Anthony Bitetto Re-Signs with Nashville

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Anthony Bitetto is set to play his third professional hockey season after re-signing with the Nashville Predators today on a one-year two-way contract. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Let’s start off today with some feel good news. A fan favorite in Anthony Bitetto has re-signed on a one-year two-way contract with the Nashville Predators today. The deal for the defenseman and New York native is worth $605,000. That should mean a new toy is in order for Reggie.

The biggest story for Bitetto started around this time last year. He was asked to improve his fitness and turned up to camp in tip-top condition. Results came with the hard work off the ice. He started off last season red hot in the goal scoring department and finished off the 2013-14 season with 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists) in 73 games. He also had 85 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of -13.

This deal by Nashville adds yet another defenseman to an already loaded defensive core in the system. You know who will be benefiting the most from this situation? The Milwaukee Admirals and Cincinnati Cyclones. Competition brings out the best in an athlete. I have to imagine fighting for playing time at the highest attainable level possible is in the minds of all young guns in the system – and there is a plethora right now looking for AHL playing time. The ones who will miss the cut in Admirals camp will find themselves with the team that just came up short in the 2014 ECHL Kelly Cup Finals, the Cyclones.

Happy to see the return of Anthony Bitetto? Are more defensemen set to re-sign? Who do you feel is the odd man out in Milwaukee at this point on defense?

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Nashville News: Volchenkov, Fisher, Ekholm, Moser

Anton Volchenkov adds an experienced defenseman into the youthful Nashville Predators core. (Photo Credit: NHL.com)

Anton Volchenkov adds an experienced defenseman into the youthful Nashville Predators core. (Photo Credit: NHL.com)

Today a wave of news has rolled into Nashville HQ. Here is the latest on recent events.

~Anton Volchenkov Signs With Nashville~

Another piece has been added to the Nashville/Milwaukee puzzle as veteran defenseman Anton Volchenkov signed with the Predators today on a one-year, $1 million contract. The 11-year NHL veteran recently received a compliance buyout from the New Jersey Devils, making him a UFA after passing through waivers.

Never a high scorer, Volchenkov is known as one of the NHL’s top shot blockers throughout his stints with Ottawa and the Devils. Via a statement Predators G.M. David Poile sounded pleased adding the former 2000 first-round pick:

“Anton provides a strong veteran presence that will complement our young, talented defensive corps nicely,” general manager David Poile said in a statement. “He is a physical, left-handed shooting defenseman who can match up with top-line forwards and effectively kill penalties.”

~Mike Fisher Out 4 to 6 Months~

The Volchenkov signing comes on the same day that the organization announced that forward Mike Fisher sustained a ruptured Achilles tendon during a training session and will be out four to six months.

The loss of Fisher makes last week’s signing of Olli Jokinen all that more important. The veteran Finn added some depth to the Predators already shallow pool of quality centers.

Here is Poile’s statement on Mr. Underwood’s injury:

“Predators forward and alternate captain Mike Fisher sustained a ruptured Achilles tendon during a training session and underwent successful surgery on Thursday, July 3. We expect Mike to make a full recovery in four-to-six months, and look forward to his return to the ice.”

~Ekholm Files for Salary Arbitration~

Via TSN.ca 20 NHL players filed for arbitration before the deadline of 5PM Eastern Time on Saturday, July 5. Among the most prominent names on the list were P.K. Subban, Lars Eller, Mats Zuccarello, and Dwight King. A couple of ex-Admirals, Nick Spaling and Cody Franson, were also on that list.

Nashville’s lone player to file for arbitration was defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who is coming off of his first full season with the Predators. The year before the 24-year-old Swede played in 59 games with Milwaukee along with four playoff contests, racking up 10 goals and 33 points.

Ekholm is currently a restricted free agent. The 2009 Predators fourth-round pick is coming off an entry level contact that paid him (via CapGeek.com) $900,000 at the NHL level and $67,500 at the AHL level plus bonuses.

~Moser Rejects First Predators Contract Offer~

According to the website SwissHockeyNews.Ch, Admirals/Predators forward Simon Moser rejected the first contract offer presented to him by Nashville. So far the 25-year-old has received only an offer for a one-year, two-way, league minimum contract, worth less than he could make playing hockey back home in Switzerland where he is still under contract with SC Bern.

