T o further bolster their bottom two lines, the Nashville Predators signed former Dallas Stars forward Eric Nystrom to a 4-year, $10 million deal on Friday afternoon.
“I’m so excited to be signing in Nashville,” Nystrom said. “Obviously playing against them for a long time, I know the type of system that they play and the type of team that they have and I think I fit in really well in that system. I’m so excited to get the season going. I cannot wait.”
A product of the United States Development Team, Nystrom was drafted by the Calgary Flames with the 10th overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft. Instead of making the leap to professional hockey or to Canadian major junior, Nystrom opted to spend 4 years at the University of Michigan and earn his Bachelor’s Degree. In 2005-06, Nystrom made his NHL debut with Calgary, spending 2 games on the NHL roster before being assigned to the Flames’ AHL affiliate in Omaha. It took Nystrom another two years before he finally clawed his way back into Calgary’s lineup.
Altogether, Nystrom spent 5 seasons in the Flames organization before joining the Minnesota Wild for a season and then, ultimately, the Dallas Stars.
Before arriving on the Nashville Predators doorstep on Friday afternoon, Nystrom had played in 408 NHL games and registered 83 points (46 G – 37 A). Most importantly, for Nystrom’s style of play. he has registered 306 penalty minutes in his career.
“I think I fit the mold really well there,” Nystrom said.”I know that they are an honest, hard-working team. Anybody I’ve known that’s played for Barry Trotz has had the highest regard for him as a coach. I knew that I could fit in here, have a really good role on the team and contribute and that my style of play would fit in well. That made my decision easy.”
Nystrom is especially excited to be joining a team that emphasizes what Trotz and general manager David Poile like to call “Predator hockey” – hard working, character players. He was also pleased that the other players Nashville signed on Friday seemed to meet that identity.
“Obviously, grit and character and work ethic is really important to have a successful team,” Nystrom said. “I played with Matt Cullen (in Minnesota) and he works so hard. Hendricks from Washington is a really gritty player and determined player. Obviously Stalberg just won the Cup and he knows what it takes. Adding guys like that is only going to make the team better.”
A gritty player, Nystrom had actually seen his fights and penalty minutes dwindle over the past few seasons before both ramped back up in 2012-13. Two of Nystrom’s fighting majors, oddly enough, came against Nashville this season as he dropped the gloves against Ryan Ellis and against Brandon Yip, the player whose roster spot he likely took. With such an up-close and personal look at the Predators, Nystrom apparently likes what he saw and felt that he could help Nashville get back to the gritty style of hockey for which they are known.
“They’ve been consistently a very good hockey team and they had a little bit of an off year this year,” Nystrom said. “I want to help get them back to where the team was the previous year. I think that’s why they added the guys that they did – they think that we can help them get back to that point. You know what, it was a tough year for them, but every season is different – the team changes a lot. I think that I can really help this team get back to where everybody wants to be.”
Photo: Bridget Samuels