Poll: Are You In Favor of an Admirals Rebranding?

ALL-ABOARD-1

Shh… it’s a secret.

For those who either picked up the flyer at Summerfest or caught wind of the news through the Milwaukee Admirals social media – there is a major team event taking place in less than two weeks time. What will it be about? It’s a mystery at this point but the advertisement itself gives three very specific clues that all center around the phrase “All Aboard.

(1) The font being used for the phrase “All Aboard” is unlike anything I’ve ever seen associated with the Milwaukee Admirals franchise before. It has slight resemblance to the Calder Cup winning era but that’s about it.

(2) The “A” used to start off “All Aboard” are both clearly new logos which use beveled bones for the letter.

(3) The colors used are also brand new to the Admirals. It’s not as dark as navy, it’s not as prominent as a royal blue, but there is a blue being used along with shades of white and silver.

What does it all add up too? Well, if anyone followed the Milwaukee Bucks the last half-year, it looks like a rebranding campaign which would make the “All Aboard” event the unveiling of new logos and uniforms for the Admirals. I suppose that would explain why locker room furnishings with the current logo (team carpet, “Road To Nashville Runs Through Milwaukee” entrance sign, and “Admirals Who’ve Graduated to Nashville” sign) were all sold at the recent Garage Sale.

In terms of their branding history the Admirals have really had three eras so far. The IHL era, the early-AHL era, and the Harris Turer ownership era. Each design from era to era were drastically different and both had their unique charm. I crafted my favorite of both words to create the Admirals Roundtable Twitter and Facebook logo as a best of both worlds between the old and current. I love the current color palate (white, black, baby blue) and the ol’ Admiral logo is just too fun. So what could this new rebranding be? Is it even a rebranding or is it just a simplification to the current uniforms? We’ll likely have to wait until the evening of July 15th to find out. I’ll be there. And I’d love to have all you readers there as well.

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Posted in Ramblings | 6 Comments

Predators sign defenseman Conor Allen

(Photo Credit: Hartford Wolf Pack // flickr)

No Piskula? No Liambas? How about a bit of both in Conor Allen? (Photo Credit: Hartford Wolf Pack // flickr)

No Joe Piskula? Ruh-roh. Well thankfully a quick depth signing by the Nashville Predators has helped add to the defensive rotation for the Milwaukee Admirals. They have just signed former New York Rangers and Hartford Wolf Pack defenseman Conor Allen to a one-year two-way contract.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 2, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Thursday that the club has signed free-agent defenseman Conor Allen to a one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level and $80,000 at the AHL level.

Allen, 25 (1/31/90), has spent the majority of the past two-plus seasons with the New York Rangers organization, playing seven NHL contests while recording 65 points (17g-48a) and 184 penalty minutes in 145 AHL games with the Hartford Wolfpack. In 2014-15, the 6-1, 210-pounder tied for 10th among all AHL blueliners in goals (11), and was one of just two AHL defensemen to register more than 30 points (11g-23a-34pts), 100 penalty minutes (113), and post a positive plus/minus rating (+1).

A native of Chicago, Allen played three seasons at the University of Massachusetts (2010-13), registering 39 points (14g-25a) and 110 penalty minutes in 99 games, and was named to the 2012 Hockey East All-Academic Team as a sophomore. Prior to entering the NCAA ranks, he spent a season with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede (2009-10), and won a Robertson Cup with the NAHL’s St. Louis Bandits in 2008-09.

Allen is a 25-year old from Chicago who is freshly removed off a quality season with the Wolf Pack in the AHL: 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 72 games with 113 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of +1. He and the Wold Pack made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before getting swept by the eventual Calder Cup Champions the Manchester Monarchs. He also played 4 games with the New York Rangers last season and played 3 games for them the year before that.

The Admirals defense might be on the young side again but there is some fresh new talent being added with others being tasked with stepping up. Kristian Näkyvä should be another name on the Admirals at the start of the season and could be a dynamic defenseman much like Allen. Pair that with someone like Garrett Noonan earning a bigger role this season and the defense might be a little more offensive than in year’s past.

