Author: Jason Karnosky

Järnkrok Signs 6-Year Contract with Nashville

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In the spring of 2014 Calle Jarnkrok enjoyed a brief stay in Milwaukee. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Nashville Predators signed another Milwaukee Admirals alum long-term as today the team announced a new six-year contract for forward Calle Järnkrok.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 26, 2016) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Tuesday that the club has signed forward Calle Jarnkrok to a six-year, $12 million contract. The contract will pay him $1.7 million in 2016-17, $1.8 million in 2017-18, $2.1 million in 2018-19, $2.2 million in 2019-20 and 2020-21, and $2 million in 2021-22.

Jarnkrok, 24 (9/25/91), appeared in all but one of Nashville’s 2015-16 regular-season games, more than doubling his previous career high in goals (16), as well as setting personal bests in assists (14) and points (30). The Gavle, Sweden, native also ranked second on the Preds in game-winning goals (4) a season ago, and saw his year-over-year average ice time increase by 3:17. In 167 career NHL contests since joining the Predators via trade on March 5, 2014, Jarnkrok has amassed 57 points (25g-32a) and played in all 20 of the team’s postseason contests, recording three assists.

Detroit’s second choice, 51st overall (second round), in the 2010 Entry Draft, Jarnkrok has represented Sweden in five international competitions in the last eight years, winning a gold medal at the 2013 World Championship and earning a bronze at the 2014 World Championship. Prior to making the jump to North America for the 2012-13 season, the 6-foot-1, 186-pound forward helped Brynas win the 2012 Le Mat Trophy as Swedish league champions on a team that also included Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm, and was a finalist for the 2011 Swedish league rookie of the year (won by Ekholm).

The 24-year-old came into his own in the NHL last season, scoring 16 goals and 30 points, and then added an assist in 14 playoff contests. It was Järnkrok’s second full season with Nashville after joining the franchise in the spring of 2014.

After being acquired in the trade that sent David Legwand briefly to Detroit, the Gavle, Sweden native dressed in six games for Milwaukee, scoring nine points including five goals. He had a goal and an assist in the Admirals’ three playoff games.

The trade another of the brilliant variety by Predators General Manager David Poile. In addition to the budding Järnkrok, Nashville also added a conditional second-round pick (Jack Dougherty). Legwand, Nashville’s first ever draft pick, played in just 26 total games for the Red Wings, making a limited impact on a team that barely squeezed into the playoffs. He then moved on to Ottawa later that summer and last year played in Buffalo.

So Roundtable, what do you think of Calle Järnkrok’s new six-year deal? Will the young Swede continue to develop making this contact a nice bargin, or will the tail end of it fizzle like Viktor Stålberg two years ago?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

The End of the AHL in St. John’s, Part 2

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The new home of the Montreal Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate for 2017-18 will be Laval, Quebec’s Place Bell. (Photo via allhabs.net)

It seems the American Hockey League’s musical chairs of franchise realignment was not quite done for the summer of 2016.

In the end the city without a chair is not Springfield, Massachusetts, but once again St. John’s, Newfoundland, as the Montreal Canadiens announced that they are moving their AHL affiliate to Laval (suburban Montreal) for the 2017-18 season.

Therefore, the residents of Canada’s most eastern province will have one more season of AHL hockey before the IceCaps relocate to the Canadiens’ backyard in the new Place Bell in Laval.

For now no team is expected to replace the IceCaps in St. John’s, which housed Winnipeg’s top affiliate from 2011-15 and Montreal’s from 2015-18. Despite strong attendance and success on the ice St. John’s is another prime example of a city left behind by the AHL because it is located too far away from its parent NHL club.

This is the second time that St. John’s is losing its AHL franchise altogether. Prior to the 2004-05 season Toronto’s AHL affiliate franchise, the St. John’s Maple Leafs, relocated to the Ricoh Coliseum in the Queen City. That team began play in Newfoundland in 1991-92.

No additional realignment is to be expected with this move as Laval would be an even better geographic fit in the league’s North Division along with foes Toronto, Albany, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Binghamton.

