it be Kamenev a year ago or the centers that we drafted in our first two picks this year or now that we’ve signed Cody Hodgson. I think we realize where we’re eventually going to have to be.

“That’s a thing that’s an easy sell to a Cody Hodgson. ‘You play here, you could be moving up the chain real fast.’”

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

Jul 1, 2015 10:12 PM

Hodgson's deal with Predators pales in comparison to last contract

It was not that long ago that the Buffalo Sabres saw Cody Hodgson as a player they around which they could build.

Suddenly the 25-year-old center has to try to rebuild his reputation as an emerging offensive star with the Nashville Predators.

He signed a one-year, $1.05 million deal with Nashville on Wednesday, the first day of the NHL’s free agency signing period.

Hodgson, the 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft by Vancouver, was available because earlier this week Buffalo bought out the final four years of the six-year, $25.5 million contract he signed prior to 2013-14. It looked like he would be worth every penny when he scored 20 goals and had 44 points in the first year of that deal but he slipped to just 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 72 games last season.

Buffalo would have preferred to trade him but the contract made any such move unlikely. Because Hodgson is younger than 26, though, the cost and cap hit to the Sabres is relatively low.

Likewise, the Predators assume a small risk in terms of money and the term of this deal but hope for a significant payoff. Hodgson’s career-highs for goals (20), assists (24) and points (44) all came in that 2013-14 season but he did score 15 goals or more twice previously, including 2011-12 when he was a 21-year-old.

Buffalo was last in the league in goals per game last season while Nashville finished 14th. No doubt the thought is that his production will return if he plays with better offensive players in an attacking system.

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

Jul 1, 2015 1:36 PM

Jackman faced Predators enough to know what he signed up for

It cost the Nashville Predators twice as much money and twice as much time this year to get a veteran defenseman.

Barret Jackman, a 34-year-old who has spent his entire NHL career with the St. Louis Blues, agreed to a two-year, $4 million deal with the Predators on Wednesday, fewer than two hours into the start of the league’s free agency signing period.

Jackman will earn $2 million a season for each of the next two seasons and will fill the roster spot of Anton Volchenkov, who signed with the Predators a year ago for one year and $1 million.

He certainly should know exactly what he is getting into. Jackman’s 63 career appearances against Nashville are more than he’s played against any other team.

SWITCHING SIDES
A look at the teams Barrett Jackman has faced most often in his career:

Nashville – 63 games (1 goal, 7 assists, 107 penalty minutes)
Chicago – 62 games (1 goal, 10 assists, 67 penalty minutes)
Columbus – 56 games (3 goals 14 assists, 111 penalty minutes)
Minnesota – 41 games (3 goals, 3 assists, 16 penalty minutes)
Dallas – 41 games (1 goal, 5 assists, 56 penalty minutes)
Los Angeles – 40 games (2 goals, 7 assists, 59 penalty minutes)
Vancouver – 40 games (1 goal, 10 assists, 31 penalty minutes)

Jackman was the 17th overall pick in 1999 and made his NHL debut in 2001-02. He has played 803 career games and accumulated 181 points (28 goals, 153 assists). He also has 1,026 career penalty minutes, including 97 two seasons ago.

He never has scored more than four goals in a season so his role is clear. He will kill penalties and provide net protection for a team that is loaded with defensemen willing and able to carry the puck on the attack.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 1, 2015 12:56 PM

Ribeiro accepts two-year contract offer to remain with Predators

The Nashville Predators won’t have to try to replace Mike Ribeiro after all.

The 35-year-old center accepted the team’s two-year, $7 million contract offer ($3.5 million each of the next two seasons) and re-signed with Nashville on Wednesday. The agreement capped a tense several days of negotiations with a player who turned out to be one of last season’s best free agent bargains.

TSN first reported the deal about an hour before the start of the NHL’s free agent signing period. The Predators formally confirmed it a little more than an hour later.

Had he rejected the Predators’ offer, which makes him the team’s third highest paid forward, Ribeiro would have been one of the most talented free agents on the market this season.

His value, however, was clouded by a civil lawsuit filed by a former nanny who alleged sexual misconduct and sought monetary damages. A recent filing in that matter contained graphic allegations. No criminal charges have been filed.

Nashville general manager David Poile stressed Tuesday that he considers Ribeiro a valuable team member and a positive force in the locker room and the community.

