The Nashville Predators were active in free agency, re-signing Mike Ribeiro and adding some players to augment the roster.
Ribeiro signed for two years and $7 million, which brings back the Predators number one center and second leading scorer from last season. Ribeiro's off ice issues that occurred when he was with Phoenix have become very public, which more than likely limited his options on the free agent market. And the Predators needed his services. Since Ribeiro has been in Nashville, he has been a good citizen, so this was a good fit for both sides.
David Poile went to the bargain bin once again, signing Cody Hodgson to a one year, $1.05 million contract. Hodgson is 25 years old and struggled last season with the Buffalo Sabres, tallying 13 points (6G-7A) in 78 games. He is two seasons removed from his best campaign in which he had 44 points (20G-24A) in 72 games for the Sabres. It is hoped that Hodgson can revive his game under Head Coach Peter Laviolette and slot into a third line position. If he revive his career as Ribeiro did then the Predators will have hit a home run with this signing. The pressure is on Hodgson to prove that he can be consistently productive and this upcoming season is critical to his career continuing at the NHL level.
The Predators continued their bargain hunting by acquiring Max Reinhart from the Calgary Flames for a conditional 4th round draft pick in 2016. Reinhart has appeared in 23 NHL games and has scored 4 points (1G-3A). Reinhart was a third round pick of the Flames in 2010.
The Predators added a quality veteran to the blue line, signing Barrett Jackman to a 2 year, $4 million contract. Jackman played 803 games for the St. Louis Blues and served as an alternate captain for the Blues over the past 9 seasons. Jackman brings a gritty, physical element to the Predators D corps and will be a valuable presence for the Predators on the back end.
In the midst of these acquisitions, the Predators parted ways with goaltender Magnus Hellburg. He was shipped to the New York Rangers for a 6th round draft pick in the 2017 entry draft. The departure of Hellburg solidifies the position of Marek Mazanec in Milwaukee and opens the door for Juuse Saros, the talented Finnish draft pick to settle in at the AHL level.
The Predators adds are good for creating some competition at the center position, but the truth is that the Predators are desperate for elite pivots. The great teams in the NHL are strong down the middle. The Predators are not. They have some serviceable players, but it going to be imperative that the Predators develop their young talent at that position or acquire exceptional centers via trade. Fail to do that, and the Predators are going to continue to struggle to go deep in the playoffs against the best teams in the West.
The free agent crop was thin this year, but the Predators made a solid add with Jackman and added some depth and potential with Hodgson and Reinhart. More importantly, they didn't overpay for the players they brought in to the fold. Now it will be up to the coaching staff to bring out the best in Hodgson and Reinhart.