Are you surprised by Montreal’s decision to relocate its top affiliate to Laval? Are you surprised it is moving to Laval and not Quebec City? Does the future foresee another AHL franchise in St. John’s?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

AHL’s Pacific Division Growing in 2016-17?

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The Springfield Falcons’ 21-year AHL run appears to be over as the Arizona Coyotes will likely move the franchise to Tucson. Logo via Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net

There is an interesting report surfacing in recent days in regard to the Arizona Coyotes and the Springfield Falcons.

Last week ArizonaSports.com made it known that the Coyotes were interested in purchasing an AHL team and relocating them to Arizona to setup shop in Tucson. Arizona’s second largest city is just a short drive south of the Phoenix Metro area.

The initial ArizonaSports.com feature did not cite which team would be relocating, but a report on WWLP.com cited the Falcons as the likely party. This morning Falcons announced the news on their website, and it was reported on MassLive.com that team owner Charlie Pompea confirmed the news.

In August 2015 the Coyotes signed a three-year affiliation with the Falcons, who did not make the AHL playoffs this season. Previously Arizona had been affiliated with the Portland Pirates.

Springfield, Massachusetts has housed an AHL team nearly every year since 1936 and is currently home to the offices of the American Hockey League.

The potential Tucson team would join the Pacific Division per the ArizonaSports.com report. It would likely play its games at the Tucson Convention Center beginning as early as 2016-17, but that timetable is still to be resolved according to the MassLive.com report.

If Springfield to Tucson is the only offseason relocation for the AHL, my initial guess on how the divisions would shake out is this:  Charlotte would move out of the Central Division and into the Eastern Conference, while Tucson would slot into the newly formed Pacific Division. The Pacific Divison would then have eight teams and the Central would be left with seven.

The sale and move of the franchise is not yet official as it needs a final sign off by the American Hockey League’s Board of Governors.

So Roundtable . . . What do you think of year one of the AHL’s Pacific Division? Are you sad to see another longtime AHL city lose its team? What are your thoughts on the Admirals potentially playing Tucson in the future?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

 

Trade Deadline Day Recap

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This is a photo of defenseman Conor Allen two teams ago. (Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

The NHL Trade Deadline has officially come and gone, and this year’s hoopla was clearly a clunker compared to previous years.

The combined effect of big names being signed, traded or taken off the market early (see Steven Stamkos, Eric Staal and Andrew Ladd), an expected “flat” Salary Cap for 2016-2017 (due to the poor performing Canadian Dollar) and many players being locked up to longer term deals resulted in boring deadline day.

A few impact players did change teams today. Defenseman Kris Russell was acquired by Dallas from Calgary, forward Mikkel Boedker was picked up by Colorado from Arizona and forward Lee Stempniak and defenseman John-Michael Liles were acquired by Boston. You can even throw in the last minute Jamie McGinn Anaheim Ducks pick up, but it doesn’t really help much. Overall, it was pretty serious dud of a day.

For Milwaukee/Nashville it was as expected a very quiet deadline. No current Predators or Admirals changed teams as Predators General Manager David Poile got his shopping done early with the Ryan Johansen/Seth Jones swap. Certainly, last year’s near deadline trade of 2015 AHL All-Star Brendan Leipsic had a huge impact on Milwaukee but nothing similar was forthcoming this season.

However, three former Admirals did change teams on deadline day, with defenseman Conor Allen moving to Iowa, forward Taylor Beck going to San Antonio and goaltender Drew MacIntyre packing his bags for Rockford. Nick Spaling was moved in the Roman Polak trade last week.

So Roundtable . . . What do you make of the QUIET trade deadline? Were your expecting Nashville to acquire more talent and in the process trade away an Admiral or two? What do you think of Milwaukee and Nashville playoff hopes with their rosters as is? 

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Predators Re-Sign Anthony Bitetto for Two More Years

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Defenseman Anthony Bitetto, who played in six games for Milwaukee this season, re-upped with Nashville for another two years today. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Just three-days prior to the NHL Trade Deadline the Nashville Predators have agreed to terms with defenseman Anthony Bitetto on a new two-year contact. The new deal will keep the 2010 sixth-round draft choice in the organization until the summer of 2018.

