Photo Credit: NHL.com
With the news of the Roman Josi contract, the Nashville Predators have locked up more of their core players for the next several years. This news comes a summer after the team’s two franchise defensemen earned themselves a nice hefty payday; one signed his lifetime contract in Minnesota and the other signed an even more impressive offer sheet that was matched by Nashville. The inability to sign a pro-active contract was due to a few factors, including instability with the franchise with an ownership change and business savvy from a generational player. Whatever the reason, the previous two summers in Nashville have been laden with contract stress, and anxiety.
This off-season has been a departure from duct taping the roster together from year to year and more pro-active building. Over the course of the previous two years, Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, Patric Hornqvist, Kevin Klein, and now Roman Josi have pledged to play in Nashville for the next 5 seasons or longer. Couple this fact with the acquisition of Fillip Forsberg, and the development of Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Gabriel Bourque, and Taylor Beck (along with draft picks such as Austin Watson), the roster is now formed for years to come. Something the fans in Nashville haven’t been used to is stability, and it may be finally coming together.
With that, we look at where these deals stack up on the list of “Greatest Contracts done by David Poile as General Manager of the Nashville Predators”.
Obviously, Shea Weber’s contract was not written by David Poile or anyone associated with the Nashville Predators’ front office. So that’s excluded from this list.
2005- Two Years, $9 Million
Coming out of the lockout, Nashville needed to make hay with fans and the city. This was a period of severe instability and Craig Leipold was losing his patience. However, the team was pretty good. Kariya agreed, and for a brief period he became the team’s highest paid player in franchise history by signing that two year deal. The Predators won his services even bidding against nine other teams.
Kariya’s presence ignited the offense and put together two of the best regular seasons in team history. They were both ended in the first round of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks and Leipold put the team up for sale. Kariya exited.
The lasting impression of this contract is that it showed players that Nashville isn’t a hockey prison or even a mobile hockey prison en route to Hamilton. The playoff appearances likely garnered enough attention to attract a local group to purchase the team, and that excitement might not have happened without the presence of Kariya.
While Nashvillians booed him mercilessly upon his return as a member of the St. Louis Blues, his contributions have earned him a bit more respect for his bravery to sign with the fledgeling team in Music City when it wasn’t cool to do so.
2013- Four Years, $21.25 Million
Earlier this year, Patric Hörnqvist was the primary target on the board for the Nashville Predators to-do list. He was coming off of a tough year where he was sidelined with an injury, but showed incredible toughness while on the ice.
Weeks before signing his new deal, Hörnqvist was seen diving across the goal mouth to prevent an empty net goal during a game against the Blackhawks. While people can glorify this obvious example of his toughness, which sacrificing his body during a meaningless game for an overmatched team battling terrible injuries with a rookie saturated lineup is, it’s but a small sample of what Hörnqvist has done since arriving in Nashville. He scores goals, plays in an area of the ice few Predators dare to travel into, and outworks his opposition. That’s not bad at all for a player taken with the last pick of the 2005 Draft.
The Potential Legacy
Hörnqvist is a player that can feature on any of the top three lines and is superb on the power play. Signing a player with his skill set for a reasonable sum of money for the next four years is a move toward the future. Most of his stats can be attributed to his effort. Jerry West, an NBA legend known for greatness on the floor and in the front office, has been quoted saying that playing with sustained energy is as much of a talent as shooting and passing. West never played a hockey game to our knowledge, but he would appreciate Hörnqvist’s game.
As the roster is assembled for the future, don’t be surprised to see more and more fans wearing #27 jerseys in Nashville, and maybe with a letter “A” on them someday.
2011- Seven Years, $49 Million
Critics of this contract said that it was throwing crazy money at a player during his contract year. Fans of this deal will say that it was a bargain then and still a bargain now. Rinne would’ve commanded a deal that rivaled Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, and other comparable netminders. The Finnish native has the disposition of a simple, fun-loving man while not wearing the goalie pads while his contract is just as simple.