Unlike Ekholm, Moser did not opt for the arbitration rout on July 5. Fisher’s injury, combined with the drafting of another Swiss prospect, Kevin Fiala, might up the ante in getting this deal done. Then again Moser had few NHL options last season, and according to the website a trade to another team is also unlikely.

Last year the Swiss forward was key contributor on both the Admirals and Predators. Moser scored 26 points in 51 games (regular season plus playoffs) with Milwaukee and two points in six games with Nashville.

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Summer Ramblings, Vol. 7

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There has been massive activity in the NHL from Draft Day to Free Agent Frenzy. Kevin Fiala is just one of many notes from Nashville. (Photo Credit: Nashville Predators)

Firstly, I would like to thank Jason Karnosky for his work keeping the Roundtable rolling as I ventured out to California on vacation the past two weeks. I had a blast out there. And I also managed to keep an eye out during the NHL Draft and Free Agent Frenzy days whilst out there thanks to the likes of Jason and our friends of the Nashville media on Twitter. Cheers for all of you guys keeping me in tune even whilst in R&R mode!

~Nashville’s 2014 NHL Draft Selections~

Despite some speculation coming into the NHL Draft over whether or not Nashville would move from the eleventh overall selection – things appeared to go right to plan the way the Predators’ draft unfolded. In fact, SB Nation gave their Draft grade an A+ for the selections and acquisition of James Neal. While the Neal trade is a discussion all its own – let’s keep the Draft focus where it belongs with the newly selected prospects of the Nashville Predators.

Kevin Fiala (LW/RW), 1st Round (11th Overall)
Vladislav Kamenev (C/LW), 2nd Round (42nd Overall)
Jack Dougherty (D), 2nd Round (51st Overall)
Justin Kirkland (LW/RW), 3rd Round (62nd Overall)
Viktor Arvidsson (LW/RW), 4th Round (112th Overall)
Joonas Lyytinen (D), 5th Round (132nd Overall)
Aaron Irving (D), 6th Round (162nd Overall)

I know exactly what you are thinking. How exciting is it to get a Finnish player named Joonas back into the system? Right? Only me? I digress. Anywho, the thing to really look at with this 2014 Draft Class for the Predators is that four of the first five selections were forwards. I think it provides some insight into the future of a Peter Laviolette led team when you consider what he is stepping into.

Last year’s NHL Draft really didn’t provide much in the way of an impact forward. The 2012 Draft prior to that – we’ll see in-person plenty of what that class has to offer when Pontus Aberg and Brendan Leipsic hit Milwaukee later this year. Max Gortz, of the same draft class, is expected to play with Frolunda of the SHL for the 2014-15 season. Yet, of the past two-years in the Draft, only Colton Sissons has made an NHL impact of some sort for the Predators and I feel that goes into the decision making behind drafting forwards early and often in the recent NHL Draft for the Predators.

What will be worth looking into for the new Draft Class is its age. Only two of the seven newly drafted players were born prior to 1996. The oldest of the class is the Swedish winger Arvidsson who is 21-years old. The next oldest player: Finnish defenseman Lyytinen at 19-years old. The rest are 18-years old or younger. When you think about this Draft Class and any potential ETA to the NHL – you may want to wait a tick.

The top two of the class, Fiala and Kamenev, are both European products who look set for another tenure of hockey overseas. Fiala split last season between the professional and Junior-20 teams of the SHL’s HV71. Kamenev played last season with the KHL team that drafted him in 2013, Metallurg Magnitogorsk. In addition to getting drafted in the KHL and NHL – it is worth noting that Kamenev was also selected second-overall by the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL in the 2013 CHL Import Draft.

I strongly expect both to put in more time outside of the system prior to making their professional North American debuts. We’ve seen a perfect example of the Predators developing players this way over the years with Aberg, Gortz, as well as Miikka Salomaki and Joonas Rask. It’s all a matter of the rate of development as to when we see the likes of Fiala or Kamenev make the leap in my eyes. It could be one-season. It could be two-seasons. The fact that the Predators are starting to stock up on young forward talent though is what makes me the most excited about the entire draft process this season.

~The Real Deal James Neal~

Those that know me understand that I am a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. So it came to my shock to see my two favorite teams pull off a massive trade on draft day. James Neal has been a revelation playing alongside Evgeni Malkin since the Penguins first acquired him from the Dallas Stars (in a trade that also saw them gain Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski… geez did Dallas get hosed). Neal has produced 20-or-more goals in every single season of his NHL playing career. In 2011-12 he scored 81 points (40 goals, 41 assists) in 80 games. Since, he has cooled off somewhat but cooling off while scoring 20+ goals a season still sounds mouthwatering when you think about the Predators offense over the last few years.

