Fourteen years for four guys. That was the price of doing business for the Nashville Predators when free agency opened on July 5. Actually, it was fourteen years and $36.4 million. The issue? The typically thrifty Predators poured big money into players who may only give them small returns.
Did a lack of patience and a complete misread of the free agent marketplace handcuff the Predators?
Less than a month after Nashville made headlines signing forwards Viktor Stalberg, Eric Nystrom, Matt Cullen, and Matt Hendricks, the free agent market appears to feature … similar players who will probably sign 0ne-year deasl for less money.
Sounds like a big-time disaster for a small market team.
Admittedly, I don’t hate all the signings for the Predators. Stalberg gives Nashville size, scoring potential, and a winning pedigree coming from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Nystrom is underrated and probably the perfect Predators in a Barry Trotz lineup. He’s smart , dependable, hard-working, a great penalty killer, and has the ability to score goals. Don’t be surprised if he regularly appears in the top-9 and ends up being a fan favorite in Music City. Also, don’t be surprised if it comes out that no other team was offering more than a one or two-year deal for Nystrom before the Predators swooped in and offered four.
Cullen is a solid center who has good face-off skills, can kill penalties, and contribute offensively. But did Nashville need to give him two years? Hendricks is another solid energy player, but again would any other team in the league ever consider offering him a multi-year contract much less four years?
The Predators probably made a mistake by not waiting on the market. Brad Boyes, Brenden Morrow, Mason Raymond, Mikhail Grabovski, Milan Hejduk, and Damien Brunner are among the players still available on the free agent market as we enter the month of August. Most will sign one-year deals before the start of training camp looking to re-establish their value. Guys like Derek Roy, Jaromir Jagr, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Benoit Pouilot have already signed one-year deals with various clubs.
With an uncertain future ahead in 2013-14, the Predators could have targeted players who would sign one-year deals and who could be flipped at the deadline for future assets if the team is not in playoff contention. Two of the players listed above were dealt at the deadline last season for a pair of top-60 picks in the 2013 draft.
Who do you think has better trade value: a player like Roy on a one-year deal or a player like Hendricks on a four-year deal? The Predators probably would have been better off signing guys on shorter terms who might be able to add future assets instead of handing out four-year deals to third and fourth line players.