Ekholm deal enhances continuity of Predators' defense

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. – Winston Chuchill.

David Poile would respectfully disagree.

The Nashville Predators’ general manager might not have the perfect group of defensemen, but it is hard for him to imagine a better one. Thus, he continues to do what he can to ensure that unit won’t change much, if at all, for the foreseeable future.

Monday, Poile signed Mattias Ekholm to a six-year, $22.5 million contract that begins next season, runs through 2021-22 and further guarantees continuity along the blue line. Four of Nashville’s top six at that position now are under contract for at least another three seasons beyond the current one.

It is no secret that he also wants to get something done with Seth Jones, currently in the last year of his entry-level contract, after this season — if not sooner. So the defense as it is right now is the Nashville defense of the future, unless something unexpected happens that prompts Poile to make a trade.

A look at contract status for each of the current Nashville Predators’ defensemen:

• Shea Weber (14 years, $110 million) – signed through 2025-26
• Mattias Ekholm (6 years, $22.5 million) – signed through 2021-22
• Roman Josi (7 years, $28 million) – signed through 2019-20
• Ryan Ellis (5 years, $12.5 million) – signed through 2018-19
• Barret Jackman (2 years, $4 million) – signed through 2016-17
• Seth Jones (3 years, $9.675 million) – signed through 2015-16
• Victor Bartley (3 years, $2 million) – signed through 2015-16

Weber, Josi, Ekholm, Ellis and Jones all were drafted by Nashville and have not been a part of any other NHL organization. Ekholm is the exception, though, in that he was the only one not selected in the first or second round. Ellis and Jones were first-round choices and Weber and Josi were second-round picks.

Nashville got Ekholm in the fourth round (102nd overall) in 2009. He struggled in his first attempt to play in North America (2011-12) and returned to Sweden for the last half of that season. He spent virtually all of 2012-13 at Milwaukee and has been a full-time NHL player for the last two-plus seasons.

In 152 career NHL games, he has registered 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) and 66 penalty minutes.

Nashville begins a four-game road trip Wednesday at San Jose (9:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)

(Photo: John Russell/Getty Images)

Oct 26, 2015 11:48 AM

Predators get one last look at Arvidsson before sending him to Milwaukee

Viktor Arvidsson’s return to the Nashville Predators was almost as brief as his stint in the AHL.

Friday morning the Predators assigned Arvidsson to the Milwaukee Admirals. Saturday morning, they recalled him for that night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bridgestone Arena because Calle Jarnkrok was out due to illness. After that game he was sent back to Milwaukee.

Expectations were high for Arvidsson to start the season after he beat out top prospect Kevin Fiala (among others) and made the opening night roster.

He scored the game-winner in the Predators 2-1 season opening victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

The goal was the first of Arvidsson’s career but he has done little since. He was a healthy scratch in four of the first seven games and did not get significant ice time when he played. The 2014 draft pick was always at or near the bottom in minutes played with his season high of 12:42 coming against the Tama Bay Lightning.

In the 2-1 loss to the Penguins, Arvidsson had the fewest shifts of any Predators player (10) and had the second lowest ice time (7:40) behind only Austin Watson (7:13), who missed five minutes in the first period when he was assessed a major penalty for boarding..

Albeit a small sample size, it was no secret Arvidsson was trending down in the Predators lineup. In four games played, Arvidsson has only six shots on goal with a -1 rating.

The move to Milwaukee will allow him to get more ice time, which likely will lead to a longer stay with the Predators the next time he is recalled.

(Photo: John Russell/Getty Images)

Oct 26, 2015 5:15 AM

Latest Predators' roster move a familiar one for player sent down

The Nashville Predators’ roster continued to get smaller Thursday.

Veteran forward Cody Bass, who has spent the majority of his career in the American Hockey League, once again is headed to that league.

The Predators reassigned the 28-year-old to Milwaukee, which left them with 24 players on the NHL roster. The regular season limit is 23.