“We’re confident … he can be a key part of our team moving forward,” Poile said. “… It’s very important to me to have integrity and to bring [high] character people to our organization.

“Mike was a good teammate and was a productive player.”

On the ice, Ribeiro was the Predators’ No. 1 center in 2014-15. His 62 points (15 goals, 47 assists) were second to Filip Forsberg and his assists total was the fourth highest in franchise history.

He did all of that after the Arizona Coyotes bought out his contract and labeled him a character risk. Nashville signed him to a one-year, $1.05 million contract that was a far cry from the $5.5 million he was scheduled to earn in Year Two of the four-year contract he had with the Coyotes. He will get another $1.44 million from that deal this season.

“From the beginning of last year, for [Poile] and [Head Coach] Peter [Laviolette] to believe in me and to be supportive of me and help me through this, I think it was a great fit,” Ribeiro said in a release from the team. “People believe in the team and that was one of the reasons I wanted to come back. The players, the coaches and David, they believed in me. They supported me throughout the year last year and I couldn’t be more thankful.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 1, 2015 11:32 AM

Predators got little in free agency recently, don't need much this year

The Nashville Predators don’t feel as if they need much from the free agent signing period, which begins at 11 a.m. (CDT) Wednesday.

That’s probably a good thing given that they have not gotten much of a return on many of their free agent investments the last two years.

Only four of the nine players signed in 2013 and 2014 played out their full contracts – and three of those came to the Predators on one-year deals. Three others were traded without having played one full season in Nashville.

General manager David Poile admitted his latest mistake this week when he bought out the final two years of Viktor Stalberg’s contract. The move cost the team a little more than $3.3 million up front but will provide close to $3 million of cap space each of the next two years.

Stalberg (pictured) was signed to be a first or second-line forward and power play mainstay. Instead he was a part-time player who spent time at Milwaukee this season and never scored a single power play goal.

“Viktor Stalberg was a little bit of an enigma for us,” Poile said. “I think it would be fair to say that it didn’t work out for either one of us. … It’s regrettable that we’ve (bought him out) but we’ve done it and we’re now moving forward.”

MONEY WELL SPENT?
A look at the free agents the Nashville Predators signed the last two years and what the team got out of those players:

2013
• Viktor Stalberg (four years, $12 million) – Played 95 games and scored 10 goals in two seasons after which his contract was bought out.
• Eric Nystrom (four years, $10 million) – Tied his career-high with 21 points in 2013-14, became a fourth-line forward last season under Peter Laviolette.
• Matt Hendricks (four years, $7.4 million) – Played just 44 games before he was traded to Edmonton halfway through the first year of his deal.
• Matt Cullen (two years, $7 million) – Did not produce as much offense as hoped but was a reliable and versatile forward the last two seasons.
• Carter Hutton (one year, $550,000-x) – Parlayed that first deal into a two-year contract that cements his spot as a full-time NHL backup.

2014
• Olli Jokinen (one year, $2.5 million) – Scored just six points in 48 games before he was traded to Toronto in a deadline deal.
• Mike Ribeiro (one year, $1.05 million) – One of Nashville’s all-time great free agent bargains. A risk that paid off to the tune of 47 assists and 62 points.
• Anton Volchenkov (one year, $1 million) – An underrated, if unspectacular addition last season, he was the reliable defensive presence the team wanted/needed.
• Derek Roy (one year, $1 million) – Played just 26 games and scored one goal before he was shipped off to Edmonton.

Ribeiro accepted Nashville’s two-year, $7 million offer Wednesday morning, just before the start of free agency. That meant there was one less hole the team needed to fill.

“I think we’re in real good shape with our goaltending,” Poile said. “… I’m prepared to go with the forwards that we currently have. … I’m going to be at least looking for some possibilities of replacing Volchenkov, maybe with a similar type of player.”

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

Jul 1, 2015 10:55 AM

Hockey Hall of Fame calls Housley, six others for induction in 2015

It wasn’t Phil Housley’s record as a high school hockey coach (good as it was) that appealed to David Poile two years ago when the Nashville Predators general manager wanted to make a change to his coaching staff.

It was Housley’s 23-year career as an NHL player, an undeniably distinguished run by any standard.

Monday, that career got the ultimate stamp of approval from the entire hockey world. Housley was one of five former players and seven individuals overall named to the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class.

