Mike Fisher

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Fisher also contacted by Canada for Olympics along with Doan, Iginla

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Add Mike Fisher to the list of veteran free agents who’ve at least been contacted to represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Hockey Canada VP of hockey operations Scott Salmond revealed as much to TSN 1040 on Thursday while also noting their interest in Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla.

“As Hockey Canada we have tremendous respect for all of those players,” Salmond said. “There’s no question that their leadership and their experience could be invaluable to our team.”

(Read more about Canada contacting Doan and Iginla specifically in this post.)

Fisher, 37, shares certain similarities with Doan and Iginla. All three players have captained NHL teams, each brings a mixture of scoring ability and grit to the table, and they all obviously have plenty of experience.

Pending talks with Nashville

On the other hand, there are a few potential differences that make Fisher’s case interesting.

For one thing, Fisher hasn’t decided – or hasn’t shared his decision – regarding a return to the Nashville Predators just yet. That choice is expected to come sometime next week.

The thing is, Fisher at least has some say in that matter, as he might make the choice not to come back. In the cases of Doan and Iginla, they might struggle to find suitors in free agency (or at least find suitors willing to give them the specific deals they seek).

A first for Fisher?

While that might hurt Canada’s chances, there’s another wrinkle: Fisher hasn’t really gotten “the call” quite like Doan or Iginla have. Fisher hasn’t ever suited up for Canada in the Olympics and, according to Hockey Reference, hasn’t suited up for Canada since the 2009 World Championships.

Perhaps that rare opportunity might trump playing another season in the NHL? A few weeks of international hockey wouldn’t represent the same wear-and-tear as playing through an 82-game season.

(There’s also at least the concept of playing in the Olympics and then trying to find a deal with the Predators, however unlikely that might be.)

While Doan and especially Iginla stand as bigger names, you could make a very reasonable argument that Fisher actually has more left in the tank. He’s also a center, which Canada might deem a lacking position heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics.

For all we know, none of these three forwards will bite at the opportunity. This seems like one of those creative ideas that might not work out.

It’s easy to see why Canada’s reps would at least get the conversation going, and Fisher might just be the best target to aim for.

Preds expect answer from Fisher next week

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We should find out next week if Mike Fisher is going to retire or keep playing for the Predators.

Fisher, Nashville’s 37-year-old captain, is an unrestricted free agent. He confirmed last month that he was considering retirement. But first, he needed some time to think.

Yesterday, Preds GM David Poile said he expected an answer soon.

“I’m hoping to talk to him later this week to see where he’s at,” Poile said, per The Tennessean. “I’d say by next week, we should have an update.”

Fisher had 18 goals and 24 assists in 72 games last season, but then had just four assists in 20 playoff games as the Preds reached their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

If Fisher re-signs, he’ll likely be in the bottom six next season, with Ryan Johansen and newly signed Nick Bonino expected to center the top two lines. Fisher could even be the fourth-line center or a winger, allowing the likes of Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, and Frederick Gaudreau to take on bigger roles.

But for Fisher, hockey isn’t everything, and after more than 1,000 games in the NHL, he may simply opt to hang up the skates.

“Everyone wants to win in this game, no one probably more than me,” Fisher said. “But there’s other things. At the end of the day, this is a game. It’s an important part of my life, but it’s not everything.”

Related: Predators take Stanley Cup loss with grace and optimism

Who’s still left? Here are 10 notable UFAs

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The oldest: Jaromir Jagr, 45, won’t be returning to the Florida Panthers. But he still wants to play. The future Hall of Famer had 16 goals and 30 assists in 82 games last season.

The most points last season: Thomas Vanek, 33, was reportedly talking with “several teams” on July 1, but no deal yet. Vanek split 2016-17 between Detroit and Florida. The fact he only scored two goals in 20 games for the Panthers may have hurt his value, but he did have 48 points in 68 games overall.

The most goals: Mike Fisher, 37, is apparently considering retirement. But if he decides to keep playing, it’s hard to imagine he signs with anyone but Nashville. Fisher had 18 goals in 72 games last season, then helped the Predators to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

The most points by a defenseman: Andrei Markov had 36 points (6G, 30A) for Montreal. The Habs would like to bring the 38-year-old back, but GM Marc Bergevin says his final offer has been made. The message to Markov? Take it or leave it.

The most right-shot defenseman: We’ll give this to Cody Franson, the 29-year-old who’s spent the last two years in Buffalo. Franson is no savior, but he’s not too old, and he was pretty productive on the power play during his days with the Maple Leafs.

