The first phase of the NHL offseason is already in the books with the NHL entry draft come and gone. The Nashville Predators were one of the league’s most active teams, selecting four players in the first 62 picks, and seven altogether in the first 162 (no pick in the 7th round). Off the draft floor Predators General Manager David Poile was very active as well, trading to key roster components, forwards Partic Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to Pittsburgh in exchange for sniper James Neal. It was the trade that came after the trade that didn’t involving Ottawa.
~Predators Select Kevin Fiala in the first round; four players in the first 62 picks~
Here is the Predators full draft card, via predators.NHL.com:
Nashville’s first selection was Kevin Fiala, a skilled smaller forward with game-breaking potential, who hails from Switzerland, is a citizen of both there and Czech Republic and just finished the season playing for HV71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Elite League.
Nice to be drafted by Nashville.
— Kevin Fiala (@KevinFiala22) June 28, 2014
The Predators second selection was another forward, Orsk, Russia native Vladislav Kamenev most recently of Magnitogorsk Metallurg. Curious if Poile/assistant G.M. Paul Fenton got a tip on the talented forward with good size from Metallurg coach Mike Keenan, who just won a KHL title.
More importantly for Milwaukee were the selections of Jack Dougherty and Justin Kirkland, 51st and 62nd overall. Though I can’t honestly attest to knowing if Fiala or Kamenev will make an appearance in Milwaukee prior to stepping out in Nashville, both Dougherty and Kirkland will likely be wearing an Admirals jersey in the not so distant future.
If Jack Dougherty’s name sounds familiar, it should. He’s part of the incoming freshman class at the University of Wisconsin. Once again Poile and Fenton and returning to the Badgers well with the Cottage Grove, Minnesota native that has brought them such prospects as Ryan Suter, Blake Geoffrion and Craig Smith among others. The slew of recent Wisconsin defenseman developed by coach Mike Eaves now playing around the NHL bodes well for Dougherty’s future.
Dougherty seemed pretty excited in Philadelphia:
What a great organization to be a part of and a great city to play in! Excited to have a future opportunity to be a Pred! @PredsNHL
— Jack Dougherty (@jackdougherty2) June 28, 2014
Kirkland is currently cutting his teeth in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets, where forward scored 17 goals and 48 points in his first full season, before adding another 10 in 14 playoff games.
— Justin Kirkland (@Kirkland96) June 28, 2014
A former teammate and current Predator/Admiral Colton Sissons was pretty excited for the pick of Kirkland:
— Colton Sissons (@colton_es15) June 28, 2014
~The James Neal Trade~
During the NHL draft, only a few trades went down with many more expected to happen that did not take place. The biggest transaction involved Nashville as the Predators traded a pair of franchise-developed products, Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to Pittsburgh in exchange for James Neal. In Neal the Predators add a former 40-goal scorer with a bit of a checkered past. Here’s an interesting tidbit from Neal via Twitter back on May 23:
All of these rumors couldn’t be further from the truth. I love being a Pittsburgh Penguin. I hope to remain a Penguin and win as a Penguin.
— James Neal (@jneal_18) May 23, 2014
The exchange sends two big-time character forwards to a Penguins team in desperate need of them. For the record, Hornqvist dressed in 49 regular season and 11 playoff contests with Milwaukee back in 2008-2009, contributing 21 goals and 22 assists. Meanwhile, Spaling dressed in 52 regular season games with Milwaukee over the course of two seasons (2009-2011), chipping in eight goals and 11 assists.
~The Jason Spezza Trade that Wasn’t~
Preds GM David Poile confirms he had serious interest in dealing for Spezza but was told by Spezza camp he wouldn’t go to Nashville — Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 28, 2014
The rumored trade involved potentially Nashville’s first-round selection in 2014, plus Hornqvist/Spaling. It was quite a risk/bounty for a player in Spezza who can sign anywhere as a free agent after the 2014-2015 season. The Ottawa forward has asked for a trade out of Canada’s capital, but much like former Badger Dany Heatley owns a no-trade claus in his contract preventing a trade to 10 teams of his choosing. The Predators and nine others were on that list.
How a player has the gall to ask for a trade, then would not accept one to organization as soundly built from top to bottom as Nashville is beyond me, especially with Spezza’s trade demand reasoning being that he wanted to get out of the spotlight of being the focal point of negative press in Ottawa. It’s not like it had to be a long-term thing. In Neal, I think Nashville got a better fit anyway, plus a better contract and didn’t have to give up their first-round pick in the process. Sometimes the best trades are the ones that don’t happen.
~Nashville’s Lower Round Draft Selections~
With its final three picks, Nashille added another smaller creative Swedish forward in 21-year-old Viktor Arvidsson, currently playing for Skellefteå of the Swedish Elite League with its fourth-round selection. Two blue liners, Espoo, Finland native Joonas Lyytinen and Edmonton, Alberta native Aaron Irving rounded out the Predators 2014 draft class.
~Free Agent Frenzy~
Tomorrow marks the first day of open-season on NHL/AHL free agents to be as 2013-2014 contracts officially expire.
Nashville’s list of UFAs via CapGeek.com is unbelievably short, involving just forward Patrick Eaves, and Milwaukee’s Bryan Rodney and Joe Piskula. Charles Olivier-Roussel was just added to this list as he was not qualified today. The RFAs for Nashville are three defenseman Michael Del Zotto (still not qualified), Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm. Milwaukee: Anthony Bitetto, Taylor Beck, Scott Valentine and Simon Moser. Both Joonas Jarvinen and Joonas Rask have already signed overseas.
— Jason Karnosky (@JKAdsHky) June 30, 2014