The top goal scorers for the Predators: 2013-14, Craig Smith – 24 goals… 2012-13, David Legwand – 12 goals… 2011-12, Patric Hornqvist – 27 goals… 2010-11, Sergei Kostitsyn – 23 goals… 2009-10, Patric Hornqvist – 30 goals… 2008-09, Jason Arnott – 33 goals… 2007-08, J.P. Dumont – 29 goals…

It has been tough sledding in the offensive department. It really always has been. Enter the Laviolette era and the hopes to combine the great defensive core of the Predators with some offense. Neal, whether you wag the finger at Malkin or not, provides the Predators with goal scoring numbers and ability that they have lacked for years.

The real question you may end up asking is: was it worth losing the skill of Hornqvist and all-around ability of Nick Spaling to gain Neal’s services? In my book, as a fan of both teams involved in this specific trade, absolutely. Neal will give Nashville its proven goal scorer. Hornqvist and Spaling finally give Pittsburgh depth on the wing.

~Free Agency~

The talks of Predators GM David Poile going into free agency were that of signing a top-line center. All of those on came and went. What he ended up getting is Mr. Waffles himself, Olli Jokinen. Perhaps not what you would have hoped for with someone like Paul Stastny on the market but I feel it adds a proven, durable, and experienced player into the Predators system that should really fit well. Also, if someone can inform him of the nearest McDonald’s it may come in handy. Read more on the Jokinen signing via the Roundtable’s post on July 2.

It would seem the next approach for Poile and the Preds would be to look elsewhere for a center via trade. The name that has been floating around quite often has been Vincent Lecavalier. His contract is ridiculous and, at 34-years of age and counting, I question whether his best days are well behind him. Other options could include free agent Derek Roy or possibly trading for Joe Thornton.

Looking at next year’s free agent class also can provide small hints of who is a possible trade asset that may be available if a deal is right: David KrejciCarl Soderberg, and Vladimir Sobotka. It isn’t the greatest market right now. Combine that with the crazy spending that went down during day-one of free agency and it leaves lots of questions for Poile as to getting the pieces needed for a playoff contending team with so many strong Western Conference teams getting stronger this off-season. Sit and wait mode might not be the worst place to be from Nashville’s perspective.

~Admiral Free Agent Updater~

It has been awhile since we’ve taken a look into who went where out of Milwaukee Admirals camp. Here is the update on the latest:

Taylor Beck – RFA
Anthony Bitetto – RFA
Paul Crowder – UFA
Scott DarlingRockford IceHogs – (1-Year; NHL Two-Way Contract)
Scott Ford – UFA
Joonas JarvinenSochinskiye Leopardy – (Full Details Unknown; KHL)
Mike LiambasMilwaukee Admirals – (1-Year; AHL Contract)
Simon Moser – RFA
Joe PendenzaMilwaukee Admirals – (1-Year; AHL Contract)
Braden Pimm – UFA
Joe PiskulaNashville Predators – (1-Year; NHL Two-Way Contract)
Joonas RaskHIFK – (1-Year Contract; Finland)
Bryan Rodney – UFA
Charles-Olivier Roussel – UFA
Vinny Saponari – UFA
Mathieu TousignantAdirondack Flames (1-Year; AHL contract)
Scott Valentine – RFA
Francis Wathier – UFA

What are you thoughts on the NHL Draft, James Neal trade, and free agency? Has David Poile done the right thing by not over-spending in free agency? What trades could be in the cards for the Predators and what players should be considered off-limits for the team?

Posted in Ramblings | 6 Comments

Nashville Brings Back Joe Piskula

Piskula

Wisconsin native Joe Piskula is looking set for a return to the Milwaukee Admirals after signing a one-year two-way contract with the Nashville Predators on Friday. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

For those who follow your Milwaukee Admirals birthdays well – you will know that today is Joe Piskula‘s birthday. What better present to receive the day before it than a one-year two-way contract from the Nashville Predators?

The Predators system is currently jammed with defensemen and, particularly here in Milwaukee, it is all youthful. The most senior player of the defensemen who destined to start for the Admirals, based on contracts prior to the Piskula deal, was Taylor Aronson with 26 AHL games under his belt. In short: that’s not good at all.

