For the most part, the Nashville Predators already know who their forwards will be.
The issue, an unusual one for a franchise with a defense-rich tradition, is who will play which spots, and how much they’ll play.
The top six are established with Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, Craig Smith, Mike Fisher, and Colin Wilson. There are options for the bottom with at least seven players competing for those spots.
Newcomer Cody Hodgson is expected to take over as the team’s third line center. With that, Paul Gaustad is the fourth center so it is presumed Calle Jarnkrok moves from center to the wing.
That leaves Gabriel Bourque, Eric Nystrom, as well as rookies Kevin Fiala, Steve Moses, Viktor Arvidsson, Austin Watson and Colton Sissons competing for three roster spots.
Bourque and Nystrom have experience on their side. Fiala (pictured) is the Predators’ top draft pick from a year ago and has expressed confidence he will be playing in Nashville next year. Moses has a reputation as a goal scorer. However, that was in the KHL and there is no telling how he will fare in the NHL or if he can adjust his game.
Then throw in wild cards such as Arvidsson who saw playing time in Nashville last year and Watson who hasn't quite broken through like the Predators have hoped and the competition looks fierce.
“The third and fourth lines would be more defensive but we are looking for a little bit more offense from that third line,” general manager David Poile said recently during an interview with 102.5 The Game. “So (we signed) Hodgson in hopes of giving coach [Peter] Laviolette some different options that he can come up with. Also we’re going to give a player like Kevin Fiala a chance to make the team on a regular basis since he’s a top offensive player.”
Poile feels that Fiala opens doors for the Predators offensively – and opens up even more possibilities for the offensive line combinations.
“So what if he makes it and you have a Wilson or a Smith out on the third line if you will? Poile said. “It could be a great spot to do some things offensively from a matchup standpoint.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
The Nashville Predators decided to employ the ripple effect to sell single-game tickets for 2015-16 at Bridgestone Arena. Most of the games, that is.
As the sale progresses its reach will extend.
Franchise officials announced Thursday that single-game sales for 34 of this season’s 41 home games will commence Sept. 5 at the Bridgestone Arena box office and Middle Tennessee Kroger stores only. Two days later the sale will expand to ticketmaster.com for fans in the team’s television viewing area. Finally, on Sept. 8, Predators single-game seats will be available worldwide on ticketmaster.com.
Availability to the remaining seven games (Nov. 7 vs. St. Louis, Nov. 28 vs. Buffalo, Dec. 10 vs. Chicago, Dec. 26 vs. Detroit, Dec. 28 vs. the New York Rangers, Jan. 19 vs. Chicago and Feb. 27 vs. St. Louis) is limited to full, half and 13-game flex season ticket packages.
“There is a great deal of anticipation by our fans for the start of the season and season-ticket sales are at a franchise-record high, reinforcing the growth of hockey in Nashville and the passion of the Nashville Predators fan base,” senior vice president of ticket sales Nat Harden said in a release from the team. “As a result, season-ticket holders will have exclusive access to pick from all 41 regular-season home games.”
Nashville opens the 2015-16 season with home games Oct. 8 vs. Carolina and Oct. 10 vs. Edmonton.
Phil Housley built his career around a six-ounce piece of vulcanized rubber.
The Minnesota Twins celebrated that career when they invited the Nashville Predators assistant coach to step to the rubber and throw out the first pitch prior their game against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.
"I threw fire right over the plate," Housley, told NHL.com. "It was really pretty special. It was really nice of the Twins to do that for me and my family; it's a night I'll never forget."
The Twins recognized Housley, a St. Paul, Minn. native, for his pending induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He and six others were chosen as the 2015 class in June.
The sixth overall pick in the 1982 draft, he played 1,495 games in a 21-year career that included time spent with eight different franchises. He retired as the highest scoring American-born player with 1,232 points (338 goals, 894 assists).
At long last, another of the Nashville Predators’ cast-offs has caught on with another team.
Forward Matt Cullen agreed to a one-year, $800,000 contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, which made him the first Predators free agent to sign with another NHL team since the start of the new league year, July 1.
The 38-year-old who spent the last two seasons in Nashville was one of six players the Predators chose not to re-sign or whose contracts were bought out after last season. Viktor Stalberg signed a one-year deal with the New York Rangers on July 1 and Rich Clune accepted a minor-league deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate.
Defensemen Cody Franson and Anton Volchenkov and forward Mike Santorelli remain unsigned.
Pittsburgh is the eighth different team for which Cullen has been a member in an 18-year NHL career. However, the move reunites him with general manager Jim Rutherford, who was the GM in Carolina during Cullen’s two stints with the Hurricanes (2005-06 and 2007-10).
His new deal represents a significant decrease in pay from what he earned in Nashville. He signed a two-year, $7 million deal with the Predators in 2013-14 and had 64 points (17 goals, 47 assists) in 139 appearances.
(Photo: Getty Images)
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.”
NBC Sports Group apparently does not have much interest in coming to Nashville – unless it absolutely must.
In all, 105 NHL regular-season games will be carried live – 12 on NBC and 93 on NBC Sports Network – during the 2015-16 season. That’s the most since NBC became the league’s primary U.S. broadcast partner.