Thoughts on this signing by the Predators? What is your confidence level in the current Admirals defense? Is a Scott Ford veteran type of defenseman needed still?

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Mike Liambas signs with the Chicago Blackhawks

(Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

*stick taps for Bussie* (Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

The Milwaukee Admirals appear to be losing bits and pieces early in free agency. While a Joe Piskula or Magnus Hellberg in an AHL setting might not be too bad in terms of head-to-head competition against their former team you just cannot say the same about this news. Mike Liambas has signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Press Release via Chicago Blackhawks:

The Chicago Blackhawks announced today they have agreed to terms with defenseman Cameron Schilling on a two-year contract, which runs through the end of the 2016-17 National Hockey League season, and defenseman Michael Liambas on a one-year contract, which runs through the end of the 2015-16 NHL season.

Schilling, 26, appeared in four games with the Washington Capitals and recorded 18 points (3G, 15A) in 63 regular-season games for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League last season. The Carmel, Ind., native also notched eight points (3G, 5A) in 10 postseason games with Hershey.

He has skated in six NHL games, all with Washington (2012-15). He has also registered 50 career points (13G, 37A) in 210 career AHL games, all with Hershey (2011-15). Prior to turning pro, Schilling tallied 57 points (8G, 49A) in four seasons at Miami University. He was also named to two NCAA All-Regional teams (2008, 2010) and helped Miami win the 2010-11 CCHA Championship.

Liambas, 26, collected eight points (5G, 3A) and 158 penalty minutes in 54 games with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL last season. He has registered 17 points (9G, 8A) and 499 PIM over 141 career AHL games, all with Milwaukee (2012-15).

The Woodbridge, Ontario, native previously totaled 21 points (3G, 18A) and 403 PIM in 87 games over three seasons in the East Coast Hockey League with the Cincinnati Cyclones (2010-13) and Orlando Solar Bears (2012-13). Liambas also recorded nine points (3G, 6A) and 82 PIM in 25 games for the University of British Columbia in 2010-11 and four points (1G, 3A) and 146 PIM for the Bloomington PrairieThunder of the International Hockey League from 2008-2010. Prior to turning pro, Liambas notched 13 points (5G, 8A) and 357 PIM in 124 games over four seasons with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League.

I feel like I must preface this much the same way I did when Scott Darling made this move. You can’t help but feel happy for the guy because of his story, his dedication to getting better and better, and simply the person that he is. Liambas could well be known only for fighting or an incident in juniors but in his time with the Admirals he’s worked so hard on the details of the game and results have come from that. Him getting this deal speaks volumes to just that.

What’s sad now, especially for fans, is he’ll most likely be on the opposite end of one of the Admirals biggest rivals, the Rockford IceHogs. Liambas is the type of player you hate to see playing against you but love having on your team. Imagine him scrapping it out now against former teammates? Well, perhaps that might not entirely be true because the press release by the Blackhawks announced him as a defenseman.

Liambas played his entire career as a defenseman until his time as a member of the Admirals. When injuries hit back in February he even managed to step back into the role on the blue line and looked like he didn’t miss a beat. Liambas has been fine enough as a bottom line winger and penalty killing forward. Him reverting back to defense might peel back some of the fighting with a bigger emphasis on being solid and smart defensively. It won’t be fun playing against him, true, but it will be fun seeing him back in a role he once played and one that could possibly set him up for an even better future.

