The Nashville Predators will not have to look too far to find a fourth-line center next season.
Paul Gaustad, 34, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and despite his excellence in the face-off dot, he is not expected to be re-signed by the Predators.
The 22-year-old Colton Sissons signed a three-year, $1.875 million contract with Nashville last week. He will make $575,000 at the NHL level and $100,000 at the AHL level in 2016-17 and $650,000 in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
“It was pretty special when I signed that contract,” said Sissons, whom Nashville selected in the second round (50th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, on Saturday. “It’s nerve racking when you’re in the final year of your entry-level [deal], and you don’t know if you’re going to have a job next year. To sign for three years, just to know that I’ve got that going on for the next three years is huge. I’ve had some good time with the Predators and the [Milwaukee] Admirals, and I cannot wait to continue that progress.”
Though Sissons, 6 feet 1 inches, 200 pounds, is considerably smaller than Gaustad, 6 feet 5 inches, 227 pounds, Sissons is a great skater for his size and is not shy to throw the body around.
Gaustad’s biggest contribution to the Predators since he was acquired at the 2012 trade deadline from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a first-round pick is his faceoff abilities. Gaustad’s faceoff win percentage of 55.9 percent ranks 20th among players who have taken at least 100 draws.
But guess who ranks first in the same category? Sissons, who has won 59 percent.
Sissons knows the role that awaits him in Nashville, and he has been working on his face-off abilities in Milwaukee.
“I’ve been scratching and crawling to become a full-time NHLer,” Sissons said. “I feel I am right on the door step, and hopefully, I can earn a spot next year.
“I have the possibility of filling Gaustad’s role, so faceoffs are huge. They rely on him big time in that department. I’m really working on that.”
Injuries to Mike Fisher and Gaustad allowed Sissons to appear in 19 games for the Predators this season. He has a goal and an assist to his credit. Sissons has spent the majority of the year as captain of the Admirals, scoring eight goals and 18 points in 35 games.
While Sissons will not be asked to put up 20 goals next season, he will be asked to win faceoffs. And so far, he is on the path be Nashville’s prodigy face-off ace for the next three years.