This signing not only allows for an experienced defender in Piskula to return to the Admirals next season to act as a mentor to the youthful defensive core around him. I feel this gives Nashville there Plan “A” from Milwaukee in the happenstance that injuries pile up. It happened its fair share last season, right? You almost need an option or two regardless of the NHL depth that you have in case of injuries. The question really becomes – if Piskula – who should be the next experienced man in the fold? My guess is, with all the left-handed defensemen on the roster, you will need a righty… preferably with good leadership skills… and someone who knows how to command a locker room… all in due time I suppose, eh?

What is your reaction to the re-signing of Joe Piskula? If Scott Ford doesn’t return to the Milwaukee Admirals next season could Piskula be the next captain? Does Nashville and Milwaukee need to add more experienced defensemen in? And, if so, does that defensemen really have to be Ford?

Posted in News | 6 Comments

Predators Sign Olli Jokinen

Jokinen Practice

Olli Jokinen returns to Winnipeg Jets practice after picking up a Bronze Medal at the Sochi Olympics. Photo via the Winnipeg Jets Facebook page.

(Olli Jokinen returns to Winnipeg Jets practice after picking up a Bronze Medal at the Sochi Olympics. Photo via the Winnipeg Jets Facebook page.)

Looking for an upgrade at center ice, the Nashville Predators may have found one on the cheap in 35-year-old Olli Jokinen, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract today to join the club.

Though Jokinen is no longer the player that scored 38 or more goals and 89 or more points in two consecutive seasons with Florida (2005-2007), he still was an effective player for Winnipeg last season, scoring 18 goals and 43 points. Two years ago he provided 23 goals and 61 points on a woeful Calgary squad.

The Kuopio, Finland native will be entering his 17th NHL season next year, having played for Los Angeles, New York Islanders, Florida, Phoenix, Calgary, New York Rangers and Winnipeg in his career. Interestingly, he’s only played in the playoffs once.

Jokinen marks the first free agent signing this offseason for Predators G.M. David Poile. The question now is will there be more additions on the way.

I think this is a smart, if still quite conservative signing by Nashville. However, my opinion doesn’t seem to be shared all that often as you can see in the Twitter takes below. Any thoughts Roundtable?

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Live Blog: 2014 NHL Free Agent Frenzy

UPDATE: 5:15 PM

As of 5:15 PM Central Time, the Nashville Predators have not added a single player, despite high hopes for finding a quality center during today’s proceedings:

Either Lavender or myself will be sure to keep Admirals Roundtable readers informed if something happens in regards to Nashville/Milwaukee in the coming hours or days. Thanks for reading and checking us out on a busy July 1, 2014 #FreeAgentFrenzy. It’s been an interesting afternoon to say the least!

UPDATE: 4:40 PM

Former Milwaukee captain Mike Moore was signed by the Washington Capitals today to a one-year, one-way deal. My guess is that Moore was one of the direct competitors to Joe Piskula for a contract:

The New York Rangers will have to continue to retool as one of the most underrated forwards in the NHL, Brian Boyle, signed in Tampa Bay:

UPDATE: 4:24 PM

Former Marlies defenseman T. J. Brennan, who played a big role in Toronto’s sweep of Milwaukee this past postseason, will not be back to the AHL this year. He signed a one-year, one-way deal with the New York Islanders:

UPDATE: 4:04 PM

One of the two UFAs on the Nashville Predators, Patrick Eaves, is off the market. He signs in Dallas, which has done a nice job of bolstering its club today. Only Michael Del Zotto remains available.

UPDATE: 3:58 PM

With Washington’s signing of Matt Niskanen, not only do the Capitals pick up their second ex-Penguin defenseman of the day, but my list of the 10-best free agents available is down to just one name: Radim Vrbata.

Defenseman Willie Mitchell, fresh off winning his second Stanley Cup, now goes to a team no where close to winning one, Florida via TSN’s Aaron Ward:

UPDATE: 3:39 PM

If the Nashville Predators want a top line center, the options via free agency are getting pretty thin. Sounds like Brad Richards is on his way to Chicago at a rock bottom price (aka less per year than Deryk Engelland):

UPDATE: 3:20 PM

A couple of minor signings to report as #FreeAgentFrenzy enters its fifth hour. Andrej Meszaros signed in Buffalo for $4.125 million. Calgary inexplicably (and likely because of Brian Burke) gave former Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland $2.9 over three years, per season. The New York Rangers gave $600,000 to defenseman Matt Hunwick on a one-way deal, while Philadelphia resigned goaltender Ray Emery for one year at $1 million.