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A Farewell to Hellberg and Piskula

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

So Long. Farewell. Auf Wiedersehen. Adieu. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The harsh reality that there is a business side to the sport of hockey smacked everyone back over the head yesterday with two key names from the Milwaukee Admirals going to pastures new: Magnus Hellberg and Joe Piskula. Each case presented the business scenarios that come with the sport. Either a team made a trade to move a player elsewhere or a player makes the decision to leave on their own terms. It was certainly sad seeing both leave but it’s such because of their impact on and off the ice in Milwaukee.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

When looking at Piskula’s situation it’s one I think most are fine with. He signed on with the Anaheim Ducks organization and may well have a better opportunity to play more NHL games than the log jammed defensive core of the Nashville Predators would ever allow. At this stage in his career Piskula should be continuing to push for NHL hockey because his time with the Admirals showed how good of a defenseman he is. If the Predators aren’t an option he was always going to be looking for the best possible fit. That place was Anaheim. Their AHL option is San Diego Gulls of the ECHL’s new Pacific Division. He leaves behind his native Wisconsin where he not only grew up in Antigo, played college hockey for the Badgers, but also captained the Admirals.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

In Piskula’s career he has only played 13 career games in the NHL. The hefty bulk of his professional playing career has been in the AHL where he has played 533 career games. He will be turning 31-years old this Sunday. All that being said and you think the picture that was just painted is a bad one. It isn’t at all though. His last two seasons with the Admirals have been perhaps the two best of his pro career: 140 games, 40 points (4 goals, 36 assists), 86 penalty minutes, and a plus/minus rating of +40. It feels like he’s actually trending upwards rather than falling off with age. Anaheim clearly saw and respected that. And I would love for Piskula’s time with the Admirals to have been that last big push to get him a longer NHL run than his career high of 5 games in a single NHL season. He’s earned it. He’s not a slick skating puck moving offense defenseman. He isn’t a thrash and bash physical defenseman. He’s just incredibly smart on and off the puck and can play in all on-ice scenarios that the Ducks would be able to throw at him.

And then, inhale-exhale, there is the case of what happened for Hellberg yesterday. It’s safe to say that the reaction I’ve read across Admirals Roundtable’s social media reach is that this one stung a lot. It was a punch square in the feels and a cold hard slap from a thing called reality. I equate Hellberg being traded to the New York Rangers yesterday as being a lot like getting your shots when you were a kid. You knew it was coming, you saw it was coming, there is no avoiding it, and then it happens.

Here’s the flip side to that analogy though. The aftereffects of getting a shot when you are a kid was pretty much just the amazement that you spent all that time worrying about the shot and now its all over and life goes on. Guess what? Life does still go on and it goes on in the form of big time goaltending prospect Juuse Saros and his first full-season of pro hockey in North America.

That is precisely what I feel the Nashville Predators brass would like everyone to be thinking and feeling. The reality is this. In the way that the Predators rewarding Austin Watson for his efforts in Milwaukee set a great example for all current and incoming Predators prospects that hard work and dedication to the Admirals in the AHL could pay off with NHL reward – the Predators shattered that sentiment by tossing Hellberg, a former second round selection, to the recycling bin like a partially drunk can of soda. When you’re good? You’re good and Nashville recognize it. When you’re good? I don’t know so go away.

(Photo Credit: Greg Hamil)

(Photo Credit: Greg Hamil)

The handling of the Milwaukee goaltending situation and how Hellberg was kicked to the curb had that sort of careless feeling behind it and one that I would go so far as to say puts Marek Mazanec directly in the firing line as well. This wasn’t about Hellberg. It wasn’t about Mazanec. It was about how Nashville could comfortably fit Saros in Milwaukee as soon as possible. It makes me at the very least wonder what this off-season would have been like if the Predators opted to not go two-year deal on Carter Hutton when they did and instead gave him a one-year contract. Is Mazanec not the back up now? Is your AHL tandem Hellberg and Saros? Or, for all we know, Hutton skips a one-year deal and the Predators build from within by maintaining Scott Darling as an AHL option and promoting Mazanec. It’s easy for me to say something such as that now but so is saying that wouldn’t happen because I’m sure a veteran option would have been brought in in-place of the AHL options in hand. It’s that line of thinking that is ‘safe’ general managing and not one that takes risks and sees if what you drafted has value. In the case of Hellberg? The Predators never cared to find out. Either that or his cameo of a relief appearance that lasted 12:12 of ice time summed up his entire career from past to present to future and I didn’t see what everyone else saw.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