With 17 games in the NHL this season Bitetto now has 24 career games of NHL experience on his resume to date. This season the 25-year-old Island Park, New York native dressed for 6 games with Milwaukee while on a conditioning assignment while scoring one goal and four points while picking up 27 minutes in penalties.

Since joining the Predators organization on a full-time basis in 2012-2013, Bitetto played in 183 regular season games in the American Hockey League with the Admirals and four postseason contests. He also has 23 games of ECHL experience with the Cincinnati Cyclones.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 26, 2016) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Friday that the club has signed defenseman Anthony Bitetto to a two-year, $1.225 million contract that will see him receive $575,000 in 2016-17 and $650,000 in 2017-18.

Bitetto, 25 (7/15/90), has appeared in the Predators last 11 games and has one assist in 17 games for the club in 2015-16. Paired with seven games during three recalls a season ago, the Island Park, New York, native has one point (1a) in 24 career NHL games, all with Nashville. Bitetto spent the majority of his first three professional seasons with the Milwaukee Admirals from 2012-15; the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder ranked among the Top 20 AHL blueliners in assists in 2014-15, while tying for sixth among AHL defensemen in goals (11), and for ninth in power-play goals (6) during his first full season with Milwaukee in 2013-14.

Nashville’s fourth choice, 168th overall (sixth round), in the 2010 Entry Draft, Bitetto did not miss a game during his two-year collegiate career at Northeastern University (Hockey East) from 2010-12, compiling 35 points (7g-28a) in 72 games and being named to the 2011 Hockey East All-Rookie Team. He was a 2009-10 All-USHL Second Team selection in his first full season with the Indiana Ice and helped Indiana win the 2009 Clark Cup. He is on Twitter @ABitetto7.

So Roundtable . . . What are your favorite Anthony Bitetto memories with Milwaukee? Can he stay in Nashville or another place in the NHL over the course of this contract, or will he be back again in Milwaukee?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Colton Sissons Signs Three-Year Deal with Nashville

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)
(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

The Nashville Predators have signed Milwaukee Admirals captain Colton Sissions to a new three-year contract. Sissions’ deal is similar to the one signed by Austin Watson this past off-season as it starts as a two-way deal for one season, $575,000 (NHL) and $100,000 (AHL), before turning into a one-way NHL contract for the following two seasons for $650,000.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 22, 2016) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed forward Colton Sissons to a three-year, $1.875 million contract. He will make $575,000 at the NHL level and $100,000 at the AHL level in 2016-17, and $650,000 in both 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Sissons, 22 (11/5/93), has appeared in 19 games for the Predators in 2015-16, notching a pair of points (1g-1a) and a 59 percent success rate in the face-off circle, best among all NHLers taking at least 100 draws. He has also served as the youngest captain in Milwaukee Admirals history this season, amassing 16 points (6g-10a) in 33 games. Now in his third professional season, the North Vancouver, B.C., native has six points (2g-4a) in 36 career NHL games, and 102 points (56g-46a) in 171 AHL contests. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound center ranked among the Top 20 AHLers in goals in both 2013-14 (25) and 2014-15 (25), becoming the first player in the Admirals AHL history to start his career with back-to-back 25-goal seasons. He was one of three rookies to be named to the 2014 AHL All-Star Team that took on Farjestads BK in the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic.

Nashville’s second choice, 50th overall (second round), in the 2012 Entry Draft amassed 149 points (71g-78a) in 182 games during a three-season junior career with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets from 2010-13, serving as team captain for his final two seasons. He is on Twitter @Colton_es15.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Moses, Sissons, and Saros Headline Reinforcements Heading to Milwaukee

(Photo Credit: Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean)
(Photo Credit: Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean)

Today the Nashville Predators announced three more cuts from their pre-season roster. Colton Sissons, Steve Moses, and Juuse Saros have been assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals, leaving the Predators with 25 skaters on the roster. Per the NHL’s Hockey Operations Guidelines two more players must be cut in order to trim the roster to its final 23 names for the 2015-16 season.

