Believe it or not, there were more additions to the Nashville Predators’ roster than Matt Duchene this summer. In a previous piece, we looked at Steven Santini as one of the players general manager David Poile received in the P.K. Subban trade.
In addition to signing Duchene, the Predators also signed free agent Daniel Carr on July 1 to a one-year, $700,000 contract, but it went mostly under the radar because, well, the Predators landed free-agent prize, Duchene.
Big-Time College Winner
So, who is Carr and what can he bring to the Predators?
Carr went undrafted out of Union College where he played four seasons for the Dutchmen. During his time playing in the NCAA, the 27-year-old experienced an array of both individual and team success. In 2014, he helped lead Union College to their first NCAA title, defeating the number-one seed, the University of Minnesota, 7-4. During that season, Carr was awarded the ECAC Tournament MVP as well as being named to the All-Tournament and First All-Star Teams. The native of Sherwood Park, Alberta was also the recipient of a place on the NCAA East Second All-American Team.
However, the winning doesn’t stop there with Carr, he also helped Union College win back-to-back ECAC championships in 2012 and 2013. To say that he knows a little about winning would be an understatement.
Carr’s Pro Career
Since turning pro in 2014 Carr has spent the majority of his career in the AHL, playing with the Hamilton Bulldogs, St. John’s IceCaps, Laval Rocket and Chicago Wolves. Last season, while with the Wolves, he won the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player after scoring 30 goals and registering 41 assists for 71 points in just 52 games.
Now the Predators’ newest winger is trying to translate that success to the NHL level after short stints with the Montreal Canadians and the Vegas Golden Knights. With 100 NHL games under his belt, Carr has accumulated 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points.
When he received his shot at the NHL with the Canadians, it seemed that his career was going to skyrocket. Not only had he come from an illustrious college career, but in his first big-league shift, Carr recorded his first goal.
However, obviously his career has not continued the same trajectory that some may have predicted back on Dec. 5, 2015. Since then, he’s had to rely heavily on his work ethic to earn the next call up, but hard work is nothing new for Carr. He described to Sonny Sachdeva of Sportsnet earlier this year that coming from hockey in Alberta, “There’s a lot of emphasis on skill but there’s a lot of emphasis on playing hard.”
Like Santini, we already know where Carr will most likely play should he crack the Predators’ lineup. The gritty winger will be battling for a spot in the bottom-six rotation along with players such as Rocco Grimaldi, Miikka Salomaki and Frederick Gaudreau.
The Predators have had plenty of players of Carr’s caliber in the past and therefore you don’t need to look very hard in order to set reasonable expectations.
He has never amassed more than six goals in a single season while on an NHL roster. He has also never seen a full season, as his single-season career-high in games played is 38. Therefore, it seems Carr’s first major challenge will be to try and find a full-time role with the Predators.
If the former Golden Knight can find some consistency in playing time, then 10 goals and 15 assists seem reasonable and fair when setting expectations. The Predators have been notorious for struggling with secondary scoring, so being able to provide a boost in that department would do wonders for making a good impression with management. Remember, Carr was only handed a one-year contract, so this, in essence, could be seen as a bit of a “try-out” for Poile, who as we know is not scared of signing players long-term if they prove they are a good fit.
Although Carr has been described as a player who can be gritty when he needs to be, he does have that scoring touch. He demonstrated that he can put the puck in the net in the minors and has shown brief flashes of that same ability in the NHL. Predators fans may see Carr as a player who resembles Gabriel Bourque; he will never be in contention for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy, but he can help with scoring every now and again.
The only difference is, Carr will not have as much pressure on him to produce every game. Remember, when Bourque was on the Predators roster, scoring depth was virtually non-existent. During Bourque’s time with the Predators, which lasted five seasons, there were only two seasons where any Predator recorded more than 60 points.
Bourque’s single-season career-high with the Predators in goals was 11. Now, 11 goals seem to be fourth line type production, but believe it or not, he was fifth among Predators’ forwards during that season-shortened, lockout year. The point is, Bourque was relied on a little too heavy to produce offence and in reality, he was never that type of player. Carr doesn’t have to worry about such problems, the Predators will not live or die through his offence.
When setting expectations for Santini, he was compared to Dan Hamhuis, not because that’s who he best resembles in ability or playing style, but rather Hamhuis is a good comparison for the type of production Santini should deliver.
Looking at Carr, a player whose numbers stick out is Calle Jarnkrok. Again, as a player they aren’t that similar, for one, Jarnkrok is a lot more versatile and frankly, he’s a more skilled player. However, Jarnkrok never amasses massive numbers. So, expecting Carr to record more than 35 points may be a little unfair.
As mentioned, if the Alberta native can finish the season in that 25 to 30-point range it will have been a productive and fairly successful season for him. However, that number assumes that he can play upwards of 60 games for the Predators. Carr’s career-high NHL stat line is 6-10-16 recorded in 2017-18 when he suited up for 38 games with the Canadiens. So, lets keep that in mind when setting expectations for the former AHL MVP.
Bouncing between the NHL and AHL has more than likely made Carr appreciate every game he sees in the majors. Every called-up player hopes they never have to put on an AHL jersey for the rest of the season, if not ever again, as they try and establish a home on an NHL roster. With Carr’s work ethic and the fact that he’s only guaranteed one year in the Predators’ system, fans can rest assured that they will see some of the most inspired hockey the newcomer can produce.
As much as Poile was questioned for handing Colton Sissons that long-term contract, the Predators’ GM will love nothing more than to be the topic of discussion again because he’s done the same with Carr, and it’s not that crazy to see him do just that. Yes, Poile drives a hard bargain, as seen with the Grimaldi arbitration, but he is fair. If Carr can be a player who is seen as an asset rather than “just a guy” then he may see his relocation expenses come to a halt and his residence location changed to a place they call, Smashville.