In short, it’s just as sad way to end what was a really great time with the Admirals organization for Hellberg. I feel like there were far more highs than lows from him in net and his ceiling really hasn’t been touched yet. The Rangers got themselves a goaltender with big upside who now has that extra little chip on his shoulder and they acquired him for a sixth round draft pick all the way off in 2017. Hellberg should be competing as the first choice goaltender of the Rangers AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolf Pack this coming season. He’ll be given the chance to play regularly which is something he never had too often the last two seasons as an Admiral. If he makes good on his potential? I think everyone in Milwaukee will be celebrating while Nashville fans will be asking, “why?” Should things be same ol’ same ol’ from Hellberg, and the group in Milwaukee one-up him, then things ended up working out as Nashville would like. My hope is for one Swede to eventually learn up close from another Swede, Henrik Lundqvist. That would be a fun and very Tre Kronor goaltending tandem.

(Photo Credit: Jamie Wahl)

(Photo Credit: Jamie Wahl)

So what does this do for the 2015-16 Admirals? It makes the focus a clean, simple, and driven one. Mazanec and Saros will be battling against each other for playing time and Brandon Whitney will be hanging out with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL in case anything problematic were to occur (that means injuries – knock on wood). The reality here is that the Admirals are perfectly fine. I feel Saros can live up to his hype but will have to make that tough adjustment in net to the speed and playing style of North American hockey. The rink is smaller, the game is faster, the players crash the net harder, and the importance of where you place the rebounds is paramount. During this entire learning process Mazanec will need to repay the Predators organization with results for the faith they showed in him to keep him over Hellberg who had out-performed him last season. Mazanec will need to do this without the Admirals best defenseman Piskula in front of him and possibly even without Anthony Bitetto if he makes the Predators out of camp. This season will already be defined much like last season was. Can the team’s immaturity and defensive ability do enough to match the offensive want-to? While a question like that hangs in the balance the man in net is the great equalizer who can smooth over the rough patches. According the the Predators those two men are going to be Mazanec and Saros. Will it work? Tune in this fall to find out.

What is your take from yesterday’s moves made by the Nashville Predators and former Predators players and prospects? How do you feel Hellberg will do as the expected number one goaltender of the Hartford Wolf Pack next season? Can Piskula make the Ducks roster to start the season or will be be back in the AHL for the majority of this season? What pieces need to be added to Milwaukee to either fix or build upon their current roster?

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Magnus Hellberg Traded to the New York Rangers

(Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

Milwaukee will miss you, big guy. (Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

The goaltending scenario that looked ominous for such a long time now has now fully cemented. Brandon Whitney signed an AHL contract to be the Cincinnati Cyclones man for the Milwaukee Admirals. Marek Mazanec signed his one-year contract to stick with the Nashville Predators organization. Juuse Saros signed his entry-level contract to start his North American professional playing career. Which meant only the following would happen. The Predators have traded Magnus Hellberg. The Swede and netminder of the Admirals these last three seasons will be joining the New York Rangers in exchange for a sixth round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Hellberg was the first goaltender selected in the 2011 NHL Draft and was a huge impact player for the Admirals at the end of his rookie season. He just about carried the team on his back en route to securing their playoff berth on the final day of the season: three starts, three days, back-to-back shutouts in the final two games of the season.

The follow-up campaign couldn’t have gone much worse. He was injured in pre-season camp, Mazanec out performed him early in the AHL regular season, he struggled to secure wins, a guy named Scott Darling started winning games in net, Hellberg then picked up a high ankle sprain that sidelined him just when he was gearing up to start games on a regular basis for the first time all season, and then Rob Madore‘s incredible 2014 Kelly Cup Finals MVP run forced him on the bench at the ECHL level for the rest of the season.

This past year was a return to form. He was second choice to Mazanec out of the gate but did well. So well in fact he earned a spot in the AHL All Star Classic. Like the entire Admirals team though his season took a dip and stayed down all the way until reaching the finish. His numbers were still good, massively improved from the previous season, but the team missing the playoffs for the first time in thirteen seasons seems to hang over most sparkling performances by the squad.

The Rangers already have a Swede in net named Henrik Lundqvist. They also shipped out Cam Talbot and added King Henrik’s back-up in the form of Antti Raanta. It would appear that the Hartford Wolf Pack is the new home for Hellberg. There he’ll find competition in Mackenzie Skapski and Cédrick Desjardins.

What is your reaction to the Predators trade of Hellberg? Was this the best they could receive back in exchange? Are they making the correct move by choosing Mazanec over Hellberg or is it safer to say they’ve taken Saros over both?

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Joe Piskula Signs With The Anaheim Ducks

(Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

Best of luck, Good Guy Joe from Antigo. (Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

When the 2015-16 Milwaukee Admirals hockey season begins it will begin without last year’s captain. Joe Piskula will be joining the Anaheim Ducks organization on a one-year contract.

Press Release via Anaheim Ducks:

The Ducks have signed goaltender Matt Hackett to a two-year contract and center Chris Mueller and defenseman Joe Piskula to one-year contracts. Per club policy, no financial terms of the deals were disclosed.

Hackett, 25 (3/7/90), has appeared in 26 career NHL games with Minnesota and Buffalo, going 4-17-2 with a 3.11 goals-against average (GAA) and .906 save percentage (SV%). He split last season with Buffalo (0-4-1, 4.32 GAA in five games) and the Sabres’ American Hockey League affiliate (AHL) in Rochester (8-5-3, 2.76 GAA in 16 games). Selected by Minnesota in the third round (77th overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft, Hackett set career highs in wins (3), GAA (2.37), SV% (.922), appearances (12) and minutes played (556) with the Wild during his rookie season in 2011-12. The 6-2, 171-pound goaltender has also played five AHL seasons with Houston and Rochester, posting an 86-75-18 record with three shutouts, a 2.59 GAA and .910 SV% in 184 career games.

Mueller, 29 (3/6/86), has scored 3-7=10 points with eight PIM in 53 career NHL games with Nashville, Dallas and the New York Rangers. He played seven games for the Rangers last season, picking up 1-1=2 points. The 5-11, 210-pound center made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut with Dallas in 2014, going scoreless in four games during the First Round vs. Anaheim. Mueller has played 447 career AHL games with Hartford, Texas, Milwaukee, Lake Erie and Grand Rapids, scoring 131-155=286 points with a +19 rating and 214 PIM.

Piskula, 30 (7/5/84), has played 13 career NHL games with Nashville, Calgary and Los Angeles, going scoreless with 10 PIM. Piskula appeared in one game for Nashville and 67 for the Predators’ AHL affiliate in Milwaukee last season. The 6-3, 208-pound defenseman is a veteran of nine AHL seasons with Milwaukee, Abbotsford and Manchester, scoring 13-102=115 points with a +78 rating and 421 PIM in 533 career games. Piskula has also appeared in 33 career Calder Cup Playoff games, recording 2-4=6 points with 20 PIM.

This is a pretty big blow to the Admirals. They’re defense was on the young side as it was last season but this season it will be all down to the youngsters to make it work. Who are the elders next season you ask? Anthony Bitetto (who turns 25-years old in July) and Garrett Noonan (who will turn 25-years old in late-January). The off-season is still young in its own right though. Moves could be worked out that might help Milwaukee’s defensive depth.

Reaction to this news? Surprised that the Nashville Predators weren’t able to bring Piskula back? Will Piskula be able to play NHL hockey as a member of the Ducks this coming season?

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Predators Acquire Max Reinhart from Flames

(Photo Credit: Gerry Thomas)

(Photo Credit: Gerry Thomas)

The Nashville Predators have made a trade that will see them acquire forward Max Reinhart from the Calgary Flames in exchange for a conditional fourth-round selection in the 2016 Entry Draft.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 1, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the team has acquired forward Max Reinhart from the Calgary Flames in exchange for a conditional fourth-round selection in the 2016 Entry Draft.

Reinhart, 23 (2/4/92), has appeared in 23 career NHL games with the Flames over the past three seasons, posting a goal and four assists. Since scoring a pair of goals in his first professional contest with the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat on April 15, 2012, the 6-1, 185-pound center has amassed 125 points (45g-80a) in 203 AHL contests. In 2013-14, his assist total ranked ninth in the AHL (42), while his point total tied for 11th (63).

A third-round selection of the Flames (64th overall) in the 2010 Entry Draft, Reinhart posted 235 points (94g-141a) in 266 Western Hockey League games with the Kootenay Ice from 2008-12. He led all skaters in goals (15) and tied for second in points (27) while leading the Ice to the 2011 Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champions, then tied for first in assists (5) and for second in points (6) at the 2011 Memorial Cup. Reinhart’s father, Paul, played 648 career NHL contests between 1979-90, while his two brothers, Sam (second overall selection of Buffalo in 2014) and Griffin (fourth overall selection in the 2012 Draft, recently acquired by Edmonton) are both top NHL prospects.

Reinhart has played the majority of his professional career to this point at the AHL level: 203 games, 125 points (45 goals, 80 assists), 117 penalty minutes, and a plus/minus rating of -29. During his time in the NHL he has played 23 games, produced 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists), had 6 penalty minutes, and a plus/minus rating of -5. He was set to become an RFA at the end of the season but on Monday received a qualifying offer from the Flames. There is a good chance he begins his 2015-16 season as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals.

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Viktor Stålberg signs with the New York Rangers

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

This photo sort of sums things up nicely I think. (Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

The turbulent journey of Viktor Stålberg as a member of the Nashville Predators organization is over. After having his contract bought out he signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent for a reported $1.1 million. The length of the contract has yet to be officially announced.

The word that best sums up Stålberg’s time in Nashville is nightmare. It was a nightmare from the very beginning. He never truly looked like the player that helped contribute to the Chicago Blackhawks 2013 Stanley Cup success. Instead, he was often inconsistent or banged up. That all spiraled to what happened in the 2014-15 season where he went up and down between the NHL and AHL logging frequent flyer miles that would make George Clooney’s character from Up in the Air blush. To his credit, he took it all in stride and performed very well with the Milwaukee Admirals. The thing is that, well, he should have – and also should have not been there in the first place. Perhaps the change of scenery can get him back on track.

For Milwaukee fans, Stålberg will always be remember for the 2014-15 season’s Game of the Year. He scored the game-tying goal with 0.4 seconds remaining and capped off his hat trick to win it seconds into overtime.

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Nashville Add Forward Cody Hodgson

(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

The Nashville Predators have added another forward to the mix. This time it’s a low risk high reward sort of signing with Cody Hodgson. The terms of the deal are reportedly a one-year contract worth a cool $1.05 million.

Hodgson was selected by the Vancouver Canucks as the tenth overall selection of the 2008 NHL Draft. He was then shipped off to the Buffalo Sabres. He has played a total of 289 games at the NHL level while scoring 134 points (61 goals, 73 assists). He has also played a total of 71 games in the AHL for the Manitoba Moose and Rochester Americans where he scored a total of 49 points (22 goals, 27 assists).

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Nashville Signs Veteran Defenseman Barret Jackman

(Photo Credit: beinSports)

(Photo Credit: beinSports)

The Nashville Predators have picked up that veteran defenseman they were looking for and found it in longtime member of the St. Louis Blues, Barret Jackman. The deal is for two years reportedly worth $2 million per season.

803 career NHL games. A leader his entire career. 34-years old. And coming off of a season in which he played 80 games, produced 15 points (2 goals, 13 assists), had 47 penalty minutes, and a plus/minus rating of +3. Pair this bit of business with the Predators re-signing center Mike Ribeiro and I think the organization is a solid 2/2 in what they wanted to get done so far this afternoon.

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