In Moses Milwaukee adds a player who racked up a KHL (arguably the second best league in the world) best 36 goals last year. Nashville is looking to see a consistent scoring touch in North America out of the 26-year-old, who has been playing overseas for the past three seasons. Meanwhile, Sissons returns for his third Admirals campaign eager to make his latest AHL visit a short one after back-to-back 25 goal seasons. Saros was always expected to play for Milwaukee, and will likely be the team’s netminder for part or all of Friday night’s preseason opener.

In addition, Milwaukee announced yesterday that five players have been signed to professional try-out contracts by the organization. Headlining the new Admirals PTOs is former Arizona Coyotes forward David Moss, a veteran of over 500 NHL contests. In addition, Adam PayerlAndrew Yogan and Mike Ratchuk, who are all under contract with Milwaukee’s ECHL affiliate Cincinnati, and Dov Grumet-Morris were also added to the squad, as Daniel Lavender relayed yesterday. The latter four were all listed on the initial training camp roster yesterday, while Moss was not.

Moss represents an intriguing possibility for the Admirals going forward. Though not prone to physical play or fighting, the 33-year-old is a big winger (6’4″ 209 lbs.) with a decent scoring touch, as seasons of 20 goals (2008-09) and 17 goals in 2010-11 attest to. Moss played in 60 games for Arizona last season, picking up four goals, 12 points and a minus-18 rating. He played in 79 contests one season prior.

Lavender Update: Moses is signed to a one-way contract but did not require waivers to reach the Milwaukee Admirals. So, for all the competition that there was in camp, it appears as though Viktor Arvidsson has beaten them all at the wing spot. Not too shabby.

So Roundtable . . . What are your thoughts on the new additions? Does Colton Sissons deserve a roster spot in Nashville? Are you intrigued by the addition of David Moss on a minor league contract?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

Happy Canada Day aka 2015 Free Agent Frenzy

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Happy Free Agent Frenzy Day, or as they call it in Canada, a national holiday, Canada Day! (Photo via http://www.day-calendar.com/)

UPDATE: 3:20 PM

As we hit 4:00 PM on the East Coast, the fires of the Free Agent Frenzy seemed to have cooled. There still are a few decent names available, including three names on my original list, Johnny Oduya, Matt Beleskey and Justin Williams.

If anything significant becomes known, or there is something I come across involving Nashville/Milwaukee, I will try to get the news out ASAP and add it to the blog, but for now, I’m signing off for the afternoon. Apparently I was wrong about Preds G.M., who snagged Hodgson, an aging Jackman, but most importantly re-signed Ribeiro. All-in-all, not a bad collection of players, but it looks like a few less spots up in Nashville, which has to be frustrating for the current crop of Milwaukee Admirals.

How it all plays out will be determined in the next few days and of course at training camp. I, for one, can’t wait!

UPDATE: 3:15 PM

There was another move by Nashville, as the Predators acquired forward Max Reinhart from Calgary in exchange for a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2016. The 23-year-old Reinhart has 23 games of NHL experience, and 203 games under his belt at the AHL level, scoring 125 points.

Also there is lots of interest in former Admirals and 2015 Predators forward Mike Santorelli.

Stanley Cup winning forward Brad Richards may be on his way to Detroit to join Mike Green.

UPDATE: 2:45 PM

The Detroit Red Wings have made the biggest free agency splash of the day, grabbing Washington defenseman Mike Green for three-years at $6 million per year.

UPDATE: 1:50 PM

Viktor Stalberg, who played in both Milwaukee and Nashville last season, is on his way to Broadway, joining the New York Rangers.

UPDATE: 1:45 PM

Recapping the last hour, Montreal traded forward Brandon Prust to Vancouver for Zack Kassian. Former Milwaukee Admiral/Nashville Predator forward Zack Stortini signed a two-way deal with Ottawa. Recently bought out forward P.A. Parenteau signed in Toronto.

UPDATE: 12:55 PM

Maybe the biggest news today has nothing to do with any trades, except in a round about way. Looks like New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather, one of the best ever to occupy that position, is giving up the reigns to assistant Jeff Gorton. He will stay on team President. Perhaps it was Gorton who was responsible for just signing Raphael Diaz.

Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators might have found some offense on the really cheap, picking up bought out forward Cody Hodgson (last with Buffalo) for a one-year, $1 million deal.

Former Milwaukee Admiral/Nashville Predator Cal O’Reilly signed with the Sabres.

UPDATE: 12:45 PM

Forward Steve Downie is going to Arizona, while probably the biggest prize among forwards, Matt Beleskey is still checking his options. Former Senators forward Erik Condra looks to be signing with Tampa Bay.

UPDATE: 12:30 PM

Long time Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth signed in Los Angeles for $1.25 million. Forward Alex Burmistrov re-signed with Winnipeg. Things are starting to quiet down.

UPDATE: 12:15 PM

TSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting that the pick Pittsburgh is trading to Toronto is a 1st, but the Penguins are getting a 2nd round pick back. Also, former Admirals/Predators forward Nick Spaling could be on his way to the Maple Leafs. Leafs are eating a chunk of Kessel’s contract.

The Nashville Predators have signed long time Blues defenseman Barrett Jackman.

Meanwhile, Zbynek Michalek is back in Phoenix.

UPDATE: 12:05 PM

Something I missed from a while back. Former Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin signed with San Jose, while former Boston defenseman Matt Bartkowski signed in Vancouver.

UPDATE: 12:00 PM

Some prospects going the other way to Toronto for Kessel. Frolik is officially going to Calgary.

Defenseman Matt Hunwick signed with Toronto, while Jori Lehtera is back with St. Louis.

UPDATE: 11:55 AM

No surprise that Detroit is in on Mike Green. My guess is Edmonton is to. Brad Richardson is off to Arizona, or wherever the Coyotes play next year.

Looks like Phil Kessel is off to Pittsburgh, in some sort of multiplayer trade.

Former Milwaukee Admirals and Nashville Predators goaltender Anders Lindback signed in Arizona.

UPDATE: 11:50 AM

Looks like former Pittsburgh forward Blake Comeau is joining Beachemin on the Avalanche.

Also goaltender Michal Neuvirth signed in Philadelphia on a cheap two-year deal, while Calgary looks to be adding Michael Frolik.

UPDATE: 11:45 AM

There is a Twitter rumor going around right now involving the Nashville Predators being in on the Phil Kessel sweepstakes. As weird as that might sound at first, it actually makes some sense. G.M. David Poile has tried to get Kessel before, the Predators have enough Salary Cap room, and also have plenty of young assets to send the other direction which Toronto craves. I’m curious to see where this leads.

UPDATE: 11:30 AM

No surprise here, but it looks Edmonton is about to make as big a splash as teams could make today by signing a pair of players. TSN’s Aaron Ward reports they are close on Mark Letestu and defenseman Andrej Sekera.

With the deal for Ribeiro done, the Predators expect to be quiet today.

UPDATE: 11:20 AM

The first big name is off the board as Ducks veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin signed with Colorado on a 3-year deal. Pittsburgh backup netminder Tomas Greiss is off to Brooklyn on a two-year deal.

Though unlikely, teams could sign Mike Richards today. He is officially listed as a UFA.

UPDATE: 11:01 AM

Huge surprise from Chicago to kick things off at the top of the hour. They just signed Artyom Anisimov, the key piece back in the Saad trade from yesterday, to a five-year extension.

UPDATE 11:00 AM

Here we go folks, the FREE AGENT FRENZY has begun!

UPDATE 10:40 AM

Under a half hour to go now, with lots of chatter floating around on Twitter. Two of the biggest RFAs available, Brandon Saad and Vladimir Tarasenko, and likely untouchables, but that doesn’t mean another team won’t try to steal them with a huge contract. Speaking of RFAs, Dougie Hamilton, who was traded to Calgary, peculiarly signed with the Flames for about the same price as he was being offer with Boston.

If the dominos fall early today, it will likely be on the blue line. Despite the lack of great forward options available, there are lots of serviceable, if likely overpriced, options are available for a blue line, like Mike Green, Andrej Sekera, Cody Franson and Francois Beauchemin.

I’m curious about all of the Phil Kessel trade talk that out there. Though I thought there was a possibility that either he or Dion Phaneuf would be traded today, I thought new coach Mike Babcock might like to see what he has in both players first. Guess not.