Finally, goaltender Devan Dubnyk short run as a goaltender with the Predators organization comes to abrupt end as he signs with Arizona:

UPDATE: 2:30 PM

Bad news for Milwaukee Admirals forwards next season. Instead of protecting AHL standout goaltender Scott Darling, they will shooting on him, regularly, as he joins Rockford IceHogs/Chicago Blackhawks today:

With Darling moved on, goaltender Marek Mazanec has strenghtened his hold on the number three slot in the Predators depth chart, aka the top spot in Milwaukee, according to Joshua Cooper of the Tennessean:

UPDATE: 1:54 PM

After an eventful season that saw a first experience in the NHL playoffs and a Calder Cup ring with the Texas Stars, former Milwaukee Admirals forward Chris Mueller has found a new home with the New York Rangers, moving him much closer to his hometown of Buffalo:

UPDATE: 1:39 PM

Predlines.com is reporting via Hockey Buzz Eklund a possible imminent trade involving the Predators. Names mentioned are Vincent Lecavalier, Joe Thornton or Radim Vrbata. My completely uneducated guess would be Vrbata:

In completely unrelated news defenseman Anton Stralman signed for five years at $20 million plus with Tampa Bay:

UPDATE: 1:25 PM

After an extended run in Calgary, Jarome Iginla is moving on to his fourth team in less than two years. The first of the two soon-to-be Hall of Famers (including Martin Brodeur) on the free agent list signs in Colorado for three years:

Forward Leo Komarov comes full circle from the Leafs to the KHL and back to the Leafs for four years:

Plus there is a report about another failed Nashville trade yesterday involving the Predators and Vincent Lecavalier that has surfaced:

It seems the Predators were unwilling to eat all that was left on the former Tampa star’s contract after he scored just 37 points in 69 games with a minus-16 rating last year with the Flyers.

UPDATE: 1:12 PM

A thin free agency class is getting a whole lot thinner by the minute as Matt Moulson comes off the board. The forward picked one of his three teams from last year to rejoin, signing in Buffalo for five years at five million dollars annually:

As far as center upgrades for Nashville the notable targets left are a retread of David Legwand, Mikhail Grabovski and perhaps Brad Richards:

Martin Havlat signed for $1.5 million with New Jersey, and will actually make less per season than his buyout from San Jose will pay him:

UPDATE: 1:00 PM

The first two hours are in the books and here is a quick recap of the lesser deals. Former Milwaukee Admiral Michael Latta resigned with the Capitals. The forward took to Twitter to express his excitement about resigning:

The Calgary Flames who really needed an upgrade in goal, got one in Jonas Hiller:

Veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas signed in Toronto for three years at age 37, Winnipeg signed former Ducks forward Mathieu Perreault (3 years at $3M per year), Dominic Moore resigned with the Rangers and Tanner Glass leaves Pittsburgh to add toughness to the Rangers.

UPDATE: 12:55 PM

The second biggest prize in the free agency pool is off the table as Thomas Vanek signs his expected deal with the Minnesota Wild. More importantly for the Austrian forward, who played for three teams last season, the deal contains a full no trade claus.

UPDATE: 12:15 PM

It’s still quiet out of Nashville so far as a few more pieces come off the board. Blake Comeau and Thomas Greiss signed with the Penguins, while Florida paid a hefty price for center Dave Bolland.

Shawn Thornton adds to the new Panthers brigade, while former Montreal captain Brian Gionta joins Josh Gorges in Buffalo:

UPDATE: 12:05 PM

Ryan Miller signed in Vancouver for three years. Forward Ales Hemsky agreed with the Dallas Stars. Joe Vitale signed with Arizona:

UPDATE: 11:58 AM

Pittsburgh Penguins stalwart Brooks Orpik continues the exodus out of the Steel City, signing with archrival Washington according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks:

Meanwhile, Montreal resigns defenseman Mike Weaver, who they traded for at the deadline last season:

UPDATE: 11:43 AM

More big names off the board: Dan Boyle to the New York Rangers, Mason Raymond to Calgary and Brad Stuart was likely traded to Colorado from San Jose:

