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Predators want veteran centers Ribeiro, Fisher back

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Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said Saturday that two of his top offseason priorities are to re-sign centers Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher.

However, two other future free agents, defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli, will not be coming back.

Each of the four can become an unrestricted free agent if not signed by July 1. 

"Fisher and Ribeiro are two guys we really want to get under contract soon," Poile said during an appearance at the Music City Sports Festival in Nashville, according to the Predators website.

Ribeiro, 35, signed a one-year contract last summer after the Arizona Coyotes bought out the final three seasons of his four-year contract. He was second on the Predators with 62 points and had five points in six games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

He played most of the season on a line with leading scorer Filip Forsberg, who finished in the top three among NHL rookies with 26 goals and 63 points.

Fisher, 34, had 19 goals and 39 points in 59 games. An offseason Achilles injury kept him out the first seven weeks of the season, and a lower-body injury sidelined him for three of the Predators' six games against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round.

Franson and Santorelli were acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 15 for a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, forward Olli Jokinen and prospect Brendan Leipsic. The Predators were an NHL-best 38-12-6 the day the trade was made but finished the season 9-12-5.

"We're probably not going to do anything with them," Poile said. "It was a good try to give us some depth to make the playoffs and to compete in the playoffs, and I was really disappointed with how it worked out with Cody. I think he's a really good player, a great person, a big body; in a lot of ways I'd like to have him here for a long time. But he's a right-handed shot and [Shea] Weber is a right-handed shot and [Seth] Jones is a right-handed shot and [Ryan] Ellis is a right-handed shot and none of them can or want to play on the left side. So it's not a fit for us. Cody is going to go somewhere else and play real well. Mike Santorelli was close but no cigar. He had a ton of chances for us and just seemed to be so close to contributing and scoring some goals and it just wasn't enough. So we're going to go in a different direction."

Poile said he didn't think it was likely he would make a trade to get back into the first round of the draft.

Another unrestricted free agent who might not be back is defenseman Anton Volchenkov, who averaged 13:10 of ice time per game in 46 regular-season games but played in one playoff game.

"If there's a [similar] defenseman out there with maybe a little of a physical edge, maybe a veteran type of player, we could go in that direction," Poile said. "But I'm comfortable with [defenseman] Victor Bartley having a chance to play more regularly. We have a young player by the name of Anthony Bitetto who played some games here last year and I really favor right now to promote from within. It's the right thing to do in the organization."

He also said groundwork has been laid to sign forwards Colin Wilson and Craig Smith. Each can become a restricted free agent if not signed by July 1.

Wilson, 25, set NHL career-highs with 20 goals and 42 points in 77 regular-season games, and led the Predators with five goals in six playoff games. Smith, 25, had 23 goals, his second straight 20-goal season.

"We would like to sign them and probably sign them to some term if we can agree on that," Poile said.

Despite the way the season ended, Poile said he is happy with the way the roster looks.

"Our team is just about there," he said. "I'll take our goaltending with Pekka [Rinne] against anybody. I'll take our defense against anybody. Our forwards have been under the microscope and are really getting better. … We've got to be a bit better but I like what we have right now, and I would like to see a majority of this team come back next year and see how we compete against all the top teams in the League."

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