Archive | July, 2011

What was the worst draft in Predators history?

Was the “Brian Finley draft” Nashville’s worst?

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Could 2009 Be David Poile’s Best Draft?

The Predators drafted Ryan Ellis, Taylor Beck, Michael Latta, Mattias Ekholm, Craig Smith and Gabriel Bourque in the first five rounds of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Could it become David Poile’s masterpiece?

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Craig Smith Latest of 2009 Draft Class to Join Organization

The last time David Poile lured a Wisconsin player out of school was when Ryan Suter left the Badgers to join the Predators organization.

Craig Smith, a Madison native like Suter, is the next, foregoing his last two years of eligibility to sign a with Nashville. Drafted in the fourth round in 2009 behind Ryan Ellis, Zach Budish, Charles-Olivier Roussel, Taylor Beck, and Michael Latta, Smith has spent the last two seasons at the University of Wisconsin. During those two seasons, including a freshman season where he was teammate to Hobey Baker winner and current Nashville Predator Blake Geoffrion, he scored 76 points (27 G – 49 A) in 82 games. In addition, Smith earned a spot on Team USA during the 2011 IIHF World Championship, where he scored 6 points (3 G – 3 A) in 7 games, ranking him as the #2 scorer for Team USA in the tournament.

While he isn’t the answer to the Predators’ goal scoring conundrum – he’s more of an assist guy – Smith is the type of playmaker that simply makes things happen. A good all-around player, Smith should be able to compete for a spot in the NHL coming straight out of camp.

Press release after the jump.

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Kostitsyn’s Return Ends Qualifying Offer Drama

With the resigning of Sergei Kostitsyn, the Predators have managed to avoid any major negative impact from the impending qualifying offer hearing. Since all players that would be appearing on Nashville’s roster in 2011-12 locked down, the result of the NHLPA’s grievance will most likely have little effect on the Predators organization.

However, the hearing may still occur due to the fact that Linus Klasen (who is returning to Sweden) and Andreas Thuresson (who is now property of the New York Rangers) have not signed contracts. The only potential snag is if Thuresson is ruled to be an unrestricted free agent. In this case, the trade with New York could be nullified, meaning that Brodie Dupont would return to the Rangers organization.

The return of SK74 means that the Predators get their leading scorer back. Since he signed a one year deal, it means that Kostitsyn will be a restricted free agent again next summer. However, it also means that Kostitsyn should put up another “contract year” performance.

Kostitsyn’s signing leaves only one major offseason hurdle for David Poile to focus on – the resigning of Shea Weber.

Press release after the jump.

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Preds Avoid Most of NHLPA’s Wrath by Locking Down RFAs

The good news – the Predators have resigned Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk, Cal O’Reilly and Chris Mueller. Spaling and Halischuk are both locked down for the next two years, while O’Reilly and Mueller each have a one year deal. Mueller, who spent the majority of the season in Milwaukee, will be on a two-way contract.

The better news – because all of these players have been locked down, the NHLPA’s grievance is, for the most part, moot. These four players, along with Linus Klasen, Andreas Thuresson and Sergei Kostitsyn, were the players whose qualifying offers were allegedly turned in late. Since Klasen is headed to Sweden and Thuresson is now part of the New York Rangers system, only Kostitsyn remains.

Of course, the bad news is that Kostitsyn’s remains status remains up in the air. The highest scoring Predators last year, Kostitsyn probably would have gone to arbitration anyway and the Predators probably would have signed him to a two year deal for whatever the arbitrator awarded him, provided it was within reason. In other words, if the qualifying offer situation had been resolved already, then arbitration would have been a formality for the most part. It’s almost a given that the Predators want to bring Kostitsyn back, but the potential now hangs in the air that he could become an unrestricted free agent.

Regardless of the looming NHLPA arbitration for Kostitsyn (and potentially the rights to Linus Klasen), the sound you hear coming from 501 Broadway is a major sigh of relief.

Press release after the jump.

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Stortini, Wilson Signings Provide Experience, Depth

While Tuesday’s signings of Zack Stortini and Kyle Wilson weren’t exactly groundbreaking or earth-shattering, they did provide the Predators with some more depth at forward.

Stortini, the epitome of an enforcer, comes to the Predators’ system from the Oilers organization. In his 256 NHL games with Edmonton, he has racked up an impressive 718 penalty minutes. Most likely, Stortini is being brought in to provide physicality and to potentially compete for the enforcer spot that Wade Belak vacated. Stortini does bring slightly more offensive ability than Belak…but then again, so does Pekka Rinne. Signed to a two-way contract, Stortini almost blatantly comes in as an experiment – a depth forward who can be shipped back to Milwaukee if there is no role for him in Nashville.

