UFA Options: Nashville Predators

Steve Sullivan

UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Nashville Predators.

David Poile’s situation is similar to Bob Gainey’s in that he has a lot of NHL players eligible for free agency this summer. His situation is dissimilar in that, by and large, they’re depth rather than star players.

That said, with eight regulars entering unrestricted free agency, the Predators could look very different next season.

Steve Sullivan

After missing a good portion of 2006-07 and all of 2007-08, diminutive forward Steve Sullivan attempted a comeback last season. It was largely successful; he recorded 11 goals and 32 points in 41 games.

Sullivan was primarily used in a relatively sheltered offensive role; he did see second-level opposition but he got a lot of starts in the offensive zone. I imagine that he’ll return to Nashville but according to reports that’s by no means certain, and he could bring some offensive depth and versatility to any team that doesn’t mind his size.

Radek Bonk

Radek Bonk brings everything any team could want from its third-line centre except for a hitting game. He’s got good size (6’3”, 210lbs), is very smart positionally and a good skater, and he has a bit of a scoring touch (although this year he was killed by the percentages offensively).

He’s one of the better faceoff men in the NHL (59.9% on faceoffs last season) and he’s used to starting a ton of draws in his own end and playing against top opponents.

Vernon Fiddler

The rather unknown Fiddler is a similar player to Bonk, although he plays with more of an edge and probably isn’t quite as polished or talented as Bonk. Like the former, he’s an excellent faceoff man (54.1% last season) and a defensive stalwart. He could play on the third line, but he’s an even better fit for a 4th line role. He isn’t expensive and can easily slide on to the 3rd line if injuries strike.

Scott Nichol

I never would have bet on Scott Nichol to last in the NHL as long as he has; not only is he tiny by the standards of pro hockey (5’8”, 170lbs) but he plays an aggressive style that leaves him prone to injuries. He’s a good faceoff man (54.6% last season) and relishes the fourth line energy role. A very fun player to watch.

Joel Ward

I have to confess that I haven’t seen much of Joel Ward. He played four years of OHL hockey before going to school at the University of Prince Edward Island, and after four years there he entered the Minnesota Wild farm system as a shutdown guy. He was an offensive revelation this season in the NHL; after never topping 45 points in three AHL seasons he scored 35 as an NHL rookie.

He’s 28 years old, stands 6’2” and weighs 205lbs and quietly played tough opposition all season long. It’s difficult to say at this point if he was a complimentary player or not (for those of you who have seen him more than me, please chime in below) but his defensive numbers are exceptional, and I have to admit that I’m intrigued.

Greg DeVries

Greg De Vries, who used to be a half decent defenseman, had a very poor season this last year. He played low-level opposition, didn’t get tossed out for a brutal number of defensive draws, and he’s never really played a physical game. He scored 35 points in 2005-06; he recorded just five this season. At 36, it isn’t hard to picture him out of the league in short order if he can’t rebound.

Greg Zanon

Smallish defenseman Greg Zanon is solidly built and plays a physical game. He led all Nashville defensemen in blocked shots by more than a 2:1 margin (recording 237) and that alone helps offset the fact that there are generally more shots toward his own net than there are going the other way.

Zanon’s reliable in his own end, and probably not going to get a big raise on July 1st. For any team looking to add some defensive presence and a guy who leads by example, Zanon should be a very appealing target.

Ville Koistinen

Koistinen’s an offensive defenseman and something of a powerplay specialist, but the jury is still out on whether he can produce enough offense to compensate for his defensive shortcomings. He had a nice year in a sheltered role, but his numbers were pumped up by both a great on-ice shooting percentage (10.1%) and on-ice save percentage (.933).

He’s a gamble for anyone interested, and I don’t think he’s shown enough offensively to really be worth pursuing.

  • Hippy

    Ogden Brother wrote:

    What players have we heard of picking a team for it’s coach?

