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Posted by Ryan Porth Labels: Nashville Predators
When you manage a small-market team like Nashville, there are two things you must do: draft well and spend money wisely.
There’s no question that Predators GM David Poile has drafted exceptionally well over the years. When the ‘second season’ began back in April, the Preds had 12 draftees in their lineup – most in the NHL out of playoff teams.
Up-and-coming stars Pekka Rinne and Patric Hornqvist were plucked late on day two of the draft, while Ryan Suter and Shea Weber were taken in the first and second round, respectively, in 2003.
When you look at Poile’s draft history with Nashville, you can make a case that he’s only had one first-rounder turn into a bust (Brian Finley). Every other player chosen in the top 30 by Poile has made contributions at the NHL-level (or is expected to in the next few years).
So the draft part of this equation is complete.
Poile has taken some heat in recent years from Predators fans for dishing out lucrative extensions to Martin Erat and David Legwand; who, in many minds, have yet to their match their earnings from the contracts on the ice.
In the last couple weeks, though, Poile may have made people forget about those aforementioned questionable contracts.
Dan Hamhuis wasn’t coming back… not at $4.5 million a season. Instead of letting him walk to free agency on July 1, Poile dealt his negotiating rights – along with a conditional draft pick in 2011 – to Philadelphia for Ryan Parent. Not only did Hamhuis not sign with the orange and black, but the Flyers lose the conditional pick as a result. So Poile basically stole Parent, an original first-rounder of the Preds, from Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.
Hours later, Poile made a subsequent move sending Captain Jason Arnott to New Jersey for a second-round pick in 2011 and prospect Matt Halischuk. Arnott was only going to be a Predator for one more year (contract ends after 2010/11 season), and had worn out his welcome in Nashville amongst the fans and maybe even the coaching staff.
With the youth movement taking place in Music City, trading Arnott was a wise move… especially when his replacement at center makes $1 million less and is seven years younger. His name is Matthew Lombardi.
By no means will Lombardi put Nashville over the top. He only has one 50-point season to his credit and doesn’t exactly light the lamp on a regular basis. With that being said, though, the complete package he brings to the Predators – two-way capabilities, arguably the fastest skater in the NHL, and infinite work ethic – will be a perfect fit. Signing him at $3.5 million a year – a day after he was asking for upwards of $4 million – is money well spent on Poile’s part.
Before he brought in Lombardi as Arnott’s replacement, Poile made another deal involving impending free agents. Dan Ellis and Dustin Boyd were traded away to Montreal in exchange for the enigma that is Sergei Kostitsyn.
Once again, fans questioned whether this was a smart trade by Poile, considering the red flags that surround Kostitsyn. Well, when you get him at a price of $550,000 for next year, it’s a low-risk, high-reward contract. Kostitsyn will be motivated to play for a (much) better contract a year from now, and should get an opportunity to skate on the second- or third-line in Nashville. He has an uber amount of skill, but must get it right between the ears.
If he doesn’t fit in with the Predators, essentially, it’s no big deal; Poile signed him to near the league minimum, and there are plenty of young players waiting in the wings willing to make the most of an opportunity.
In closing, Poile has made some genius-like moves/decisions over the last two-to-three weeks. He dealt away three free agents who had no future in Nashville, along with a veteran that is wearing down, for a couple could-be-valuable depth players and future pieces. By doing so, he had enough money to sign a quality center that fits like a glove in Barry Trotz’s system.
Every small-market team should take note of what Poile and his staff has been able to do this summer. Instead of losing players for nothing, the Preds’ front office Zen master maximized his assets and has seemingly kept the team on track to be a playoff party-crasher for the sixth time in seven seasons.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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