NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators will begin contract negotiations with forwards Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen next week, general manager David Poile said Wednesday.
Arvidsson and Johansen led the Predators during the regular season with 61 points each; Arvidsson had 31 goals (which led Nashville, tied with center Filip Forsberg) and 30 assists, and Johansen had 14 goals and led the Predators with 47 assists.
"We have a few contracts to do," Poile said. "The most notable are Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. Both are restricted free agents [on July 1]. We will meet with … both have the same agent. We'll meet with them in Chicago [at the 2017 NHL Draft] to start that process next week."
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If either does not sign with the Predators by July 1, he can receive an offer sheet from another NHL team that Nashville can match.
Poile also said he has spoken with Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee about the NHL Expansion Draft. Poile said he believes Nashvile will be losing one of the better players Vegas selects, and he said he's hoping he can work out something to allow the Predators to protect as many assets as possible.
The Predators are expected to protect four defensemen (Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis), which means they can protect four forwards (Arvidsson, Johansen, Forsberg and likely either James Neal or Calle Jarnkrok).
"It's going to be tough," Poile said. "Whatever we do, I think we're one of the teams that is going to give up one of the better players in expansion. I've also made a call, talked to George McPhee [on Monday], and I'm going to talk to him again [Thursday] just to see if I can see what he might be looking for and see whether there might be a deal that we could make that we could make to satisfy both of us.
"It's the cost of doing business. We've been on the other end of getting an expansion team (Nashville joined the NHL in 1998-99). I'm happy for Vegas to some extent, but with all due respect they're probably getting better players than we did to start with. We will do the best we can to protect as many assets as we can."
The NHL Expansion Draft will be held June 17-21, with the announcement of the selections to be made at the 2017 NHL Awards and NHL Expansion Draft presented by T-Mobile on June 21 (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).
Teams must submit their list of protected players by 5 p.m. ET on June 17. Vegas will be given the lists at 10 a.m. on June 18 and will have until 10 a.m. on June 21 to submit its selections.
A team must protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender; or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender.
Any player with a no-movement clause in his contract at the time of the expansion draft must be protected unless he waives it. All first- and second-year professional players, and unsigned draft choices, are exempt from selection by Vegas and do not have to be protected.
Poile also is waiting on center Mike Fisher to decide if he wants to play next season. The 37-year-old Predators captain can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Video: NYI@NSH: Fisher slams home a nice dish from Wilson
"Just for the record, we haven't talked to Mike Fisher yet," Poile said. "Obviously we'd like to give him as much time as he needs to make a decision."
Poile also discussed three forwards who were injured during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which ended when the Predators lost 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. He said Craig Smith had a high ankle sprain, Colin Wilson had a hamstring injury, and Neal played with a broken hand sustained during Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks.
"James Neal was a really interesting story," Poile said. "... I'm sure that doesn't surprise anybody. I don't know how many of you were watching every day, but in practice he never shot a puck … since that happened.
"He had to get it shot up every game just to be able to play. I think these are the stories that make hockey players just a little bit different. Obviously, we really appreciate all of the players playing through their injuries. Somebody like James Neal in the lineup, under normal circumstances, nobody would have played with a broken hand. But he did and we commend that."