Rinne was coming off a season where he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy during the 2011 season and was the first of Nashville’s three crown jewels to commit to David Poile and the team. He went on to earn his second nomination in 2012.
While Rinne may not be on the level of Dominik Hasek, Mitch Korn’s other standout pupil, Rinne is the bedrock from which Nashville will build outward from. He has become the most beloved athlete in the city and his is the most popular jersey in Nashville. While his 2012-2013 season was one hindered by injury, Rinne still was able to steal a few wins for a Predators team that was overmatched on most nights.
As of this summer, the Predators have settled pieces of their roster and cemented pieces into the future. Rinne is part of the plans for most of the remainder of his career. If his play on the ice isn’t enough to earn the fans’ respect, his boldness to stay in a team facing some serious challenges in 2011 has.
2008- One Year, $500,000
What a find Joel Ward turned out to be. Picked from Minnesota’s scrapheap, Ward was signed for near the league minimum. For a team that’s always needed size, Ward made the opening night roster for the start of the season, scored in the opening game, and played very well for a scrappy team that missed the playoffs narrowly.
Ward was rewarded with a 2 year, $3 million deal that saw him play at his best during the postseason. His powerful skating style was a match for the Preds system, and he earned top-six minutes on many nights.
David Poile might receive a card during December from Ward these days. After the 2011 season, Joel Ward hit the open market and signed a 4 year, $12 million deal in Washington. At times, he’s struggled for a Capitals team that’s been in the state of flux behind the bench with their coaching changes, but his game excelled in the playoffs in 2012.
Upon his first trip back to Nashville, Ward was well-received with a standing ovation and a tribute highlight video. For a hockey market that’s come to know good effort and overachieving, Ward still has a good amount of fans in Nashville. For David Poile, it was a master stroke of finding players to work in the system Barry Trotz employs. His eye for talent has never been doubted.
2013- Seven Years, $28 Million
Roman Josi is coming off of a year of change, but certainly no “sophomore slump”. In 2011-2012, Josi was brought up from the AHL to play alongside Kevin Klein and relieve Jon Blum of his spot. He flourished next to the physical defenseman and made very few rookie miscues. After the departure of Ryan Suter, even more was asked of the young Swiss star. He stepped up to the first pairing alongside Shea Weber and earned the confidence of the fans and ownership alike.
Josi turned in a respectable season for a team that was riddled with injuries. His partnership with Weber developed as the season went on, despite the woeful record. During the off-season he shined in the IIHF World Championships, being named the MVP of the tournament.
The Potential Legacy
Coming as a mild surprise, Josi signed a long term deal keeping him in gold until after he’s 30. His cap hit is averaged to $4 Million, but his starting rate is $2.5 Million for next season. Much is now expected for him, but thus far he has done nothing to disappoint.
This contract even further cement the Predators as a team not just built for the next two years, with veterans such as Paul Gaustad and Mike Fisher, but with players such as Roman Josi with their best years ahead of them. It’s a gamble, but Poile and company plan on using the new CBA to their advantage.
It’s a simple man’s thought that David Poile has learned a lesson about today’s league with the Ryan Suter contract. The lesson is that Nashville isn’t Montreal, Toronto, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, the Upper Midwest, or British Columbia. Players don’t come to Nashville to “move back home” and get closer to their family. Instead, they come to Tennessee the way the settlers did over 250 years ago; they come seeking opportunity.
Joel Ward is a fine example of that, and the same can be said of a few others. Yet while it doesn’t have the NHL history of the more tradition-rich markets, it does have its own unique advantages. With this new found stability forged by good draft picks, fans can argue that the team has never been in better position for the long term. Much of this is the work of David Poile, who can now lock his prized draft picks into place with pro-active contracts, a far cry from 2011 when the future seemingly rested on the offseason decisions of one man.