UPDATE: 11:38 AM

Another big ticket center off the board in the first hour. Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri signs with the New Jersey Devils for five years at $5 million per year:

Forward Jusssi Jokinen is headed to Florida for four-years at $4 mil per year. Former Wisconsin Badgers defenseman Tom Gilbert heads to Montreal for two years at $2.8 million per year:

UPDATE: 11:35 AM

The biggest ticket on the NHL Free Agent Market, Paul Stastny is officially off the market. Stastny is heading home to St. Louis, joining a solid Stanley Cup contender in the Blues. Nashville had hopes of signing the big ticket center ice man:

UPDATE: 11:34 AM After refusing a trade to archrival Toronto, defenseman Josh Gorges accepts a trade to Buffalo. I respect Gorges a lot, but last time I checked isn’t Buffalo in the same division as Montreal, just like the Leafs?

UPDATE: 11:26 AM

Minor deals afoot: Forward Milan Michalek resigns in Ottawa for $4 million per year. Goaltender Chad Johnson signs with the Islanders for two years at $1.3 million per year:

UPDATE: 11:15 AM

The Edmonton Oilers enter the fray with signings of defenseman Mark Fayne (four years) and forward Benoit Pouliot on a whopper of a five-year contract:

UPDATE: 11:08 AM

The NHL #FreeAgentFrenzy stock market’s opening bell has come and gone with players already getting gobbled up. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and forward Manny Malhotra each have new teams. Ehroff signed for one year in Pittsburgh according to Bob McKenzie:

And Malhotra in Montreal on a one-year deal:

UPDATE: 10:07 AM

Sounds like the Ottawa Senators have decided to trade Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars, and not the Nashville Predators, who coveted the Canadian center. A couple of sources are reporting it, but CBC’s Elliotte Friedman believes it is three forwards and a draft pick:

The trade would give Dallas the awesome one-two punch of Tyler Seguin and Spezza at center. Just updated per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Alex Chiasson, Alex Guptill, Nick Paul and a 2nd round pick in 2015 for Spezza and Ludvig Karlsson:

This clearly is not blockbuster material in the return from the Stars that the Senators are receiving. Ottawa did not get one first round pick out of this trade that they desperately wanted. Chiasson is a nice developing player, but I’m sure Bryan Murray would have prefered Patric Hornqvist/Nick Spaling and a first-round pick.

UPDATE: 9:00 AM

Starting at 12:00 PM Eastern Time, unrestricted free agents are free to sign wherever they choose, while teams have the opportunity to either match or receive compensation for signed restricted free agents. For more information on this, see article 10 of the NHL/NHLPA CBA. For a fun look back at the 2012 free agent class, and the pitfalls of signing free agents via Grantland’s Sean McIndoe, click here.

The 2014 free agency class this year is thin overall as NHL teams have tended to hoard their players for better or worse through longer term deals. Here is Predators General Manager David Poile thoughts on what is available.

Here is my list of the 10 most useful free agents currently available (aka best bang for your buck): Paul Stastny, Matt Niskanen, Thomas Vanek, Jarome Iginla, Dan Boyle, Ryan Miller, Radim Vrbata, Matt Moulson, Mike Cammalleri, Anton Stralman. Here is TSN’s list of the top 40 UFA’s of 2014.

In case you missed it yesterday, here is a list Nashville’s free agents courtesy of CapGeek.com: UFA’s are just forward Patrick Eaves and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (not qualified); In Milwaukee Bryan RodneyJoe Piskula and Charles Olivier-Roussel (not qualified). The RFAs for Nashville are Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm; In Milwaukee: Anthony BitettoTaylor BeckScott Valentine and Simon Moser. Both Joonas Jarvinen and Joonas Rask have already signed overseas.

A few moves of significance have taken place so far this offseason, namely Nashville’s trade for James Neal, who was welcomed as the newest member of the Predators yesterday.

Edmonton’s Sam Gagner was flipped twice, ending up in Arizona. Yesterday, a big swap involved Colorado and Montreal, as Daniel Briere was swapped for P.A. Parenteau plus a draft pick. A couple of significant former Admirals/Predators are also available, notably Matt Halischuk and David Legwand, as is one the NHL greatest all-time players, aging goaltender Martin Brodeur.

