It’s been a good month for Swiss hockey players and their bank accounts.
A little over a week after Nico Hischier inked a $50.75 million extension with the Devils, the Predators have signed defenseman Roman Josi to an eight-year deal worth $72.472 million. The contract, which carries a $9.059 million cap hit, kicks in beginning with the 2020-21 NHL season and features $33.75 million in signing bonuses. He’ll also be the owner of the third-highest cap hit among defenseman behind Erik Karlsson ($11.5 million) of the Sharks and the Kings’ Drew Doughty ($11 million).
“Roman Josi is one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League and our team leader as captain,” said Predators GM David Poile. “As he enters his prime, we look forward to Roman continuing to showcase his elite skills in Smashville and guiding our team in pursuit of the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup.”
2020-21: $750,000 salary / $11 million signing bonus 2021-22: $750,000 salary / $10 million signing bonus 2022-23: $1 million salary / $8.75 million signing bonus 2023-24: $5 million salary / $4 million signing bonus 2024-25: $9 million salary 2025-26: $8 million salary 2026-27: $7.222 million salary 2027-28: $7 million salary
In 574 career games in Nashville Josi has 98 goals and 361 points. He’s been a regular in the positive possession department (53% Corsi rating since 2014-15).
How much do the Predators value the 29-year-old Josi, who Poile dubbed “our Roger Federer” after naming him captain in Sept. 2017? His deal will include a full no-move clause for the entire length of the contract. The only other time that’s happened was when Pekka Rinne signed a seven-year extension in 2011 and the first four years of the deal featured such trade protection.
The Hurricanes headed into 2019-20 as the Hurricanes analytics darlings, a team that hogged the puck with considerable greed for the vulcanized rubber. Before them, the Kings were in a similar boat as a team that would often horde the Corsi and Fenwick, even while not always dominating the standings in the same way.
Maybe Tuesday was fitting, then, for how these two teams are moving in different directions. When Jonathan Quick isn’t in the net facing an existential crisis and Jack Campbell is looking like a first-rounder about a decade late, the Kings are proving to be a tougher-than-expected out.
That was the case against Carolina, as Los Angeles managed a 31-23 shots on goal advantage against a Hurricanes team that recently kept the dangerous Lightning without a SOG during a full period.
Despite that edge, the Kings couldn’t beat Mrazek, who pitched a 31-save shutout.
Mrazek’s off to a 4-0-0 start despite being mostly mediocre before Tuesday, and in a way, that’s scarier for the Hurricanes’ opponents. If they can win most nights just by denying possession to opponents, but occasionally get a gem from Mrazek, how scary can Carolina become?
Yes, Morgan “Typo” Rielly plays for a fast-paced, talented team like the Maple Leafs. He certainly gets to baste his stats in secondary helpers, and generally get access to opportunities that a comparable defenseman might not on a more tortoise-speed-like team would not.
Still, it’s hard not to shake your head in awe at Rielly’s 72 points from last season. That’s the sort of year that could make forwards unaffordable for their current team.
While his production has been streaky – Rielly failed to score in his previous three games before Tuesday – the talented blueliner had himself a night, collecting an assist on all four of the Maple Leafs’ goals in a 4-2 win against the Wild. That boosts him to nine points – all assists – in seven games so far this season, giving Rielly more fuel for a Norris argument — or at least a really big raise once his $5M cap hit expires after 2021-22.
The only thing that keeps him from being Tuesday’s top star is that all four of his assists were (wait for it) secondary ones.
The Canucks had some nice contestants in their 5-1 win against the Red Wings, including Brock Boeser (three assists) and J.T. Miller (two goals).
Edler gets the edge via his one-goal, two-assist night. For one thing, his goal was a game-winner. For another, Boeser piled up three secondary assists, while Edler had one primary and two secondary. Edler also fired three SOG, delivered three hits, and blocked four shots in an consummate 25 minutes of ice time on Tuesday night.
Highlight of the Night
The move Viktor Arvidsson made to set up Calle Jarnkrok‘s goal was really something else, and a reminder that Arvidsson is more than just a very nice (and remarkably underpaid) sniper.
Via NHL PR, Reilly’s four assists – all in the second period – match the franchise record for most in a single period, tying Rick Vaive, who managed the feat in 1984. Sportsnet notes that Brock Boeser’s three assists in the second period is the most since Henrik Sedin managed as many Feb. 18, 2012.