“I am absolutely elated to be entering the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2015,” Housley said in a release from the Hall of Fame. “One glance at the legends who have already been enshrined proves that this really is the ultimate honor for a hockey player.”

The No. 6 overall pick by Buffalo in 1982, he played 1,495 games for eight different teams in a career that lasted until 2002-03. He was a member of 13 NHL playoff teams, appeared in seven NHL All-Star Games and won a silver medal with the United States at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Housley had 338 goals and 894 assists for 1,232 points. He is the third all-time leading scorer among NHL defensemen and the second all-time leading scorer among U.S.-born players, regardless of position.

He joined the Nashville staff as an assistant coach in 2013 under former head coach Barry Trotz and was the only staff member retained when Peter Laviolette replaced Trotz last season.

Before coming to Nashville, Housley was a high school coach in nine seasons at St. Paul High School in Stillwater, Minn. (he was 109-109-21) and a regular part of U.S. national teams at international competitions.

He previously has been inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame (2004) and the IIHF Hall of Fame (2012).

The other members of the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame class are: Players Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger and Angela Ruggiero and builders Bill Hay and Peter Karmanos Jr.

Induction ceremonies are scheduled for Nov. 9 at the Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Jun 29, 2015 4:14 PM

Predators still trying to figure out what to do with top 2010 draft pick

The Nashville Predators are not ready to give up on Austin Watson yet.

They have not concluded that he is an NHL player either. Apparently, that’s what the 2015-16 is for.

The Predators on Monday announced a two-year contract with the 23-year-old center who has appeared in six NHL games since the team drafted him 18th overall in 2010. The first season is a two-way deal that will pay him an NHL salary of $575,000 or $100,000 if he is in the AHL, where he has played 229 of his 236 games as a professional. The second year is for an NHL salary only ($575,000).

The pact provides Watson a measure of security in that it guarantees him an NHL deal no later than the 2016-17 season. However, it also gives the team one more year to evaluate him. If he does not establish himself this season it is a virtual certainty that he will be traded to a team that can use him on its NHL roster.

Already, though, he has confounded the franchise’s personnel department in a way no other first-round pick has.

The 6-foot-3, 206-pound forward exhausted his junior eligibility before he finally turned pro and now has spent three full seasons in the AHL with only a brief NHL audition – and still the Predators are not sure what to do with him.

This is now his second professional contract, at point at which most of Nashville’s top picks already were a part of the NHL roster or had gone elsewhere.

A look at the team’s history with its other first-round selections:

• David Legwand, C (1998, second overall): He made his NHL debut in the final game of the 1998-99 season and was a full-time NHL player from that point forward.

• Brian Finley, G (1999, sixth overall): He spent seven years in the system (he missed one full season because of injury) but only made two NHL appearances. He only stuck around that long because the organization lacked depth at that point.

• Scott Hartnell, LW (2000, sixth overall): He was the rare player who made the jump directly from the draft to the NHL.

• Dan Hamhuis, D (2001, 12th overall): After being drafted he played one more year of junior hockey. He was a full-time NHL player at the start of his second pro season.

• Scottie Upshall, RW (2002, sixth overall): He made the Nashville roster out of training camp in his draft year but was returned to junior hockey before that season counted against his entry-level contract. By the end of that deal he was a full-time NHL player.

• Ryan Suter, D (2003, sixth overall): He played college hockey for one year, spent the lockout season of 2004-05 in the AHL and then became a fixture in the NHL the first chance he got.

• Alexander Radulov, RW (2004, 15th overall): After being drafted he played two years of junior hockey, started his pro career in the AHL but spent less than a season there before he proved he could produce points in the NHL.

• Ryan Parent, D (2005, 18th overall): He never played a game for Nashville but the Predators have traded him twice, the first time less than two years after he was drafted and the second time three months after he was reacquired.

• Jonathon Blum, D (2007, 23rd overall): He played two more seasons of junior hockey and then spent a season and a half in the AHL before he made it the NHL and became a reliable depth option.

• Colin Wilson, C (2008, seventh overall): He played one more year of college hockey and needed half a season in the AHL before he was deemed ready for the NHL.

• Chet Pickard, G (2008, 18th overall): He played one more year of junior hockey, spent all of his entry-level contract as a minor league player and then was not re-signed.

• Ryan Ellis, D (2009, 11th overall): He played two more years of junior hockey, split time between the AHL and NHL during his first two professional seasons and then established himself as a full-time NHL player.