The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper believes that Poile is in the mood to deal:

piskula

(Joe Piskula headlines Milwaukee’s two-way UFAs. Photo courtesy of Scott Paulus)

UPDATE: 8:30 AM Central Time

Good morning and welcome to the Admirals Roundtable #FreeAgentFrenzy Live Blog on Canada Day. Throughout the day I will be checking in to provide updates on who is signing where out of this year’s free agent class. Feel free to comment about anything going on today, rumors you are hearing, and especially any big news out of Nashville/Milwaukee. I will check in from time to time with updates, especially on the significant signings and anything pertaining to Nashville/Milwaukee. Let the fun begin!

Posted in News | 5 Comments

Summer Ramblings, Vol. 6

2014 Fiala Draft

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:

2014draftpicks2

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.

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:

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.

A former teammate and current Predator/Admiral Colton Sissons was pretty excited for the pick of Kirkland:

~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:

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~

In many circles, Poile is being lauded for acquiring Neal, but the pieces were in place the same day for an even bigger fish in center Jason Spezza, according to ESPN.com/TSN reporter Pierre LeBrun:

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.

I will have a live blog up here at Admirals Roundtable throughout the day marking the significant signings and extended details of any Predator/Admirals signings. Stay tuned:

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Ads Summer Notes: Oligny Added; Larson, Ads Awarded

Yesterday the Milwaukee Admirals added another piece to the 2014-2015 roster puzzle by signing Canadian junior defenseman Jimmy Oligny to a one-year American Hockey League contract.

The 20-year-old spent last season as a prominent defenseman with the Rimouski Oceanic, which finished 45-16-0-3 in the East Division of the QMJHL (the same Oceanic squad that produced Sidney Crosby and Vincent Lecavalier among others). Oligny had a stand out campaign, scoring seven goals and 36 points to lead all team defenseman (also finished as a +23 with 119 PIMs). Prior to Rimouski, the undrafted blue liner played four years with the Prince Edward Island Rocket, with his best season coming in 2012-2013 where he racked up 13 goals, 42 points and 142 PIMs.

The 5-11, 209-lbs. defenseman doesn’t back down from anyone, as 165 PIMs in 2011-2012 with the Rocket attests to.

In other news the American Hockey League meetings came to a close today after three days in Springfield, Massachusetts. The Milwaukee Admirals came away as big winners during the event.

Milwaukee V.P. of Communications Charlie Larson was honored with the Ken McKenzie award today for his outstanding promotion of the Admirals.

It’s been a honor and pleasure to work with Larson as a mentor over the past three seasons, and he is extremely deserving of this honor.

Two days ago, the Admirals took home the AHL Achievement Award for Season ticket renewal. Congratulations Charlie and all of the Milwaukee Admirals staff on a job well done!

Finally day one of the NHL draft begins tomorrow night. In case you are wondering, Nashville selects 11th this time around and 46th overall in round two.

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Summer Ramblings, Vol. 5

With the 2013-2014 season finally reaching its conclusion, the NHL quickly moves into its busiest two weeks of the offseason with the 2014 NHL entry draft and open season for free agents upcoming. Meanwhile, a couple of other significant moments have occurred in the last few days, including the release of the 2014-2015 schedule, Nashville releasing it’s preseason schedule, the 2014 Hall of Fame Class being announced and the first major trade of what could be a summer full of them.

~NHL releases it’s 2014-2015 schedule~

The National Hockey League has released its 2014-2015 regular season schedule. Here are few Predator key dates to look forward to:

Oct. 9: Preds vs. Senators. Nashville opens the season against Ottawa on home ice. (NHL’s opener is a day earlier, with Montreal and Toronto breaking the ice with the first of four games).

Nov. 25: Preds vs. Kings. Nashville’s first matchup with defending champion Los Angeles.

Dec. 27: Preds vs. Flyers. Nashville’s new coach Peter Laviolette faces his old Philadelphia squad, minus one hairy stalwart (more on this later), for the first time.

Jan. 16: Preds vs. Capitals. Nashville welcomes former coach Barry Trotz back to the Music City for his first game as an opposing coach.

For Nashville’s full schedule, click here. For  the entire NHL schedule, click here.