Only one of those games will be at Bridgestone Arena. The Nashville Predators will make three other appearances in national broadcasts, all in road games.
The four national broadcasts are three more than last year for Nashville, which returned to the playoffs in 2015 following a two-year absence. All four national television broadcasts will be mid-week games and will air on NBC Sports Network.
• Oct. 28 at San Jose, 9:30 p.m.
• Dec. 29 at St. Louis, 7 p.m.
• Jan. 19 vs. Chicago, 7 p.m.
• Feb. 25 at Chicago, 7 p.m.
Of course, the NBC will show up in full force when the Predators host the NHL All-Star Weekend, Jan. 29-31. Then, of course, the entire league will be focused on Nashville because most of the game’s top players will be on hand for the skills competition, the actual game and other events that surround that showcase event.
NBC Sports Group announced its complete 2015-16 broadcast schedule Monday.
The Nashville Predators and Colin Wilson could have gone through with their scheduled arbitration hearing.
But what would have been the point? The process is designed to create a resolution in cases when the team and player have dramatically different impressions of the player’s worth. That was not the case this time.
Sportsnet reported Sunday that the Predators had offered $3 million and Wilson had asked for $4.25 million in advance of their hearing, which was scheduled for Tuesday. That gap was small enough that the sides bridged it Monday with a four-year, $15.75 million pact, an average of $3.9375 million per season.
The 25-year-old forward will earn $3.75 million in 2015-16 and $4 million in each of the three seasons after that.
The 2008 first-round pick (seventh overall) had his best season in 2014-15 and was even better in the postseason. He set franchise records for goals (five) and power play goals (four) in a playoff series. The rest of the team had two power play goals in the six-game series with the Chicago Blackhawks.
He set career-highs with 20 goals and 42 points during the regular season. His 22 assists tied his career-high, set in 2013-14. He also had a team-high plus-19 rating, tied with three others for second highest in franchise history by a forward. David Legwand set the team record with a plus-23 in 2006-07.
ON THE PLUS SIDE
A look at the best single-season plus-minus ratings in Nashville Predators history:
David Legwand (2006-07) – plus-23
Shea Weber (2011-12) – plus-21
Ryan Suter (2010-11) – plus-20
Kimmo Timonen (2006-07) – plus 20
Colin Wilson (2014-15) – plus-19
Jason Arnott (2007-08) – plus-19
Scott Hartnell (2006-07) – plus-19
Alexander Radulov (2006-07) – plus-19
(Photo: Getty Images)
Jack Dougherty said there was only one opinion that matters about when it is best for him to turn pro.
“I guess it’s whenever I think I’m ready,” he said during the recent Nashville Predators prospect camp. “There’s obviously a lot of outside influences, whether it be Nashville or other people who want to see me move on. But ultimately it’s my decision.
“Whenever I think I’m ready to take the step to the professional level I’m not going to be afraid. I want to play in the NHL. I want to play hockey for a living.”
As of Friday, he’s one step closer.
The 19-year-old defenseman, a second-round choice (51st overall) in 2014, signed an entry-level contract with the Predators on Friday, which ended his college career after one season with the University of Wisconsin.
The plan, however, is for him to delay his professional debut. Instead, he will spend the coming season in junior hockey with the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League.
This is not the first time the Predators plucked a player early out of Wisconsin. Defenseman Ryan Suter left after one season, spent 2004-05 in the AHL while NHL owners locked out players for an entire season and then was a full-time NHL player beginning in 2005-06. Forward Craig Smith jumped right to the NHL in 2011 after two seasons with the Badgers.
Blake Geoffrion was the exception. He played a full four college seasons before he finally turned pro.
All of them made some degree of contribution to the franchise. Most notably, Suter grew into one of the league’s top defensemen. Smith recently signed a five-year contract that makes him a foundation piece for the future.
With Dougherty, Nashville is going about it a little differently.
“I’m confident but at the same time you can’t carry that mindset with you,” Dougherty said. “You always want to be better. You always want to beat out that next guy for their spot. You can’t get too comfortable with where you’re at.”
In his case, one season in college was long enough.
Mike Ribeiro is an easy guy to dislike – and one a lot of NHL fans actually do.
Or so says Yahoo.com’s Greg Wyshynski, who offered his take on the “10 most loathsome players in the league” Friday.
Ribeiro came in seventh on Wyshynski’s list, which also includes Arizona goalie Mike Smith, St. Louis’ Steve Ott and San Jose’s Raffi Torres. The reason the Predators’ assist leader last season made the cut was his willingness to try to draw penalty calls against opposing players.
Here is Wyshynski’s reasoning for including Ribeiro, who recently re-signed with Nashville for two years and $7 million:
Even if we leave out the civil suit for sexual assault he just settled, Ribeiro remains a player whose behavior saw him run out of Glendale and whose has a career of FIFA-quality diving. Some Predators fans are willing to stomach it all in the name of second-chances and points at center. Others … not so much.
(Photo: Getty Images)
POSTDATA: WARRANTY DEEDS