Wilson, on the other hand, could legitimately end up on Nashville’s roster. College teammate of favorite Mark Dekanich, Wilson has been a decent scorer in the American Hockey league, playing with the San Antonio Rampage the Hershey Bears and the Springfield Falcons, he has racked up 251 points (119 G – 132 A) in 321 games. While he hasn’t managed to stick on in the NHL, he has appeared in 34 NHL games for the Capitals and Blue Jackets, picking up 13 points (4 G -9 A). Even if he fails to make the NHL roster, his proficiency in the AHL should be an asset to Milwaukee.

Press releases after the jump.

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Bergfors Signing is Low Risk, High Reward

With the pick up of Niclas Bergfors, the Predators may see lightning strike twice.

Much like last season’s pick-up of Sergei Kostitsyn, David Poile has managed to pick up a young forward with high-scoring potential for a low dollar, short term contract. Bergfors had become an unrestricted free agent on Friday due to Florida not giving him a qualifying offer.

In what amounts to the equivalent of two full seasons in the league, Bergfors has scored 81 points (34 G – 47 A), which is exactly a half-point per game. In the right situation, Bergfors could become a 50-point player – an asset that the Predators have been relatively short on in the past couple of seasons.

The major knock on Bergfors is a lack of physicality and an aversion to playing defense – Sergei Kostitsyn had similar knocks against him last season. However, Bergfors is considered a goal scorer, albeit one who may not have figured out how to utilize his tools yet. Clearly, the Predators are hoping that they can bring the scorer out.

Even if the Bergfors “experiment” does not succeed, it’s a one-year salary that is barely above the league minimum. If he doesn’t work, he can be cut loose and barely register a blip on the radar.

Press release after the jump.

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Trade Frees Up Cap Room, Defensive Spots

Many had a hunch that David Poile had something up his sleeve, but I don’t think anyone saw this one coming.

Matthew Lombardi’s $3.5 million contract is off of Nashville’s books, but Cody Franson had to go as well. Franson may have been an insurance policy for Toronto in case Lombardi never came back. In other words, Brian Burke was willing to take on Lombardi’s contract, but he wanted something else, too.

Ignore the two acquisitions from the Predators. Brett Lebda is either going to be packed into another trade later on or he will be put on waivers and sent to Milwaukee. Robert Slaney is an ECHL forward who will see most of his time in Cincinnati next year.

This move was entirely addition by subtraction. After freeing up Franson’s spot as well as Shane O’Brien’s, there is room to bring up some of the young talented defensemen in the Predators system, most notably Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm. In addition, shedding Lombardi’s salary currently puts Nashville at the lowest payroll in the NHL, about $13 million under the salary cap basement.

The Predators now have plenty of room to offer Shea Weber a pretty hefty contract and have some breathing room for when negotiations start with Pekka Rinne and Ryan Suter.

One thing is pretty much for certain, anyone not wearing a 6, 12, 20 or 35 is probably considered expendable.

Press release after the jump.

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The Dexshow Hits The Road

Mark Dekanich may have finally found his path to the NHL.

The 25-year old Milwaukee Admirals goaltender signed a one-year, one-way contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. The deal guarantees him almost 10 times as much money as he was making in Milwaukee…not a bad weekend for someone who is also getting married on Saturday.

Stuck in an almost impossible situation last season in the Predators organization behind Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback, Dekanich managed to put up extremely impressive numbers during his All Star season in Milwaukee. During the 2010-11 campaign, “Dex” finished 3rd in the AHL in GAA with 2.02 and 1st in save percentage with a 0.931. Until a knee injury ended his season prematurely, he was quite possibly the best goalie in the American Hockey League. In addition, he saw a few games in Nashville and made it into a game against the Kings in which he played 50 minutes of relief.

The Colgate alum had a remarkable bounce back from last season, in which his struggles in net actually forced the Predators to send him to the ECHL for a weekend – a weekend in which he only let in one goal and managed to gather up ECHL player of the week.

“I’ve never been handed anything in my career,” Dekanich said last season. “I’ve always been overlooked and sort of the underdog in a lot of ways and that experience was no exception.”

Playing with a chip on his shoulder, he is probably the hardest worker on any team on which he plays.

While he would never admit it, signing with Columbus was most likely a very calculated decision – Steve Mason is currently the starting goaltender in Columbus, but has struggled mightily since his Calder Trophy year in 2008-2009. Dekanich has the work ethic to become a number one goaltender in the NHL and Steve Mason’s position may be prime for the taking.

It is quite possible that on October 7, when the Predators come to Columbus for the season opener, Mark Dekanich will be making his first career start against the team that drafted him 146th overall in 2006.

Press releases from Milwaukee and Columbus after the jump.

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