The Nashville Predators jumped into the NHL free agency action on Wednesday by signing center Olli Jokinen.
Nashville had been silent on free agency’s opening day, a lack of participation that put them in the company of only three other clubs who did not sign a new player on Tuesday. The Jokinen deal came roughly 27 hours after all 30 clubs were officially given free reign to ink unrestricted free agents to contracts; a long wait for a surprising signing.
Adding Jokinen, a 35-year-old forward past his prime, was not the deal many expected after the number of times Predators General Manager David Poile reiterated he was looking for a first line center. But as the GM expressed yesterday, he’s likely not done in free agency.
“We’re still talking to other teams, I’m not saying for sure that we’re going to do anything else. But we are looking at a couple different situations. I thought I was close on something else, and I might still be,” said Poile. “You never know. We’re feeling good about what we’ve accomplished with adding James Neal and now Olli Jokinen, but we’ll see.”
The Predators GM confirmed his pursuit of some of the top players that found new teams on day one of free agency–but for various reasons–forwards such as Paul Stastny, Matt Moulson and Thomas Vanek chose clubs other than Nashville.
“What we’ve done the last 48 hours is call like every top player and every agent it seems. So that’s 20 or 30 balls up in the air at one time. A lot of those guys are signed now, but we’ve got some situations that could come to fruition very soon,” said Poile.
It appears the supply of first line centers in free agency has dropped very low (if not completely empty), but the Predators may still be able to add more offense to their lineup by signing a wing or through a trade. For example, former Arizona Coyotes forward Mike Ribeiro or Derek Roy, previously of the St. Louis Blues, could bolster Nashville’s attack if signed.
“You don’t want to over-sign players on one-way deals and then try and put them in the minors. I guess you could say for every action there’s a reaction. It might be better to trade a player for a player at this point,” said Poile. “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Does that mean another deal is on the horizon for the Predators? For a veteran defenseman, Poile says yes. For a forward? He appears cautiously and cryptically optimistic.
“In my mind we’ve got 13 forwards, six NHL defensemen–so I could use another defenseman–and you want to create some depth and flexibility if you can,” Poile said. “We’ve talked about adding more of a veteran presence on our defense. We’re not there yet, but we’ll see.”