The most Rocket Richard Trophies: Jarome Iginla, 40, is still unsigned. The two-time leading goalscorer in the NHL scored just 14 times last season for Colorado. He wants to keep playing, but it remains to be seen if he’ll get an offer he likes.

The most to prove: That would be Shane Doan, 40, after being cut loose by the Arizona Coyotes. Doan had just six goals in 74 games, but apparently some teams are interested.

The most fast (a.k.a. the fastest): Viktor Stalberg can still fly at 31 years old, and he’s got plenty of postseason experience to boot. The Ottawa Senators would like to keep him, and he’d like to stay. But the two sides have yet to reach a deal, so he may have to look elsewhere.

The most under-30: Among regular NHLers last season, 24-year-old defenseman Nikita Nesterov is the youngest UFA. He became an unrestricted free agent after the Canadiens chose not to extend a qualifying offer.

The most points by an under-30 UFA: That honor belongs to 26-year-old forward Alex Chiasson, who was cut loose by the Calgary Flames after registering 12 goals and 12 assists in 81 games.

Why bringing back Scott Hartnell was a great move for the Predators

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Of the many reunions that took place on the first day of free agency the Nashville Predators’ move to bring back Scott Hartnell on a one-year, $1 million contract might have been the best one.

It also might have been one of the better free agent signings — reunion or not — any team made on the day. Or will make this entire summer.

The Predators needed to make some moves to address their forward lines after losing James Neal in the expansion draft and not knowing for sure whether or not they will get Mike Fisher back.

To this point they have been unable to swing a deal for an impact player — like Colorado Avalanche star Matt Duchene — but they did add Nick Bonino and Hartnell into the mix as they look to make another run at the Stanley Cup in 2017-18. But while Bonino’s contract will get most of the attention because of his role on a back-to-back Stanley Cup winner, as well as the years and dollar figures his contract carries, Hartnell’s small one-year deal might end up being the best value out of the two.

Even though Hartnell’s overall role and production declined rapidly this past season in Columbus and resulted in the remainder of his contract being bought out this summer, making him an unrestricted free agent, he should still provide plenty of value to the Predators.

The key to Hartnell’s value is that he still looks like a pretty outstanding player at 5-on-5.

Even though he logged an average of just 10 minutes of even-strength ice-time per game, he still managed to record 34 points during those minutes, the fifth most on the Blue Jackets. That total would have been fourth among all Predators forwards this past season, and more than outgoing forwards Neal and Colin Wilson.

It gets even better when you drill it down to a per-minute basis where his 2.42 points per 60 minutes of even-strength play was the eighth highest total in the entire league. 

He did all of that while still posting strong possession numbers, including a 52.4 percent Corsi that was fourth best on the Blue Jackets.

A lot of his overall decline in production this past season seemed to have more to do with a change in his role (less ice time overall, and especially less power play time) than a sharp decline in ability. At 35 he is obviously not going to be the player he was earlier in his career when he was an occasional 30-35 goal scorer, but given his cage-rattling style of play and even-strength production he should still have plenty to offer a Stanley Cup contender.

Especially when it is only going to cost them $1 million against the cap.

Nick Bonino going to Predators for reported four-year, $16.4 million deal

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After winning back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins it appears as if veteran center Nick Bonino is moving on and will be signing with the team he just helped beat in this year’s Final.

According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Bonino has signed with the Nashville Predators on Saturday on a four-year contract that will pay him $4.1 million per season.

That addition could also indicate that Nashville will not be getting veteran center Mike Fisher back (he was contemplating retirement) while it would almost certainly give Bonino an expanded role from the one he had in Pittsburgh the past two seasons where he was the team’s third-line center.

During the later stages of the 2015-16 season and through their Stanley Cup run that year that third line, which also consisted of Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin, was arguably Pittsburgh’s best and one of the driving forces behind their championship. It never seemed to produce the same magic this year but Bonino still had his moments, especially during the stretch run of the regular season where he scored the bulk of his 18 goals.

This summer was probably the perfect time for Bonino to hit the unrestricted free agent market.

Not only is it a thin crop of top-line players, especially at center, but he also has a lot of the intangible factors working in his favor, including the fact he is a two-time Cup winner and has scored some huge goals in big moments (the “clutch” factor).

One thing that is going to be a pretty big adjustment for him is that he is probably going to be expected to carry a bit more of the offensive workload in Nashville where it is looking like he would be the No. 2 center behind Ryan Johansen. In Pittsburgh, he had the luxury of playing on the third-line behind two of the best offensive players in the world. He could focus more on the defensive side of the game and being more of a complementary player on a cheap contract where any offense he provided was a bonus. Now, with a bigger price tag and what should be a bigger role expectations are going to be a lot higher.