The Nashville Predators unexpectedly signed KHL winger Steve Moses to a one-year, $1 million contract on Thursday. Because the contract is for the 2015-16 season, Moses will be unable to play for Nashville during their playoff run. Moses reportedly turned down offers from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs to sign with the Predators.
Moses, 25, set a goal-scoring record in the KHL last season with Jokerit Helsinki by scoring 36 goals in 60 games. In total, the 2015 KHL all-star had 57 points — nearly a point per game.
The native of Leominster, Massachusetts played college hockey at the University of New Hampshire from 2008-12. During those four seasons, Moses amassed 98 points (47 g, 51 a) in 148 games. Afterwards, he was signed to an amateur tryout agreement with the AHL’s Connecticut Whale and scored two goals in eight games.
Moses’ AHL performance did not generate enough NHL interest, so he pursued a career with Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League. He stayed with the club during their transition to the KHL for the 2014-15 year. This time, his performance warranted an NHL contract. Nashville was fortunate enough to land him.
“I wanted to come to a place that has a chance to win,” Moses told NashvillePredators.com. “[Nashville is] a great organization and a great team. There probably won’t be a whole lot of pieces [changing in the summer], so if they feel they can add one piece and help the team, that’s pretty exciting for me.
“I wanted to go to a place where I could play right away and contribute, and I think, hopefully, that’s kind of what their plan is.”
Success in the KHL does not mean automatic success in the NHL. In most cases, it means the exact opposite. The KHL plays on a bigger, international ice surface, which gives players more room to generate offense against mediocre defense and goaltending compared to the NHL. For example, former NHL-er Nigel Dawes ranked fourth in scoring with 56 points in 60 games.
In addition to the lack of skill level he faced nightly, it does not help Moses when he is undersized at 5-foot-9, 172 pounds.
A sampling of opinions from NHL scouts who have been scouting Moses this season:
“He has skill but he doesn’t have that special stuff a small player needs to do well (in the NHL),” one said. “Some might sign him; not us.”
“He’s quick and can shoot the puck but he’s tiny and spends a lot of time on the perimeter,” said another. “He’s a better player on big ice.”
“Really small but really fast,” said another.
Moses and highly touted Predators prospect Jimmy Vesey are expected to represent Team USA at the IIHF World Championship in May.
Nashville’s Free Agent Frenzy
Though Nashville will be in the playoffs in hopes of winning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, general manager David Poile is preparing for a hectic summer ahead. There are four unrestricted free agents and five restricted free agents on the current forward roster. With the signing of Moses, and Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson being NHL-ready, those three will influence who Poile decides to keep for next season.
There is a one percent chance Michael Santorelli returns, but extremely likely Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher will be re-signed to solidify Nashville’s center depth. The contract situations between Taylor Beck (RFA), Gabriel Bourque (RFA), Matt Cullen (UFA), Calle Jarnkrok (RFA), Craig Smith (RFA) and Colin Wilson (RFA) will make for a stimulating summer in Smashville.
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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.