UPDATE 10:00AM Central Time

It’s official, the NHL’s Free Agent Frenzy, aka Canada Day for our friends to the north, which is a national holiday. For NHL fans like myself, today’s an unofficial holiday, much like trade deadline day.

In just one short hour NHL contracts with either UFA and RFA tags officially expire, though with different outcomes. Any player who is an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) could potentially sign with any other team, no strings attached. Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) can also sign with other teams, but their current club has the opportunity to either match the contract and keep the player, or receive compensation based on the value of the contract.

Yesterday I made a short list of the best players  available without having to give up compensation, and they are: Mike Green, Johnny Oduya, Matt Beleskey, Justin Williams, Karri Rämö, and Michal Neuvirth.

Drew Stafford, who I had listed, re-signed at the last minute with Winnipeg.

Karri Rämö, who I also listed, re-signed today with Calgary on the cheap, at 1-year, $3.8 million according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

And the big news is that Mike Ribeiro is back with Nashville, at a tasty price of $3.5 million for two-years per according to TSN’s Aaron Ward. Looks like Predators G.M. David Poile isn’t scared off by any potential off-ice issues concerning the center.

Here is TSN’s list of the top players available.

Plenty more to come on this Free Agent Frenzy 2015. Check back often to the Admirals Roundtable for more free agency news. And if you missed it, check out our primer from yesterday.

So Roundtable . . . Which NHL Free Agents, if any, pique your curiosity? Are there any pieces you would like to see Nashville add. Are the any next level down veterans you would like to see the Predators/Admirals take a chance on with a two-way deal? Which Nashville RFAs/UFAs would you like to see back in the fold?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

2015 Free Agency Frenzy: Does Nashville Have a Plan?

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Calle and Filip have made strides in Nashville. Who else can make the leap from the AHL to the NHL for Nashville? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Last off-season Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile was easily the most active man during the NHL Draft/Free Agency Period. He orchestrated a trade for James Neal and grabbed a whole slew of veteran centers at bargain basement prices.

This year pundits predict that Poile might just turn off his cell phone and take an early Fourth of July vacation. Perhaps that has to do with the lack of value all but one 2014 summer signee provided.

Only Mike Ribeiro truly panned out (though Derek Roy went on to find a decent level of success in Edmonton). Ribeiro made Poile look like a genius by scoring 62 points on a $1.05 million contract. On the ice? Ribeiro was great in Nashville. Off of it? He still remains questionable – hence why he might not be back next season.

Even with all of the free agents crowding the locker stalls at Bridgestone Arena, rookie Filip Forsberg was a first-year sensation and clearly established himself as a budding star with Nashville. Meanwhile, Calle Järnkrok and the biggest surprise Taylor Beck each had fine first full NHL seasons (Järnkrok dressed in 74 games, Beck 62).

Ribeiro, along with former Admirals Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson, are potentially headed to new destinations. 38-year-old UFA Matt Cullen also might have played his last game in the Music City and the same goes for one-year fill-in Anton Volchenkov on the blue line.

If Nashville were to lose all or some of these names, Ribeiro, Santorelli, Franson, Cullen, and Volchenkov, that would leave the Predators with some noticeable holes to fill. But remember this was a team that just a year ago that was paying two players with over 100 games of NHL experience while sending Viktor Stålberg and Rich Clune to play in Milwaukee.

As far as the RFAs, Nashville qualified eight players yesterday, Predators forwards Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Gabriel Bourque, and Beck along with 2014-15 Admirals Anthony Bitetto, Taylor Aronson, and Magnus Hellberg. I expect Wilson, Smith, Beck, Bourque, Bitetto, and Aronson to all be back in the fold – but I have no idea on Hellberg.

“We know we have the right pieces in place,” Predators Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton said. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle [with the salary cap]. We have to figure out who fits where and what the price is. Sometimes, that comes at the expense of making hard decisions, but we knew [the qualified RFAs] were all going to be a piece here, and we wanted to make sure we retained their rights.”

