David Poile is not interested in love at first sight.
The Nashville Predators general manager believes in a professional courtship, if you will. His theory is that it takes time for two parties to get to know one another, to trust one another, to believe in one another.
There comes a time, though, when commitment is the best option.
The latest examples were the recent deals for 25-year-old forwards Craig Smith (five years, $21.25 million) and Colin Wilson (four years, $15.75 million).
“When a player is in his mid-20s and has been with you for a few years and you believe you know what he’s capable of, I think the best thing to do is for both sides to commit to one another for the long-term or you just move on,” Poile told the Nashville Post last week.
Of course, there’s no such thing as forever in the NHL. Four or five years, in these cases, constitute a long time and even those deals come with no guarantees.
Poile has negotiated similar packages with other notable players throughout the years. Some worked out better than others.
A look at others to whom the Predators have committed, and vice versa under comparable circumstances:
(27 years old)
Six years, $27 million
Why: The deal was done early in the season and went into effect with the start of 2008-09. At the time, the first draft pick in franchise history already was the Predators’ all-time leader in goals, points, game-winning goals and overtime points.
Return on investment (ROI): Legwand scored 20 goals for the first (and only) time in the first season of that contract. At the end of 2007-08 he had 327 points in 549 games (an average of .596 points per game). In 407 games that followed he had 239 points (.587 points per game). Basically, the Predators got what they paid for but not what they hoped for.
(26 years old)
Seven years, $31.5 million
Why: This deal was done shortly after the 2007-08 season, one in which Erat tied his career-high with 57 points and set personal bests in goals (23), game-winning goals (six) and registered his first career hat trick.
ROI: He played almost five of the seven seasons on that deal with Nashville but scored more than 20 goals just once. He did set a career-high with 58 points in 2011-12 and scored four playoff goals (half his current career total) in 2010. Much like Legwand, he remained consistent but never made the offensive jump the franchise anticipated.
(28 years old)
Seven years, $49 million
Why: This deal was done early in the 2011-12 season and was considered a critical first step in the team’s plan to lock up him, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to long-term deals before they became free agents. At that time he already had been a Vezina Trophy finalist once and was on his way to a second.
ROI: He set franchise records with 43 wins and 73 games played in 2011-12 – before the deal took effect. Injuries and illness were issues for the first two seasons but he finally started to deliver a big payoff with 41 wins and 2.18 goals-against average (and a third Vezina Trophy finalist nod) last season. The market for goalies has not quite caught up to this deal but it still looks like a good one.
(27 years old)
Five years, $14.5 million
Why: In the wake of Suter’s departure two months earlier, Nashville was desperate to keep the rest of its core defense intact and executed this deal hours before NHL owners locked out the players for four months. Plus, Klein topped 20 points for the first time in his career the previous season.
ROI: The 2003 second-round pick played just one season and part of another before the Predators traded him to the New York Rangers. In 94 games played under this pact he had just 17 points (four goals, 13 assists). At a time when his experience was supposed to mean the most, management shipped him out to make room for the next round of young defensemen.
(23 years old)
Seven years, $28 million
Why: Having played just one full NHL season (a lockout-shortened season, at that) Josi proved himself a worthwhile complement to defense partner Weber. Rather than risk a repeat of the Ryan Suter fiasco, Predators management convinced the youngster to commit the rest of his 20s to them.
ROI: In the first two seasons of the deal Josi consistently has gotten better. Last season he was Nashville’s highest scoring defenseman and joined Weber among the top five in Norris Trophy voting. If the upward trend continues, this deal is going to look like a bargain in the last couple seasons.
(26 years old)
Five years, $21.25 million
Why: The last pick in the 2007 NHL draft averaged 26 goals during his first three full NHL seasons. Twice in a span of three seasons (2009-10 and 2011-12) he led the team in goals, which made him (at the time) the only player drafted by Nashville to do so more than once.
ROI: In announcing the deal Poile said Hornqvist "has become – and will remain – an integral member of our core group." Well, he remained with the team for one season in which he scored 22 goals and his attitude soured. He went to Pittsburgh in the trade that brought James Neal, a more versatile and mobile threat.
(23 years old)
Five years, $12.5 million
Why: A first-round pick (11th overall) in 2009, Ellis had no shortage of believers within the organization after his first full NHL season. Most notably, concerns about durability due to his size were eased when he played 80 games in 2013-14.
ROI: The deal makes sense because the salary sets reasonable expectations for a player who accomplishments in junior hockey, in many cases, were beyond comprehension. An injury limited him to just 58 games but he scored 27 points, the same number as the previous year and a clear indication that his game includes some significant offensive upside.
(Photo: Getty Images)
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.”
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)
David Poile never has enjoyed arbitration.
The Nashville Predators general manager is going to have to work a little harder in the next couple weeks if he is going to avoid it this year.
Three Nashville players – forwards Craig Smith, Colin Wilson and Taylor Beck (pictured) – were among the 23 players who filed for salary arbitration. Only two other franchises, Arizona and Calgary, had that many players elect to take part in the process.
Eligible players had until 4 p.m. (CDT) Sunday to opt in. Teams have until 4 p.m. (CDT) Monday to choose arbitration for any others.
