The Nashville Predators season is still on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. With everything still in a holding pattern, we’ve been spending time analyzing the job that David Poile has done building this hockey team into a perennial contender.
Over the last couple weeks, we’ve taken a look at some of David Poile’s best and worst trades in recent memory. As long as things remain on standby, we will keep looking back at more trades. The longer the delay, the more trades we can analyze. Pretty soon we will be talking about the Martin Erat for Filip Forsberg trade, or maybe even the Steve Sullivan acquisition back in 2005.
But today we will look at another way general managers construct their rosters: free agency and contract negotiations.
According to Cap Friendly, David Poile has signed 283 contracts worth over $1.4 billion in his career. That leads the NHL among active GMs. Interestingly, some of Poile’s largest contracts have come in the past couple seasons, signing Matt Duchene and Roman Josi to $56 million and $72 million contracts in a three month span in 2019.
While Poile has shown he’s not afraid to throw money at good players, he’s also known for finding good value, something paramount to building a playoff team. With that in mind, here are the five best contracts on the Nashville Predators right now, courtesy of David Poile.
1. Filip Forsberg ($6 million AAV through 2022)
Offensive dynamo Filip Forsberg is signed to arguably one of the best contracts in the league. Poile locked Forsberg into a $6 million per year contract back in the summer of 2016 and the Preds’ leading goal scorer continues to be their biggest goal scoring threat on a nightly basis.
I said then that Forsberg would likely become the Preds’ all-time leading goal scorer by the end of this contract, and he’s kept that pace easily. He just recently tied Shea Weber for 2nd on that list with 166 goals. The final hurdle is David Legwand’s 210 goals, which Forsberg should pass sometime in the 2021-22 season.
The contract value, the term, the player, and the contract details (lack of a no movement clause, for example) all make this contract one of the best David Poile has ever signed for the Nashville Predators.
2. Rocco Grimaldi ($1 million through 2020; $2 million AAV through 2022)
One of the most recent contracts David Poile signed is also one of his best.
From the time Rocco Grimaldi appeared on the Preds in 2018, he looked like a blooming role player. His emergence came out of nowhere, considering his two unremarkable stops in Florida and Colorado. But his energy and speed on the forecheck were undeniable immediately and initially had most people thinking of Viktor Arvidsson’s breakout in 2016.
Though Grimaldi’s actual production on the ice in 2018-19 wasn’t much to talk about (five goals and eight assists in 55 games), he broke through in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff series against Dallas. Grimaldi led the Preds with three goals in that series and was arguably the team’s best offensive player.
Grimaldi has continued that trend in 2019-20 with some of the best underlying analytics on the team. And this time, he’s getting more goal production to go with it. He’s currently sitting on 10 goals and 21 assists through 66 games.
Poile signed Grimaldi to a two-year contract extension on trade deadline day. The value is right at $4 million, a steal considering the offensive generation that Grimaldi brings.
3. Mattias Ekholm ($3.75 million AAV through 2022)
The perpetually underrated Mattias Ekholm is signed to a very team friendly cap value of $3.75 million for the next two seasons. His two-way value on the blueline cannot be overstated. He’s one of the most physically intimidating defensive players in the Preds’ zone and also a brilliant skater with nice vision in the opponents’ zone.
Using Cap Friendly’s “contract comparison tool” we can see Ekholm’s value almost straight away. Consider some of the players being paid similarly as Ekholm: Connor Murphy (Arizona), Brett Pesce (Carolina), Olli Maata (Pittsburgh), and Brian Dumoulin (Pittsburgh). Ekholm has more points than all of these players since 2018.
4. Juuse Saros ($1.50 million AAV through 2021)
Especially considering that Juuse Saros might have taken over as the starting goaltender for good, this contract looks fantastic right now. Most backup goalies make around $1 million or less, so Saros is a bit higher than average by comparison. But Saros is not your typical backup goaltender.
Since 2017, Saros has been one of the best goalies in the league regardless of role. He ranks 11th in save percentage (.917), 15th in goals allowed average (2.60), 10th in shutouts (10), and 11th in quality start percentage (.583) among qualifying goalies (minimum 50 games played). To be ranked that high in those categories among 62 other NHL goaltenders is quite remarkable for a backup goalie.
When David Poile signed Saros to a three year deal worth $4.5 million back in 2018, it was seen as an extended bridge deal, intended to give Saros plenty of salary until his next, likely much bigger contract in 2021. Saros will be a restricted free agent for his next contract, which still gives Poile the upper hand, but Poile won’t likely be able to keep Saros around for the same price. In the meantime, the Preds enjoy one of the best contracts among NHL goalies.
5. Viktor Arvidsson ($4.25 million AAV through 2024)
Though Arvidsson has had an ostensibly disappointing season this year, his contract remains a good one for Poile and the Nashville Predators. Arvidsson provides consistent offensive pressure for the Preds and though his speed isn’t quite what it was a year ago (courtesy of Robert Bortuzzo), he’s still among the team’s swiftest skaters.
When Poile signed the contract in 2017, it was among the biggest steals in the NHL. Securing a perennial 30-goal scorer for under $30 million for seven years is almost unheard of.
The contract is still a steal, though it’s less so with Arvidsson under performing. But there are signs that he’s coming around and when that happens, the contract immediately regains full thievery status.
Let’s Do That Hockey
This week the Preds would have concluded their regular season with three games: home against Montreal, on the road in Philadelphia, and then the home finale against Minnesota.
Link and I had another episode of the Preds NashCast on Sunday. It’s possible this will be our last episode of the season, assuming the league does not return in some fashion after the indefinite suspension.
In this episode, we discuss David Poile’s most crucial decisions this summer, including whether he will sign Craig Smith or Mikael Granlund and how he will reconstruct the blueline.
Check it out on Soundcloud (linked above), iTunes (link), and Spotify (link). We will keep you posted on the next episode, but rest assured that if the Nashville Predators play again this season, you’ll be hearing from us.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —