The winds of change blow through Nashville

What a week it’s been for our Nashville Predators. Approaching this holiday weekend, most Predators fans were focused on the draft, yearning for more information on the players that could be available around the 18th selection, which the Predators own. Instead, the fan base gets surprised with lineup moves within the existing roster that suggest a shift in reliance towards the younger core players on the team.

Earlier in the week, Pred-heads everywhere rejoiced as it was announced that defenseman Francis Bouillon had been signed to a 2-year extension worth $2.7 million ($1.2 in 2010-11, $1.5 in 2011-12 for a cap hit of $1.35 per season). Bouillon quickly became a fan favorite during the past season, his first full season with the team. While short in stature at 5’8″, Bouillon plays a tenacious game with a willingness to defend against even the biggest forwards in the league while remaining effective at the position. In some ways, Bouillon is symbolic of the Predators, who have garnered a reputation around the league of “doing less with more.” Bouillon is known as a stay-at-home defenseman, a player who takes care of his own end first. Bouillon is not a significant contributor on the scoresheet nor does he see much time on the power-play, but last year he proved his worth with this club in a shut-down capacity and a worthwhile contributor to the penalty kill.

On Saturday, word came out that the Predators had shipped the rights to D Dan Hamhuis, who will be an unrestricted free agent July 1, and a conditional 7th-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for D Ryan Parent, who will be a restricted free agent. While the majority of fans are saddened to see Hamhuis gone, most had also mentally prepared themselves for the next season’s roster not including Hamhuis, who will almost certainly be able to earn a larger contract with another team than the Predators would be willing to budget. Hamhuis, who had been with the team since he was drafted 12th overall by the Predators in the 2001 NHL draft, became a fan favorite early in his tenure with the team due to his physical nature and his skill in the lost art of the hip-check. Parent, who was highly thought of within the Predators organization up to the moment he was traded to the Flyers in the unfortunate Forsberg deal, epitomizes the stay-at-home defenseman, rarely contributing to the scoresheet but focusing on keeping the puck out of his own zone and eliminating the oppositions scoring opportunities. Parent’s play will moderately resemble Hamhuis’  but with a more conservative approach. Parent was a cap hit of $855k in the 2009-10 season, but with only 102 career NHL games, it stands to reason that he will be extended for a minimal raise. My guess would have him earning around $1m on a new deal across 2 years.

While Twitter and the Predators blogging community was still buzzing over the Hamhuis trade, Poile made what I would consider his first SIGNIFICANT roster move since the Foppa debacle. In exchange for a 2nd round pick in the 2011 draft and minor-league forward Matt Halischuk, the Predators shipped team captain Jason Arnott back to the New Jersey Devils.  Halischuk has enjoyed moderate success at the AHL level, but has little NHL experience on his resume, so it is difficult to set expectations for him. To be honest, I’m still trying to work out the shipping off of Arnott. When the Preds first signed him, I was amped. I got an Arnott jersey shortly after he selected #19 and he quickly became my favorite player. He had the tall task of captaining the team through the tumultuous 2006-07 season, leading his team to the playoffs in spite of the off-ice turmoil. So from a sentimental standpoint, I’m saddened to see him go. But from a team growth standpoint, I like the move. His struggles with injury and multiple concussions have hindered his contributions to the team and it was all but guaranteed that the 2010-11 season would have been his last season with the Predators. His $4.5m frees up a lot of salary space to dedicate to another player with more youth and possibly durability.  I think the most significant part of this trade is the message that it sends to the existing roster, as if it almost symbolizes a passing of the torch to the younger players who will become to new core of this team. As if to say “Weber,Suter, Wilson… it is now your time.”

I would also suggest a review of On the Forecheck’s angle on the financial implications the extra salary room allows. It’s a given that the Predators are not done. So what do you think, fair reader, of the moves made by the Preds today. That’s what the comments link is for. Hit it up. – Big Kev

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