In pursuit of upgrading their forward corps this summer, the Nashville Predators will be scanning the free agent market for a talented winger or center in July.
The club elevated their total scoring to 19th in the NHL this year, better than the last place (30th) finish they had the previous season, but there still wasn’t enough offense to qualify for the playoffs.
The past week we’ve previewed forwards Paul Stastny, Matt Moulson and Radim Vrbata as top unrestricted free agent candidates for the Predators to consider. One final option for the team also comes from the Western Conference: Calgary Flames forward Mike Cammalleri.
The 31-year-old was the Flames third-leading scorer while playing in 63 games this season and has topped 25 goals five different times in his career. A legitimate scoring threat, Cammalleri is a top six forward upgrade and a cheaper alternative than the $8 million contracts players like Marian Gaborik or Thomas Vanek will command.
Why Cammalleri would be a good addition to Nashville: A veteran option without the wear-and-tear of a Gaborik or Dany Heatley, Cammalleri’s game is suited to be a scoring center, something the Predators lack. While admittedly injury prone over his 12-year span in the NHL, Cammalleri has put up impressive numbers while playing in the defensively-focused systems of Los Angeles and Calgary. The Ontario native has tallied 20 goals seven times out of his 12 seasons, and registered 19 goals in two other campaigns. Cammalleri’s speed and vision would work well with Nashville’s Craig Smith; plus, Patric Hornqvist would be able to open up opportunities for his potential linemates by working the net mouth. Centers Mike Fisher and Matt Cullen could take on more of a defensive role on the second and third lines, while freeing up Cammalleri to focus on scoring.
Why he’ll be an option: Coming off a five-year, $30 million contract with the Flames, Cammalleri was rumored be on the trading block earlier this year. CBS Sports reported the forward turned in a seven team no-trade list in March, with the intention of moving on to his fifth NHL club. The same report also states Cammalleri did not accept an extension offer from the Flames, and that teams should consider the forward as a “cheaper alternative to [...] Thomas Vanek or Matt Moulson.” Cammalleri quietly had a solid, bounce-back 2013-2014 season, putting up 26 goals (45 points) and could be passed over by the teams looking to max out their cap space and sign a big name.
Conclusion: He should not be considered the No. 1 candidate to take the Predators offense to the next level, but Cammalleri is a better option than just a “backup plan.” If Nashville thinks Cammalleri can stay healthy and that last season’s numbers aren’t a fluke, he’s worth the contract he should be seeking on the open market. Still a top six forward with several more seasons left in his career, the center could help the Predators offense to a higher level if acquired.