I’m sure it will be a little strange for Nino Niederreiter on Thursday night as the Nashville Predators will be taking on the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes.
Niederreiter spent four seasons with the Hurricanes but was left as an unrestricted free agent and eventually signed by the Predators. An addition that was applauded by most as a strong signing for the Predators.
Despite Niederreiter putting up 44 points, his highest point total with the Hurricanes, he was left on the open market. I don’t think it was easy for the Canes fans to see him lost on the free agent market at the time.
Although the Predators have underperformed and currently out of a playoff spot, Niederreiter has delivered on the offensive end by scoring 12 goals, which is second on the team only to Filip Forsberg.
“El Nino” has been a Calming Force for the Nashville Predators
Niederreiter just had his first three-point game of his Predators career, notching three assists in the 6-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. His last three-point game was back in February 2019 while playing for the Hurricanes.
Obviously, the Hurricanes are showing us they’re just fine without Niederreiter as they’ve lost just twice in over a month and have the second-most points in the NHL, only trailing the Boston Bruins.
I’m hoping the Carolina fans give Niederreiter a warm welcome back and some type of video tribute is planned for him. He has shown to be an awesome teammate, a hard-worker on the ice and willing to play a defensive style that the Predators thrive off of.
These two teams had a pretty nasty six-game series back in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Hurricanes were the heavy favorites, but the Predators didn’t go down quietly by storming back to tie the series at two games apiece before the talent gap for the Hurricanes overtook the series.
Niederreiter was kind of an instigator in that series. I remember him being a nuisance, and the type of player you hate to go up against but love to have on your side. He also scored the game-winner in Game 1 of that series after the score was tied at 2-2 going into the third period.
Then there’s that time when Niederreiter clashed with our beloved Juuse Saros and given the roughing penalty. That was in a March 2021 game that eventually ended in a $5,000 fine and Saros missing some time with an upper-body injury.
Here’s a look at that clash between Niederreiter and Saros back in 2021, to refresh your memory:
In 36 career games against the Predators, Niederreiter put up 19 points and three game-winning goals.
Niederreiter has one more year left on his $4M contract and will then become a UFA in the summer of 2024. It makes him a possible trade piece if the Predators fall way out of the playoff picture when the March 3 trade deadline gets closer.
I’m not sure if Niederreiter has a long-term future with the Predators, but we’re happy to have him while we do and hope his return to Raleigh is met with cheers from the fans before they have to see “El Nino” spoil the warm reception with a Nashville Predators win.
Players won’t admit it usually, but I’m sure it means a little extra for Niederreiter tonight to stick it to the team that didn’t re-sign him after putting up 44 points and being third on the team in goals.