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

Decision to sign two draft picks illustrates shift in Preds' attitude toward Russian prospects

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.

Jul 10, 2015 11:44 AM

Clune sees potential for big payoff in being bought out by Predators

For Rich Clune, getting bought out by the Nashville Predators could pay off a dream come true.

It might just lead to a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which would be no small thing for the 28-year-old Toronto native who grew up a Leafs fan.

First, though, the tough guy forward has to fight his way up a crowded organizational depth chart.

Clune signed with the Toronto Marlies (the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate) over the weekend. A two-way deal that included an NHL salary was not available because the NHL club already was approaching the 50-player limit, but the deal did include a spot at training camp this fall.

“I wanted to be a Leaf," he said, according to a story Monday on the Maple Leafs website. "And I guess both sides got creative on how we can make this work and just basically the contract with the Marlies is weighed out and it’s a very good opportunity. It’s an interesting scenario for me to come to camp and earn an NHL deal through my play and progress and I just basically couldn’t pass it up.”

Clune was one of two players whose contracts were bought out by the Predators recently. Viktor Stalberg signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the New York Rangers on the opening day of free agency.

Clune played one game for Nashville last season and spent most of 2014-15 with Milwaukee (AHL). He has played 120 career NHL games, all but 14 of them with the Predators, including a career-high 58 in 2013-14.

“It’s weird," he said, via the Leafs website. "In my heart once I knew I was getting bought out by Nashville and becoming a free agent and I can remember having a conversation with my agent before things got underway and I said ‘I would want to play in Toronto, for the Leafs.' And my agent was like ‘OK’.

“It just so happens that Toronto reached out to them and they basically made the offer.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 6, 2015 2:41 PM

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

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.

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