Better or worse: Dumping P.K. Subban‘s contract for little return to clear salary cap space for Matt Duchene is an interesting move because it deals from a position of strength (defense) to fill a position of need (forward). The Predators had one of the worst power play units the NHL has seen in quite some time and desperately needed another playmaker up front. Duchene’s contract carries some long-term risk, but it satisfies a short-term need and they still have a really good defense even without Subban. Duchene’s addition, combined with a full season from Mikael Granlund (who should be better than he was after joining the team from Minnesota at the trade deadline) makes this forward group significantly deeper. That probably makes the team a little better overall.
Strengths: It is still on the back end. Even without Subban the Predators still have an outstanding defense with Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm as the established veterans, while also having 2016 first-round pick Dante Fabbro starting to emerge. Behind them, the team has No. 1 caliber goalies in Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. Rinne is 36 and is going to start passing the torch to Saros, but he hasn’t really slowed down much and is still capable of playing at a high level.
Weaknesses: Until proven otherwise it is the power play unit because there was nothing productive about this unit a year ago. They finished the regular season 31st in success rate, were one of the worst power play units in the league at getting shots on goal, and then followed up that performance by getting completely shut out in their Round 1 loss to the Dallas Stars. You don’t need a great power play unit to win, but you still need to get something from it. The Predators received nothing from theirs all year.
Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): Peter Laviolette is an outstanding coach with a great track record of success in the NHL. He wins a lot, he has taken three different teams to the Stanley Cup Final, and his name is on it once. You can do a heck of a lot worse than him behind the bench, and if you are going to fire someone with that resume you better be darn sure you are getting a clear upgrade. But coaches like him get fired all the time, especially if ownership thinks the team has become stale. The Predators may not be at that point just yet, but the 2018-19 season was a bit of a regression and a small (emphasis on small) step in the wrong direction. Because of that we will put Laviolette’s hot seat rating at a 5, with a chance to move in either direction.
Three Most Fascinating Players: Juuse Saros, Mikael Granlund, and Viktor Arvidsson are three players worth watching.
Saros just because he is going to start seeing more playing time in net. He is probably already good enough to be a clear No. 1 on a significant number of teams around the league and gives the Predators a great 1A and 1B situation with Rinne. He has a .920 save percentage so far in the NHL and is the team’s long-term solution in goal.
Granlund was a huge addition at the trade deadline from the Minnesota Wild but really struggled after the trade, managing just two goals and five assists in 22 games (regular season and playoffs combined). He is better than that and has shown the ability to be a 70-point player in the league. If the Predators can get that version of him it could be a game-changer for their offense.
Speaking of game-changers on their offense, Arvidsson has been one of the most underrated goal-scorers in the league since he became a regular in the Predators’ lineup. The 2018-19 season was his best performance to date, scoring 34 goals in only 58 games. That is close to a 50-goal pace over 82 games. Can he repeat that performance this season?
Playoffs or lottery: Definitely the playoffs, it is just a matter of what kind of playoff team they are going to be. On paper, this still looks like a Stanley Cup contender and potentially one of the best teams in the NHL. They had the same look a year ago only to take a small step back during the regular season and then quietly exit in Round 1 of the playoffs.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — P.K. Subban now is with the New Jersey Devils, and Matt Duchene finally is a member of the Nashville Predators.
That sends as clear a message as possible that last season was not nearly good enough.
”It’s a message from the front office that just willing to do anything that’s going to make our team better,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said Thursday. ”I always personally feel like it’s on players when things don’t go as planned or as you wanted them to go. I think it’s the nature of this game. There’s always going to be changes, and you just got to get used to it.”
The Predators held off both Winnipeg and St. Louis to win a second straight Central Division title only to be ousted by Dallas in the first round. St. Louis went on to win its first Stanley Cup.
General manager David Poile wasted no time boosting offense, first trading away his highest-paid player in Subban to New Jersey. That created the space needed to sign Duchene to a seven-year, $56 million contract at the start of free agency.
The Predators remain confident this revamped roster can win Nashville’s first Stanley Cup and reverse the trend of exiting the playoffs earlier each season since winning the 2017 Western Conference title.
