The most underrated addition for the Nashville Predators was inking Steve Moses to a one-year, $1 million contract. It has not garnished much attention since the Preds made the signing amidst an exhilarating finish to the regular season and was just one week away from beginning Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Moses, 26, broke the KHL single season goal-scoring record by netting 36 goals in 60 games for Jokerit Helsinki last season. In addition, he added 21 assists, making him a near point-per-game player in arguably the second-most competitive pro hockey league.
Such an accomplishment peaked a few NHL teams’ interest. Reportedly, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs were among those in discussions with the free agent. However, Moses chose Nashville because he believes he can play right away on a Stanley Cup contender.
“I wanted to come to a place that has a chance to win,” Moses told NashvillePredators.com in April. “[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.”
In April, it appeared Moses was a lock to play right-wing on the third or fourth line in the upcoming season, but that is no longer the case. The Predators brought back bottom-six forwards Gabriel Bourque and Calle Jarnkrok and signed third-line center Cody Hodgson, while Viktor Arvidsson and Kevin Fiala are hungrier than ever to make the team out of training camp.
The competition will be tough for the final spots in the lineup.
If Moses does make the team, however, what will be expected of him?
Moses’ tremendous success in the KHL will be overlooked in North America. The North American style-of-play demands quicker decisions and reactions not made across the pond. If NHL burnout Nigel Dawes can score 56 points in 60 games over there, it can’t be that hard, right?
Also, Moses is undersized at 5-foot-9, 170-pounds. Similarly sized players like Johnny Gaudreau and Tyler Johnson can get away with it, but a few scouts are skeptical of Moses’ game.
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.”
“He could play in the NHL but he projects as a depth player and do you want to give a depth player a one-way deal?” said a third.
Despite the criticism, Moses could work, especially if he plays alongside Hodgson, who is desperate to revitalize his career. Hodgson has the capability of scoring at least 30 points for the fourth time in his career since the 2011-12 season, and Moses can replicate those numbers, providing the Preds with solid production from top to bottom up front.