Hello again everyone. Thanks to both of you for returning. I realize it’s been a long time since I last posted, but I’ll be honest, I’ve still found myself frustrated with the ousting the Preds suffered in the opening round and haven’t felt much like discussing the team. Don’t take me wrong, my love for this team hasn’t wavered. I just didn’t want to talk about it, but that’s my shortcoming and I’ll deal with that. My wife and I were having a meal with a good friend and fellow Preds fan tonight, and my friend asked about the state of the 2010-11 Preds. So begins the next few posts discussing the Predators roster and the various players that will be free agents this summer. These first few posts, we’ll look at the position most significantly affected this summer: the D-corp. Eklund has assured us that the entire Predators blue-line will be traded to Philadelphia for Dan Carcillo: and per his completely logical and iron-clad rating system, has been upgraded to E-pi squared, so why am I bothering? (Casual reader, don’t worry if you don’t understand that last line.)
DAN HAMHUIS: As the trade deadline loomed at the beginning of March, there had been lots of speculation that Dan Hamhuis would find himself dressing with another team considering his pending free-agent status, especially when the Preds acquired Denis Grebeshkov from the Edmonton Oilers the day prior to the deadline. Hamhuis, or “Hammer” as he is affectionately known by Predators fans, was a cap hit of $2 million (actual salary $2.5m) in the 2009-10 season, but the general consensus was/is that he will be able to earn $4+ million when offered a deal for next season. It was common knowledge during the course of the season that the Preds and Hamhuis had discussed an extension but had been unable to come to an agreement, considering the budget that Nashville operates within. Whether due to being unable to get what he deemed face value in return for Hamhuis, or more just a general faith that a deal can still be reached, Predators General Manager David Poile opted to hang on to Hamhuis. The team was rewarded by Hamhuis as he elevated his game to a level that I felt like had been missing for the better part of 2 seasons, playing much more responsible hockey in his own end while seemingly taking on more of a leadership role with the team. Finishing the regular season with 24 pts (5g,19a) and a plus-4 rating (Hamhuis had been a minus-4 each of the two seasons prior), the team and fans alike hoped that a deep playoff run would generate the extra revenues needed to compensate the young defenseman in better accordance to his expectations. Sadly, the Predators were eliminated in 6 games by the Blackhawks, likely too early to have generated the funds necessary to seal the deal with Hamhuis. Bottom line: unless Hamhuis has a change of heart, and offers a “hometown discount” to the Preds, we’ll likely see Hammer in another sweater next season. With Shea Weber becoming a restricted free agent in 2011, and Ryan Suter an unrestricted free agent in 2012, Poile will be sure to keep the piggybank full to try to lock-up his 2 premier defensemen when the time comes.
FRANCIS BOUILLON: When shot-blocking specialist Greg Zanon departed for the Minnesota Wild and sparsely-used Ville Koistenen went to the Florida Panthers during last summer’s free agency, the assumption by Predators fans was that the vacant defense positions would be filled from within the Nashville system, bringing up players from Milwaukee. To the surprise of many, David Poile instead went out and brought Francis Bouillon back to Nashville, who had been a Predator for only 4 games in the 2002-03 season. As Preds radio voice Tom Callahan often says, we picked up Bouillon for a “ham sandwich,” with him agreeing to a $750,000 contract. This became one of the best deals in the entire league with Bouillon quickly asserting himself as a key cog in the Predators machine, playing regularly during penalty kills and other key moments of games. Short in stature but not in heart, Bouillon was one of the teams most reliable players while also helping rookie Cody Franson and Kevin Klein, who was expected to take a much more prominent role during the season, in their development. Bouillion finished the season with 11 points (3g,8a) in 81 games and a plus-5 rating, the trust of the coaching staff and the appreciation of Preds fans. Bottom line: it’s hard to imagine that the Preds don’t make a legitimate offer to Bouillon to have him return next season. Again, he was such a bargain this season, that a player at twice his salary would still likely have been viewed as having had a fair salary, so my expectation is that we will see Frankie B again in 2010-11.
In the next post, I will be looking at defensemen Cody Franson and Denis Grebeshkov. My intention is to have that post up in the next few days but in the meantime, my hope is that you will contribute your thoughts in the comments section below. Until next time, Big Kev.