Smith, 25, tied for second on the team last season with 23 goals and became one of three players drafted by the Predators to score 20 or more goals for them in consecutive seasons (24 in 2013-14). He earned $2 million in 2014-15.
Wilson, 25, set a career-high with 20 goals last season then added five more in six playoff games. He earned $2.5 million last season.
Beck, 24, was a full-time NHL player for the first time in 2014-15 and finished with eight goals and eight assists in 62 appearances. He earned the NHL minimum, $550,000, last season.
Arbitration pits player against team in a contest to determine the player’s salary for the next one or two seasons. Both sides present their cases to an independent third party, who rules within 48 hours of the hearing. The team must either pay what the arbitrator says or walk away, which makes the player a free agent.
This year’s hearings will take place from July 20 through August 4.
MAKING THEIR CASE
A look at the NHL players who filed for salary arbitration prior to Sunday’s deadline:
Arizona: Mikkel Boedker, Phil Samuelsson, Brendan Shinnimin
Buffalo: Phil Varone
Calgary: Lance Bouma, Paul Byron, Josh Jooris
Colorado: Andrew Agozzino , Mathew Clark
Detroit: Gustav Nyquist
Minnesota: Erik Haula
Nashville: Taylor Beck, Craig Smith, Colin Wilson
New Jersey: Eric Gélinas , Adam Larsson
N.Y. Rangers: Derek Stepan
Ottawa: Alex Chiasson, Mike Hoffman
Philadelphia: Michael Del Zotto
St. Louis: Magnus Paajarvi
Washington: Braden Holtby, Marcus Johansson
The sides can continue to negotiate a contract up until the time the arbitrator rules. In 2002, Nashville and goalie Mike Dunham came to terms on a deal after the parties had arrived in Toronto for their hearing, which then never took place. The same thing happened a year later with defenseman Kimmo Timonen.
Last year, defenseman Mattias Ekholm agreed to a two-year deal with the team a week after he filed for arbitration.
The last time Nashville completed the arbitration process with a player was 2011, when Shea Weber was awarded a one-year, $7.5 million, the largest arbitration deal in NHL history. Weber asked for $8.5 million. The Predators countered with a $4.5 million deal.
Poile was upbeat following that ruling and said it affirmed Weber’s place as one of the game’s best defensemen.
Typically, though, he has expressed concern about negative feelings that can result. That was the case in 1999 when the Predators traded forward Denny Lambert even after the arbitrator ruled in their favor.
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.
• 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)
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)
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:
• 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.
• 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)
David Poile is willing to forgive. He has been ever since he signed Mike Ribeiro last summer despite well-publicized concerns about the veteran center’s character.
The Nashville Predators general manager also is willing to forget, though.
Poile said Tuesday afternoon that Ribeiro, the Predators’ leader in assists last season, had a firm deadline to accept the team’s latest contract offer or the team would move on to other options when the free agent signing period opens Wednesday.
“We’ve had some negotiations in the last couple of days,” Poile said. “We have not been able to come to an agreement there. … We want him back but we’ll have to see how the negotiations go in that area.
“We’re confident that if we’re able to sign him he can be a key part of our team moving forward.”
He feels that way even with renewed concerns about the 35-year-old’s past that have been raised in recent months.
A former nanny filed a civil suit against Ribeiro and his wife in February claiming she was assaulted more than three years ago while she worked for the family in Dallas and Washington D.C. Graphic allegations of sexual misconduct by Ribeiro against the girl, a teenager at the time, were levied in a more definitive statement submitted two weeks ago.
Poile said Ribeiro made the team aware of the accusations last summer, before he signed a one-year, $1.05 million contract and well before the suit initially was filed. That deal was set to end Tuesday and Ribeiro was scheduled to become a free agent.
“We just wish this would go away and hopefully it will,” Poile said. “I’m not a lawyer and I’m not qualified to say any more than I’ve said. All I can say is that talking to the Ribeiros, talking to the NHL, talking to law enforcement people we are comfortable with where this situation is.
“… The point to reinforce is that we were aware of this when we signed him a year ago, that there was an alleged incident and that there was going to be a civil case. We talked about it and with what we were told, we were comfortable about it.”
When Ribeiro did sign with Nashville he vowed that he was a changed man after the Arizona Coyotes had bought out his contract and labeled him a character risk.
Nothing that took place on or off the ice during the last season contradicted his assertion in any way. Not only was he different, he was a difference-maker for the Predators, who returned to the playoffs following a two-year absence.
He spent most of the season as the center on the team’s top line, played all 82 games and finished with 62 points (15 goals, 47 assists). He also was a popular and influential teammate.
Poile said his contract offer, which Ribeiro had not agreed to, was based strictly “on my budget, what I have available” and was not affected by the lawsuit or any potential public backlash over an athlete who faces allegations of sexual misconduct.
“We’ve seen him as a good person this year, both on the ice and off the ice, and we think that he and his family are doing really well and are comfortable here,” Poile said. “That’s why we hope to sign him.
“ … We don’t have our heads buried in the sand here. It’s not like we’re not discussing this with Mike. It’s not like we weren’t aware of it. We can only go by what we know and what is said. You hope that the past is in the past and that this will not be any problem in the future.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
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.
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:
Trebic (Czech Republic – 2)
Harvard University (ECAC)
Austin Bruins (NAHL)
POSTDATA: WARRANTY DEEDS