Some things to watch during the Predators’ training camp that starts Friday with on-ice testing:
The Predators had the NHL’s worst unit with the man advantage last season, and coach Peter Laviolette hired Dan Lambert (pronounced lam-BAIR) as an assistant coach this summer to help fix that issue. Lambert has had lots of experience working on the power play and spent the last two seasons as head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs. Spokane led the WHL scoring on 29.1 percent of its power play chances and converted at a 36.1 percent rate in the postseason.
Nashville has plenty of room for improvement, especially after going 0-for-16 on the power play against Dallas in the playoffs.
Captain Roman Josi is ready to work and leave the business of his next contract to his agent. Josi is heading into the final year of the contract he signed in June 2013 that pays him $4 million this season. Poile made clear at the end of last season that signing Josi to an extension was a top priority once they could start talking July 1. That likely will have to wait with the Predators having $600,000 in salary cap space. That is projected to jump to $21.4 million next season.
Eeli Tolvanen attracted so much attention when he joined the Predators after playing for Finland in the 2018 Winter Olympics. He lasted four games with Nashville last season before being sent to Milwaukee in the AHL where he had 35 points in 58 games. Tolvanen will be in camp trying to stick around longer this time around.
Defenseman Dante Fabbro joined the Predators last season in time to play four games before appearing in all six playoff games. Now the Predators have to figure out if the 6-foot, 189-pound defenseman should keep playing with veteran Dan Hamhuis or if he should partner with Josi or Mattias Ekholm.
Rinne went 30-19-4 with four shutouts as the undisputed starter, while Juuse Saros won 17 games with three shutouts as his backup. Rinne turns 37 on Nov. 3, and the 2018 Vezina Trophy winner said he knows he’ll have to fight for every game with Saros ready to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL.
Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Nashville Predators.
In the grand scheme of things, I’d rate Peter Laviolette as a very good coach, if not a great one.
Even so, there have been times when the Predators haven’t felt optimized, and that inspires some questions about whether swapping out P.K. Subban for Matt Duchene will take this team to the next level. Here are a few areas where Laviolette’s coaching style and decisions become a big x-factor.
Integrating the new guy: Nashville has experienced mixed results from David Poile’s many big trades.
Kyle Turris is facing a legit crisis of confidence. Mikael Granlund really didn’t move the needle, Wayne Simmonds barely produced any offense as a rental, and Nick Bonino‘s been a meh addition at best. Blaming Laviolette isn’t totally fair, but he must work to make sure that Duchene is placed in the best possible situation to succeed.
That might require some experimentation.
Would the Predators be better off with Duchene on a top line with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, or should Ryan Johansen remain between them? Should they try to find two different duos from those four? Might Duchene be better off as a winger with less offensive responsibility? Laviolette must find the right answers.
Rehabbing: It’s almost as important to get more out of Turris and Granlund.
Can Laviolette convince Turris to put struggles behind him? Don’t underestimate the power of a clean slate … unless Turris is simply done as an effective top-six or even top-nine forward.
Is Granlund better off as a center or wing, and where should he slot in the lineup? Nashville still needs to solve that riddle.
Their excessive reliance on point shots and far-too-defensemen-heavy focus was easy for even a layman to see, so why did Laviolette stand idly by? Did he learn from those issues, and if he didn’t, can his new PP coach Dan Lambert make up the difference?
Perhaps the Duchene – Subban roster swap will fix some of the problems for the Predators, as there should be an organic push to go for what works more (four forwards and one defenseman, forwards taking more shots) than before, when Nashville might have been trying to placate both Subban and Roman Josi. That said, as skilled as Josi is, if he’s still too much of a focal point on the power play, then the results may remain middling. With Subban out of town, Nashville may see a step back at even-strength, too, making better man advantage work that much more crucial.
Handling the goalies: On paper, Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros rank as one of the most reliable duos in the almost inherently unreliable goaltending position.
But there are still ways a coach can mess this up. Making the right calls regarding when to play Rinne or Saros – depending upon rest and possible playoff meltdowns – could very well decide a close series, or even a playoff push if things are bumpy at times in 2019-20.
Eeli’sstruggling: Eeli Tolvanen is far from the only frustrating prospect, but it feels like the risks are increasing that he’s going to fall into the Jesse Puljujarvi Zone of Prospect Dread. Why not give him a little more room to breathe and see if Tolvanen can keep his head above water enough at five-on-five that his deadly release could be another weapon for Nashville’s offense?
It won’t be easy to ace all of those tests, but Laviolette’s proficiency is a huge X-factor as the Predators hope to compete for a Stanley Cup.