NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators general manager David Poile had a clear plan heading into free agency Wednesday, but that plan hinged on whether impending free agent center Mike Ribeiro would re-sign with the Predators.
Ribeiro signed a two-year, $7 million contract with the Predators a little more than an hour before free agency began. He had 15 goals and 62 points last season and finished second on the Predators in scoring behind rookie forward Filip Forsberg. Poile was thrilled to get the contract with Ribeiro done and have his first-line center back for next season.
"I met with Mike [Wednesday] morning and certainly reinforced to him the importance of his being a good citizen in the community, and Mike is certainly committed to our team and to his family," Poile said. "He really appreciates us showing confidence in him as a hockey player and as a person."
Negotiations between Ribeiro and the Predators went down to the wire before free agency began, forcing Poile to come up with contingency plans in case a deal was not reached. Re-signing Ribeiro made Poile's agenda much easier and was the most important part of his free agency strategy.
"I'm really glad that we got that done," Poile said. "If we hadn't completed that then I may not be having this press conference right now because I might be a lot busier trying to fill in for Ribeiro. We had some guys there, but now that it's after the fact I can honestly say that I wouldn't have been as confident in those signings as I am in having Mike Ribeiro back."
The 35-year-old center has 217 goals and 718 points in 947 NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars, Washington Capitals, Coyotes and Predators.
"From the beginning of last year, for David and Peter [Laviolette, coach] to believe in me and to be supportive of me and help me through this, I think it was a great fit," Ribeiro told the Predators' website. "People believe in the team and that was one of the reasons I wanted to come back. The players, the coaches and David, they believed in me. They supported me throughout the year last year and I couldn't be more thankful."
Poile wanted a veteran, physical defenseman to complement Nashville's young and talented defense corps. The Predators were able to reach a two-year, $4 million contract with veteran defenseman Barret Jackman to fill that need.
"I think this is a perfect fit for our defense," Poile said. "He brings veteran leadership, physicality and his biggest asset to us is that he kills penalties. In theory, he should be the first one to go out to kill penalties, and I can't tell you how important that will be in terms of the total balance for resting a Shea Weber or [Roman] Josi in those critical areas."
The addition of Jackman gives the Predators three left-handed defenseman and three right-handed defensemen in their projected top six. Jackman played his first 13 seasons and 803 games with the St. Louis Blues.
Nashville also signed center Cody Hodgson to a one-year, $1.05 million contract after he was bought out by the Buffalo Sabres. Hodgson is a low-risk, potentially high-reward signing. Poile found success with Ribeiro last season with the exact same contract he gave Hodgson and is hoping it provides a similar result.
"It was a negotiation, but when we arrived at the number, that's exactly what we said," Poile said. "That this is what we gave Ribeiro last year, and that's how it worked out."
Hodgson finished last season with 13 points in 72 games with the Sabres, but had 20 goals and 44 points in 2013-14. Poile envisions Hodgson centering the third line heading into next season.
"I would think he would fit in right behind Ribeiro and [center Mike Fisher], and I see [forward Calle Jarnkrok] probably being shifted over to the wing," Poile said. "I think that was [Laviolette's] initial reaction to this signing and to that player. When we had talked about it in our preparation, those were his thoughts."
Nashville traded a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to the Calgary Flames for center Max Reinhart. Poile said Reinhart would probably start the season as the second-line center for the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.