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Predators make Mike Fisher signing official, bolster center depth

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Nearly a month after his surprise return, the Nashville Predators officially announced that Mike Fisher has a signed a deal for the remainder of the season with a pro-rated $1 million salary.

The 37-year-old Fisher retired over the summer after 17 seasons in the NHL to spend more time with his family. When he decided to make a return he needed to sign a contract with the Predators by Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline in order to be eligible for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I really didn’t think I was going to do it, to be honest,” Fisher said during the press conference last month announcing his return. “It was pretty much a no, but as it got closer and then I had some other conversations, that turned (into) a yes.”

Fisher never stopped watching Predators games while enjoying retirement and that’s when he started getting the itch. His wife, singer Carrie Underwood, kept asking him what he was going to do. “She wanted me to do it. She’s usually right,” he said.

This acquisiton at the trade deadline gives the Predators more depth down the middle. There’s Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok all being options for Peter Laviolette at center, with possibilities for the wing as well. They saw how important it is to have capable bodies in that position during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

“I just thought about the opportunity, how good this team is,” Fisher said. “Thought a lot about the run last year and what could be. … The closer I got towards it, the (more) I thought it would be such a great opportunity. … I’m ready for it.”

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Rookies get all the goals

Associated Press
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Players of the Night:

Travis Dermott and Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs: Both Dermott and Holl scored their first NHL goals on Wednesday, Dermott in his ninth NHL game and Holl in his first. Dermott assisted on Holl’s goal, because of course he did.

Chandler Stephenson, Washington Capitals: Stephenson scored his third and fourth career NHL goals to help drag the Capitals back from an early first-period 2-0 deficit. His goals began a run of five straight for the Caps, who beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Jones sure could have used some run support on Wednesday. He made 43 of 44 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Someone owes the man a dinner.

Highlights of the Night:

Nice pass from Wayne Simmonds. Nice finish from Nolan Patrick.

Geez, Louise, Tomas Tatar.

Factoids of the Night:

MISC:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 5, Islanders 0

Capitals 5, Flyers 3

Red Wings 2, Sharks 1 (SO)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Mike Fisher comes out of retirement to rejoin Nashville Predators

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One year of retirement was apparently enough for Mike Fisher

On Wednesday, the 37-year-old Fisher announced that he will be coming out of retirement to rejoin the Nashville Predators for the remainder of the 2017-18 NHL season. He hit the ice this morning with the plan to eventually participate in practice and then sign a contract before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Fisher retired in August after 17 seasons between the Ottawa Senators and Predators. “I don’t believe it came in a single instance or some aha moment, but as time passed, I gradually became certain that it was right for me to retire. I believe God gave me the ability to play hockey, and I was helped by dozens of individuals along the way, so it’s not just up to me on when it’s time to say goodbye,” he wrote in a letter to fans in the Tennessean.

Fisher scored 18 goals and recorded 42 points with the Predators last season and played in 20 of their 22 Stanley Cup Playoff games as Nashville marched to the Final.

This move would further cement the depth down the middle for Peter Laviolette’s squad. Along with Fisher, there’s Kyle Turris, Ryan Johansen, Nick Bonino, Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons and Frederic Gaudreau — so, plenty of options. As the Predators found out in the Final last season, you can never have enough healthy bodies to play center.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Preds hope Moses signing will boost third line offensively

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The Nashville Predators wanted more depth scoring and they went all the way to the KHL to get it. Steve Moses, who signed a one-year, $1 million contract, is tentatively projected to play on Nashville’s third line and could make that unit significantly more dangerous.

“Goal-scoring was something we wanted to put more of in our lineup,” Predators GM David Poile told The Tennessean. “Here’s a guy that’s free, here’s a guy that has all those qualities and why not take a chance on somebody like that? He’s not big, but he’s fast and he can score. Hopefully, there’s got to be a place for him in our lineup.

“Last year, we had two lines, the (Mike) Fisher and (Mike) Ribeiro lines, that were very prolific offensively. And our third and fourth lines (were) somewhat equal, very good defensively, (but) didn’t provide, with all due respect, too much for us offensively. I don’t want to be greedy, but would like to try to push the envelope a little bit more.”

Nashville had six forwards last season that recorded at least 15 goals in Filip Forsberg, Craig Smith, James Neal, Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher, and Mike Ribeiro. When they were all healthy, combinations of those forwards typically compromised the team’s top two lines. After those six though, Nashville’s next best forward when it came to goals scored was Taylor Beck, who netted eight markers in 62 contests.

Meanwhile, Moses had 36 goals and 57 points in 60 games with the KHL’s Jokerit Helsinki. He is a product of the University of New Hampshire, but the 26-year-old has spent the last three seasons playing in Europe.

Former UNH teammate James van Riemsdyk said, “(Moses) skates like the wind. He’s really well built. He won’t get thrown around over here.”

Related: Video: New Pred Moses opens U.S. scoring at Worlds with beauty goal

Preds’ biggest question: Are they strong enough at center?

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When you think about the key components of recent championship teams, the Nashville Predators check a lot of the boxes.

  • Whether you prefer Shea Weber or Roman Josi, they boast at least one elite defenseman, and the rest of their group is impressive (heck, Seth Jones may have the highest ceiling of them all).
  • Pekka Rinne sure looked like a $7 million goalie last season. In fact, he wasn’t far off of Carey Price’s pace before getting injured.
  • Young forwards abound, especially at the wing, as Filip Forsberg, James Neal, Colin Wilson and Craig Smith are all in the meat of their primes.

All things considered, the Predators’ mammoth jump in 2014-15 actually made a lot of sense.

That said, the West is rugged, and there’s a glaring question: are they strong enough down the middle?

Look, Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro bring plenty to the table; the Predators brought both pivots back for a reason.

Do they really stack up to the best of the best, though?

Ribero exceeded most, if not all, expectations by scoring 62 points, which is very nice but not quite “elite” production. Fisher is trumpeted as a strong two-way player, yet his possession stats argue that he may be a little more limited than some think.

Many would argue that, ideally, both would either be second-line centers or perhaps one should be on the second line (Ribeiro) with the other on the third (Fisher).

Look back at this list of championship-winners from the last decade or so and ponder their situations down the middle:

2015: Chicago Blackhawks
2014: Los Angeles Kings
2013: Blackhawks
2012: Kings
2011: Boston Bruins
2010: Blackhawks
2009: Pittsburgh Penguins
2008: Detroit Red Wings
2007: Anaheim Ducks
2006: Carolina Hurricanes
2004: Tampa Bay Lightning

Most, if not all, of those teams boasted at least one serious difference-maker at center. The Ducks might be the best team for Nashville to emulate, right down to their stacked defense corps and solid group of centers (Ryan Getzlaf wasn’t yet Ryan Getzlaf in 2007).

Does this guarantee that the Predators cannot top last season’s work? Not necessarily, but the center position’s questions stick out like a sore thumb.