I’m guessing Kevin Fiala will get every chance to fill the scoring void left by Ribeiro while Bitetto will get a serious look for a spot at the bottom of the Predators blue line. Thanks to great work in Milwaukee, the Predators are stocked with plenty of solid replacements for their departing players.

The questions revolve around other open roster slots vacated by guys like Santorelli and Cullen. Is it time for the Predators to see what they have in Austin Watson or Colton Sissons? Did Viktor Arvidsson or Pontus Åberg prove enough in their first North American seasons to warrant a chance to play in Nashville next year? Or will Poile surprise yet again and wade into the free agent pool.

Plenty of cheap veterans will reside after the dust settles on an over-priced day one of the Free Agent Frenzy tomorrow. TSN’s list of top players available is pretty dreadful. The best names include Mike Green, Johnny Oduya, Matt Beleskey, Justin Williams, Drew Stafford, Karri Rämö, and Michal Neuvirth.

Find out who goes where tomorrow afternoon in our annual Free Agent Signing Day Live Blog here on the Admirals Roundtable.

UPDATE:

TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting that he is “looking for Mike Ribeiro to re-sign in Nashville.”

So Roundtable . . . What your expectations for the next few days? Are there any free agents you like to see in Nashville or in Milwaukee? Which of the RFAs and UFAs do you expect to re-sign? Does David Poile have any surprises up his sleeve this year?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

Austin Watson Signs New Two-Year Contract

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New contract makes happy Watson happy. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Nashville Predators have signed Austin Watson to a brand new two-year contract this afternoon. The details of the contract specify that the first year of the new deal is a two-way contract for the 2015-16 season with the last year being an exclusive one-way NHL contract for the 2016-17 season.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (June 29, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Monday that the club has signed forward Austin Watson to a two-year contract. The deal is a two-way contract in 2015-16 paying him $575,000 at the NHL level and $100,000 at the AHL level, and a one-way, $575,000 contract in 2016-17.

Watson, 23 (1/13/92), led Milwaukee and tied for 14th in the American Hockey League in goals (26) in 2014-15, in addition to tying for second among all AHL skaters in game-winning goals (8) while appearing in all 76 regular-season games for the second consecutive season. He’s also ranked among the Top Three Admirals in points in each of his first three professional seasons. The 6-3, 206-pound native of Ann Arbor, Mich., has appeared in six NHL contests with Nashville, all during the 2012-13 campaign, scoring one goal.

Nashville’s first choice, 18th overall (first round), in the 2010 Entry Draft, Watson won a pair of Ontario Hockey League titles with Windsor in 2009 and London in 2012 and the 2009 Memorial Cup during his junior career. He was the recipient of the 2012 Wayne Gretzky 99 Award presented to playoff MVP and helped London advance to overtime of the 2012 Memorial Cup title game, earning a spot on the tournament All-Star Team. The oldest of 10 children, Watson led the United States in points and assists at the 2012 World Junior Championship, and helped Team USA win gold at the 2010 U-18 World Championship.

Watson has been a big part of the Admirals over the past three seasons, scoring 20 and then 22 goals in his first two seasons, respectively, before notching a career high 26 goals in 2014-15. That total led all Milwaukee players, and he finished second in points (44) behind Viktor Arvidsson. Watson’s 46 points in 2013-14 were also a career high.

The Ann Arbor, Michigan native was the Predators first-round draft pick in 2010, and has six games National Hockey League experience on his resume, including his first NHL goal in a 4-3 win over Calgary on April 23, 2013. That was his last game with Nashville to date.

When I spoke to Watson last month, he anticipated being back in Milwaukee or Nashville in 2015-16:

“This summer I just want to continue to mature physicially and get bigger, stronger and faster, like we talk about every summer (in regards to) every single guy that is still playing in the AHL and wants to play at the next level. This summer is definitely a big step in my career and I feel like I’m ready to play at that level. When camp comes around, it will be time to see if that comes to fruition.”

You can read more from Watson and coach Dean Evason in my upcoming End of Season feature coming this week on MilwaukeeAdmirals.com.

So Roundtable . . . Are you excited to have Watty back in Nashville/Milwaukee? Do you see him making the NHL in the near future with the Predators or another NHL team?

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