~2014 Hall of Fame Class Announced~

The Nashville Predators finally have a former player in the Hall of Fame. Peter Forsberg joins the hockey immortals after terrific, but injury shortened career. For the record, the man who has his own postage stamp back home in Sweden, played in just 22 games for Nashville, accounting for two goals and 15 points in 17 regular season games, and two goals and four points in a five-game series loss to San Jose. Forsberg was acquired at the trade deadline for former Admiral Scottie Upshall, 2005 Predators first-round draft pick defenseman Ryan Parent (who played 10 playoff games with Milwaukee in the spring of 2006) and a pair of draft picks (2007 first and third rounders). Though Nashville got a future Hall of Famer as a rental, Philadelphia acquired what amounted to three first round picks in the deal, making this one of David Poile’s most questioned trades.

Forsberg joins fellow first-time player inductees Dominik Hasek and Mike Modano in the 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame Class. Defenseman Rob Blake was the fourth and final selection. Also going into the Hall of Fame via the builders category were long overdue, three-time Jack Adams Award winning coach Pat Burns and referee Bill McCreary.

~2014 Predators Preseason Schedule~

Shortly before the release of the entire 2014-2015 schedule, Nashville released its 2014 preseason schedule. Several future Milwaukee Admirals will be in action in a Predators’ jersey during the six-game slate which includes four home games, and two contests each with Eastern Conference foes Tampa Bay, Florida and Columbus.

~Scott Hartnell traded for R.J. Umberger~

Count me as shocked when I heard the news that former Nashville Predator Scott Hartnell was traded on Monday for Columbus forward R.J. Umberger, plus a 2015 fourth-round pick. The two-time 30 goal scorer is now the third Flyer in recent years that signed a long-term extension with the club, only to get traded shortly after (Mike Richards and Jeff Carter being the others). Hartnell, who waived his no-trade clause to make the deal happen, was swapped for a player who had requested a trade away from the Blue Jackets.

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Texas Stars Crowned the 2014 Calder Cup Champions

TexasStarsGWG-61714

That truly epic moment when you clinch the Calder Cup in overtime. (Photo Credit: Texas Stars // Facebook)

The 2013-14 AHL season is officially over. The Texas Stars defeated the St. John’s IceCaps in five-games to take home this year’s Calder Cup.

Texas finished the AHL’s regular season with the best record in the entire league. They were pushed really hard by the Toronto Marlies in an intense seven-game series to reach the Calder Cup Finals. Once they survived that test the Stars managed to take down the IceCaps before the series even shifted back to Texas for the final two-games of the seven-game series. They managed that on the back of three-consecutive overtime winners in St. John’s.

Game 1
St. John’s IceCaps, 3 @ Texas Stars, 6

Game 2
St. John’s IceCaps, 2 @ Texas Stars, 1

Game 3 (OT)
Texas Stars, 2 @ St. John’s IceCaps, 1

Game 4 (OT)
Texas Stars, 4 @ St. John’s IceCaps, 3

Game 5 (OT)
Texas Stars, 4 @ St. John’s IceCaps, 3

You can’t say this series wasn’t a blow out or anything. Even on paper, the IceCaps were in each and every one of these games against the Stars. The real backbreaker came from their Game 4 defeat on Monday night. The IceCaps let a 3-0 lead slip and they lost in overtime after conceding four-straight Texas goals. That allowed the series to tilt to a 3-1 series lead for the Stars. And they didn’t wait for Game 6 in Texas to clinch the Cup.

Former Admirals Chris Mueller and Kevin Henderson were part of this Calder Cup winning Texas Stars team. Mueller played in 60 games with the Stars this season and scored 57 points (25 goals, 32 assists). In the playoffs he produced 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) in 19 games. Henderson played 15 regular season games with the Stars since his loan deal from Milwaukee and picked up 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) in that time. For his playoff run of 21 games he tallied 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists).

TexasStarsCalderCup2014-1

Can you spot former Milwaukee Admirals Chris Mueller and Kevin Henderson? I can. (Photo Credit: The AHL // Twitter)

The man who took home the league honors as MVP this season also managed to win the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the MVP of the Calder Cup Playoffs. That man is of course 30-year old Travis Morin. During the regular season he was phenomenal: 88 points (32 goals, 56 assists) in 66 games. In the playoffs his brilliance continued all the way through the Stars run to the Calder Cup: 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists) in 21 games – including overtime game-winning goals in Game 3 and Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals.

Are you happy to see Chris Mueller and Kevin Henderson win the Calder Cup? What do you think Francis Wathier is currently thinking? What do the Milwaukee Admirals need to do in order to be at the same level as the Texas Stars were, from start to finish, during the 2013-14 season?

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