• Seth Jones, D (2013, fourth overall): Like Hartnell, he made the jump directly from the draft to the NHL.

• Kevin Fiala, LW (2014, 11th overall): It’s clear that the Predators see him as an NHL player sooner rather than later. It’s why they brought him to Milwaukee from Sweden midway through last season and why they’re looking to create room on the NHL roster prior to this year’s training camp.
 

Jun 29, 2015 1:08 PM

Offense remains center of Predators' attention in 2015 NHL draft

It is uncommon that the Nashville Predators put a lot of emphasis on one position in the NHL draft, which they did Saturday in the 2015 edition.

Having sat out Friday’s first round, chief amateur scout Jeff Kealty and his staff made seven picks in the final six rounds. Four of them, including the first three, were centers.

The only other time in franchise history Nashville used its first three picks on players at the same position was 2005. This draft bore remarkable similarity to that one in terms of approach. The hope is that yields better results.

“We definitely accomplished what we wanted today,” Kealty said in a release from the team. “Position-wise, there’s some areas that we felt like we could add to, but with that being said, these are all players we really wanted, it wasn’t just a positional thing.”

It was at least partially a positional thing and it was consistent with the franchise’s new-found emphasis on offense since coach Peter Laviolette was hired last offseason.

Second-round pick Iakov Trenin, third-round choice Thomas Novak and fourth-round selection Anthony Richard all were better than point-per-game players foe their respective teams in 2014-15. Trenin and Richard played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Novak was in the United States Hockey League.

The Predators added Tyler Moy from Harvard in the sixth round with the sixth of their seven choices. This year’s other three picks brought two goalies and one defenseman.

“We didn’t think [Trenin] would fall that low [55th overall], but he did, so it worked out great,” general manager David Poile said. “We got the guy we wanted, we didn’t have to give up a third or a fourth [round] pick or [future picks], so we’re exactly where we wanted to be.

“… We got the players that we wanted to get. I’m happy with all of the above.”

In 2005, Nashville also had seven total picks and used its first, second, third and sixth on defensemen. The only one of those four who actually spent any significant time on the NHL roster was Cody Franson, a third-round selection and the team’s third overall choice.

First-round pick Ryan Parent was traded twice, once in the deal that brought Peter Forsberg from Philadelphia in at the 2007 trade deadline, and again in a transaction that brought Shane O’Brien from Philadelphia just prior to the start of the 2010-11 season. Teemu Laakso, taken one pick ahead of Franson, appeared in 10 games with the Predators and has played in Europe the last three seasons.

Nashville’s 2015 draft choices:

Round

Overall No.

Name

Pos.

Team

2

55

Iakov Trenin

F

Gatineau (QMJHL)

3

85

Thomas Novak

F

Waterloo (USHL)

4

100

Anthony Richard

F

Val-D’or (QMJHL)

4

115

Alexandre Carrier

D

Gatineau (QMJHL)

5

145

Karel Vejmelka

G

Trebic (Czech Republic – 2)

6

175

Tyler Moy

F

Harvard University (ECAC)

7

205

Evan Smith

G

Austin Bruins (NAHL)

 
Jun 29, 2015 5:20 AM

Predators willing to pay to cut ties with two forwards

The Nashville Predators are not interested in spending any more time paying the salaries of two of their NHL forwards.

So they’re willing to buy them out.

Tough guy Rich Clune (pictured) cleared waivers Thursday and General Manager David Poile said the team planned to buy out the remaining year of his contract. He was scheduled to make $850,000 next season in the second year of a two-year deal he signed prior to 2014-15.

The 28-year-old has played 106 of his 120 career NHL games for Nashville but appeared in just one contest last season before he was reassigned to Milwaukee. He had 17 points and 181 penalty minutes in 62 games for the Admirals after two full NHL seasons.

Viktor Stalberg’s status remained unresolved trough the weekend despite efforts to trade the 29-year-old left wing, who has been one of the franchise’s biggest free-agent disappointments in recent memory. He signed a four-year, $12 million contract in 2013 but halfway through that pact has delivered just 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 45 games.

“We’re talking to a couple of teams about possibly making a trade [involving Stalberg],” Poile said, according to the team’s website. “I thought that if that was going to happen, it might’ve happened [Saturday], so we’re going to pursue that … and there’s also a possibility that we could buy him out.”

 
(Photo: Getty Images)

Jun 29, 2015 5:15 AM