School is starting and the grading has begun. Unless David Poile shocks us with something between now and training camp, the Nashville Predators will to go with what they have. I think it’s time we took a look at the offseason and see how the Preds fared.
Most folks thought it would be a very quiet offseason but things were a little busier than predicted. The first thing they did was keep the players that they wanted to. Both of the 35-year-old “Mikes” got two-year contracts that will probably finish their time with the Preds and shore up the center position too. Fisher and Ribeiro are happy and the contracts were fair to both sides.
They also signed both Gabby Bourque and Calle Jarnkrok to one year deals and Austin Watson to a two-year deal that is two-way for the first year and one-way for the second year. That means they expect him with the big club some time this year or next.
The Preds had sent their first round draft pick to Toronto for the ill-fated trade for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. In the second, they took highly regarded Russian center Yakov Trenin and felt that they got great value. They chose four centers, a defenseman and a couple of goaltenders to fill the pipeline. They also signed both Trenin and fellow Russian, 2014 second-rounder Vladislav Kamenev to three-year entry-level deals and both will play in North America this year.
The morning of the start of Free Agency I thought that the two things I really wanted was an upgrade for Anton Volchenkov and to somehow take a flyer on Cody Hodgson who was bought out by the Sabres. Bingo! We brought in Barret Jackman, a veteran stay-at-home defenseman from St. Louis who will really let Seth Jones do his stuff and maybe hurt our divisional rival a bit too.
Then we signed Hodgson with a safe $1 million 1 year deal. He is David Poile’s newest reclamation project and if it works out anything near what happened last year with Mike Ribeiro, he’s a steal. If he can do what he’s capable of, there is a tremendous upside.
Don’t forget about Steve Moses, who they signed during the playoffs last year who scored a record-breaking 36 goals in the KHL. We wrote about him this week here. They also traded Taylor Beck and Magnus Hellberg and added D Conor Allen, FW Max Reinhart and minor league FW Jamie Devane. These were all housekeeping deals to add depth to Milwaukee or help moving salary around.
After the dust settled from free agency, they got down to business with Craig Smith and Colin Wilson, two of their young guns and signed them to cap friendly four-year deals just before arbitration. Both should be top six forwards and may improve on their 20 plus goal seasons.
All in all, the fiscally responsible Predators solidified the team that is coming off a very successful run last year. They added a couple of pieces and have high hopes for youngsters like Kevin Fiala, Viktor Arvidsson and Austin Watson. They still saved plenty of money for next year to re-sign Seth Jones, Mattias Ekholm and Filip Forsberg after their entry-level deals end.
They didn’t mortgage the future for a big name like Phil Kessel and I’m okay with that. I’d love to see a goal scoring forward fall in our laps and maybe that will be Cody Hodgson. I still think we could upgrade our backup goaltending and take some pressure off Pekka Rinne. I give the offseason a solid B+ grade. We got better and didn’t break the bank doing it. Bring on the season!
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