Off-season Losses & Gains (Part 1 of 4)


(Photo Source:   Goodbye Ellie!

Hello Pred Nation and welcome to the offseason.  Amanda and I will be posting a 4-part series over the next couple of days recapping some our offseason moves.  I’ll be discussing our losses to free agency, while Amanda will be primarily focusing on our additions via trades and free agency acquisitions.  Hopefully it will provide you with some interesting content to mull over while we wait for training camp to begin.  And, to keep it real, we’re going to refer to the shedding of Dan Hamhuis and Dan Ellis to be free agency losses…even though their negotiating rights were traded (quite masterfully, I have to admit).

Losses Part 1

Let’s be honest.  The Preds front office doesn’t have the kind of unlimited resources that New York Rangers executives have been blowing on underperforming teams for eons (’94 cup season excluded).  David Poile and staff have to rely on excellent scouting, drafting, and picking up players on the free agent market at bargain prices.  Spectacular player development has also played a key role in the success the Preds have experienced in the last 5 seasons.  But with every free agent season comes loss of talent that usually cannot be reasonably avoided.  Let’s recap the key losses the Preds have taken so far this summer.  And, are they actually losses, or are they savvy front office moves that will ultimately set us up for continued success?

Dan Hamhuis

Dan Hamhuis was drafted 12th overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.  He steadily made his way through the minors to lock in his spot as one of our top blueliners in 2003.   Hammer has always displayed a good sense of awareness on the ice and has one of the most devastating hip checks in the game.  It’s these traits, along with his experience level that will surely be missed on our defensive corps.  However, am I the only one that’s noticed Hamhuis has been a little sketchy as of late?  On more than a few occasions, I’ve seen him set up poorly to effectively defend an offensive rush.  His plus/minus has also shown a declining trend.  He was +7 in his first three seasons with the team which includes an understandable -11 rating during his rookie season.  Over his final three seasons with the Preds, Hammer was an average -4 defender, leaving him with a +3 rating for his career as a Nashville Predator.  To put that in perspective, let’s compare Hamhuis with the best of the best…just for fun.  Nick Lidstrom was a remarkable +173 over the same period of time from 2003-2010 (sans the lockout year) as Dan Hamhuis.  I know the rest of a team’s performance plays a big role in +/- rating, but it’s still a good indicator of the effectiveness of a player.  Compared to Lidstrom, a +/- difference of 170 over six years tells me that Hammer is nowhere near being a big money defender.  So, would it have been worth Poile dropping the same $27 million over six years that Vancouver recently signed him for?  I say no, and think this move will ultimately benefit the team, especially with the high level of talent our blueline prospects are showing at the American League level.  Here is some food for thought: The $4.5 million/year Vancouver is giving him is the exact same amount that Paul Kariya signed for in 2005.  Sure, the cap has gone up and the max contract amounts are higher now, but it should still give a pretty good idea of what $4.5 million should buy a club that doesn’t have deep pockets.  In my eyes, Kariya, who posted 161 points over a remarkable 164 games over two years (he didn’t miss a single regular season game) was a much more solid bargain at $4.5 million per season than a marginally better-than-average defender

Verdict: Thanks for the memories Hammer, but it’s time for the Preds to move on.  Good Luck!

Dan Ellis

Dan Ellis is a great backup netminder with potential starter talent.  His ability was on display in 2008 when he broke Chris Mason’s franchise record for minutes without allowing a goal with a remarkable 233 minutes, 39 seconds of scoreless hockey.  At the time, it was the 5th longest scoreless streak by a goalie in the modern era.  Ellis also had a respectable record of 49-42-8 with 10 shutouts over his three seasons with the Preds…not too shabby, especially for a “backup.”  In 2008, Nashville signed him to a 2-year $3.5 million contract to keep him on board long enough to prove his 2007-2008 campaign wasn’t a fluke.  Unfortunately, after re-signing, Ellis seemed to lose some of his consistency, struggled with sub-par outings, and eventually lost his starting gig to Pekke Rinne.  Could the Predators have re-signed him if they showed him the money?  Ellis is making $3 million over two seasons in Tampa Bay, hardly an exorbitant sum for a solid backup goalie.  We surely could have swung that… BUT, I don’t think Ellis was ready to settle into the lifelong backup role just yet.  He’s only 30 years old, certainly not too old to be a starting netminder.  He got a taste of what it’s like to be a starter and wants more.  Ellis has always struck me as the type of player who’s not after the money, but truly loves to play the game more than anything.  In other words, he’d rather not sit on the bench and do in-game interviews with Pete Weber and Terry Crisp.  I think he’ll be a great addition in Tampa Bay, where he’ll certainly have a shot to become their #1 goalie.  But, he will be sorely missed as our insurance policy should Rinne go down. 

Verdict: There’s nothing we could have done to keep him.  I wish Ellie the best of luck and hope he earns the starting job in Tampa.

Side Note: 25 years ago, what hockey fan would have ever thought there would be two goalies on separate teams in Florida who made their way to the sunshine state through Nashville, TN?  Answer: None.

To be continued…