    I can't think of many off the top of my head, but I know Mike Peca said it was a big factor in deciding to sign with Columbus. That said, I find it hard to believe the idea of having MacT as a coach was scaring off too many players. I mean, he's no more defensive than Hitchcock, and he's the only example of a player chosing a team because of it's coach I can think of.

  • Hippy

    misfit wrote:

    Ogden Brother wrote:
    What players have we heard of picking a team for it’s coach?
    I can’t think of many off the top of my head, but I know Mike Peca said it was a big factor in deciding to sign with Columbus. That said, I find it hard to believe the idea of having MacT as a coach was scaring off too many players. I mean, he’s no more defensive than Hitchcock, and he’s the only example of a player chosing a team because of it’s coach I can think of.

    Ya I'm sure it plays a role in the players decision, some guys far more then others. It seems like that's the new pipe dream Oiler nation is clinging onto though.

  • Hippy

    I'm a Scientist! wrote:

    Sigh, oh to be living in California and have any player in the league to choose from, cheap beer, cheap tickets, cheap parking, cheap housing, cheap floozies… What the hell am i doing here? That’s it! I waive my no trade clause…

    Dont forget a wicked great selection of cheap Mexican restaurants that dont microwave their beef, Disneyland, The Sandiego Zoo, Ron Burgandy, and much better opportunity to sleep with a C list celebrity who wants to go slumming.

  • Hippy

    @JW:

    Ward played lot's w/Legwand (and talk about an overpay – he's getting something like $5.5 mil+ for 5 years and he only put up 42 points in what was one of his best seasons). Call it paying for draft pedigree (#2 overall in 1998). The two really clicked on the 2nd line as Ward got the soft line minutes and did a good job.

    From what I hear, Ward wants to stay in Nashville (no pressure of expectations) but you never know because if Nashville re-signs Sullivan they're going to run out of money fast as they are always way below the cap.

    Fiddler was matched w/Bonk on the 3rd line but is a much better defensive forward. He's got good wheels and gets in on the forecheck faster than Bonk and stays with his man. Even though his +/- is as bad (-12) I'd take him over thecaptainethanmoreau because he does not take the dumb penalties but plays within his game.

  • Hippy

    Ogden Brother wrote:

    misfit wrote:
    Ogden Brother wrote:
    What players have we heard of picking a team for it’s coach?
    I can’t think of many off the top of my head, but I know Mike Peca said it was a big factor in deciding to sign with Columbus. That said, I find it hard to believe the idea of having MacT as a coach was scaring off too many players. I mean, he’s no more defensive than Hitchcock, and he’s the only example of a player chosing a team because of it’s coach I can think of.
    Ya I’m sure it plays a role in the players decision, some guys far more then others. It seems like that’s the new pipe dream Oiler nation is clinging onto though.

    I agree, its a pipe dream that a coach will draw players in. I guess it helps to have a respected coach and I'm sure it plays a small factor but I don't think the coach would be a deal breaker unless the player absolutely hated the guy for past reasons. The oilers have the appearance of being in a constant rebuild, I just don't see anything drawing a star player the desire to move here. The only thing thats pretty much set on the oilers is the defense (minus a good shut down guy) and were practically trying to dump half of it because of money. I'm starting to think Jagr is the best we can possibly do as far as a star player and he's not even a star anymore. Either that or trade for a star that doesn't have a NMC and hope and pray he will want to stay for longer than 1 or 2 seasons. I don't mean to be a downer but this team over the past few season hasn't really impressed me in the open market.

  • Hippy

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    I’m a Scientist! wrote:
    Sigh, oh to be living in California and have any player in the league to choose from, cheap beer, cheap tickets, cheap parking, cheap housing, cheap floozies… What the hell am i doing here? That’s it! I waive my no trade clause…
    Dont forget a much better opportunity to sleep with a C list celebrity who wants to go slumming.

    I can see the reality show now: "My life F-ing the E List"

  • Hippy

    ward was fantastic. the question is was it a one time thing. we need him back partly because as you stated he has good size and plays strong in front of the net and in the corners. we have very little of that here. he also should be cheap, even with a decent raise, which unfortunately always is an issue for us.