Bass signed as a free agent in July. He has appeared in just one NHL game over the past two seasons and 49 for his career. Since 2005-06, though, he has appeared in 272 AHL games, during which time he has racked up 537 penalty minutes with 46 goals.

He had seven penalty minutes, three hits and two blocked shots in the most recent preseason contest, a 5-2 loss to Columbus on Tuesday. His nine penalty minutes are third on the team this preseason and he is one of three Nashville players who has been assessed a fighting major.

Oct 1, 2015 10:56 PM

Predators send three more to Milwaukee; roster now at 25

The Nashville Predators took a good, long look at Steve Moses on Tuesday.

Now there’s no telling when anyone will see him in a Predators uniform next.

The free agent forward, who led Russia’s KHL in goals last season, was one of three players reassigned to Milwaukee (AHL) on Wednesday. Also sent down were forward Colton Sissons and goalie Juuse Saros, which reduced the current roster to 25 players, two more than the regular season maximum.

Moses (pictured) logged 17:04 of ice time in Tuesday’s 5-2 preseason loss to Columbus at Bridgestone Arena. Only two Nashville forwards, Mike Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg, saw more action. Moses’ evening included 2:54 of ice time and three shots on goal but he failed to register a point and finished with a minus-2 rating.

He appeared in four of six preseason games but had just one assist with no goals and a minus-4 rating.

Sissons is one of three other Nashville players who appeared in four preseason games. The 2012 second-round draft choice had two goals and plus-1 rating but logged a team-low 9:58 of ice time against Columbus.

The Predators’ final preseason game is Saturday at Columbus.

Sep 30, 2015 2:31 PM

Few roster decisions remain for last week of Predators camp

The Nashville staged a split squad scrimmage Saturday at Ford Ice Center.

Then they split their squad. Twenty-two players were reassigned, the majority of which will start the season at Milwaukee.

That reduced to 28 the number of players still in Predators camp. That’s five more than allowed for the start of the regular season.

A look at who remains and what decisions likely must be made:


Locks: Mike Fisher, C; Mike Ribeiro, C; Paul Gaustad, C; Cody Hodgson, C; Filip Forsberg, LW; James Neal, RW; Colin Wilson, LW; Craig Smith, RW; Calle Jarnkrok, RW; Eric Nystrom, RW.

Still battling: Steve Moses, RW; Gabriel Bourque, RW; Austin Watson, LW; Viktor Arvidsson, LW; Colton Sissons, C; Cody Bass, RW; Jamie Devane, RW.

Analysis: Moses is basically assured a roster spot because he has a one-way contract. It’s notable that Arvidsson (pictured) gets to stick around while Kevin Fiala already has been sent down, which might be a sign that he’s staying. Bourque almost certainly gets the benefit of the doubt because of his experience, which likely leaves Watson and Sisson to fight for one for one spot.

Locks: Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Barrett Jackman, Victor Bartley.

Still battling: Anthony Bitetto.

Analysis: Bitetto has played well and deserves a longer look, but it’s highly unlikely he will unseat Bartley for the seventh spot. If someone gets hurt, though, he’s ready to go.

Locks: Pekka Rine, Carter Hutton.

Still battling: Juusse Saros.

Analysis: Saros is not going to start the season in the NHL, but it probably does him good to spend as much time as possible watching and working with Rinne.

(Photo: Getty Images)


Sep 28, 2015 11:28 AM

Predators stay on schedule when signing players to long-term deals

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)

Aug 3, 2015 5:10 AM

Predators, Wilson come to terms on four-year contract

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.

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)

Jul 27, 2015 11:36 AM

Predators plot different course for latest prospect out of Wisconsin

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.

Jul 27, 2015 5:15 AM

Predators, Smith state their cases, then agree to long-term deal

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:

Remaining years: 11
Average salary: $7.857 million

Remaining years: five
Average salary: $4.25 million

Remaining years: five
Average salary: $4 million

Remaining years: four
Average salary: $7 million

Remaining years: four
Average salary: $2.5 million

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)

Jul 20, 2015 9:51 PM

Predators add some punching power in trade with Toronto

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).

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.

Jul 13, 2015 5:15 AM