When Matt Carle steps on the ice for the first time in Nashville at the commencement of training camp, he’ll be doing so with an added level of comfort that most don’t typically enjoy with a new club.
The Predators newest defenseman, who inked a one-year, $700,000 deal with the club on Wednesday, played for Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette and Assistant Coach Kevin McCarthy from 2009-12, when the three were members of the Philadelphia Flyers organization. Add that to the time spent with Preds Assistant Coach Phil Housley and Team USA at the 2013 World Championship, and the familiarity with those behind the bench can only help Carle find his game once more.
Bought out of the final two seasons of a six-year deal by Tampa Bay, Carle is hoping for a fresh start in Nashville with a blue line that is arguably the League’s best.
“Knowing that this group was only one game away from going to the Western Conference Final last year, it’s an exciting team to join,” Carle said via phone from his home in Minnesota. “You look at the D corps, there’s a lot of talent there, and I just hope to step in and complement them, help the team win and get to that next level.”
Carle is a veteran of 724 career regular-season games – the most of any Preds defenseman – and 127 postseason contests, which include two trips to the Stanley Cup Final, once in 2010 with Laviolette and the Flyers, the other in 2015 with Tampa Bay. The 31-year-old blueliner, born in Anchorage, Alaska, is excited to see what’s next to come in Tennessee.
“It’s certainly a new chapter in my career, so I’m hoping that this will be an easy transition for myself and my family,” Carle said. “Even going back to the last time I was a free agent in 2012, Nashville was a place that was high on my radar. I’m really looking forward to getting into town, getting a fresh start and starting a new chapter in my career.”
Carle saw the most statistical success of his career while playing under Laviolette, hitting the 35-plus point mark for three consecutive seasons, including 40 points in 2010-11. With the interest in Nashville already present, a phone call with Laviolette may have sealed the deal.
“There’s a lot of familiarity there; he knows my game and I know what to expect from him as a coach,” Carle said. “He and I had a really good conversation before I made the decision to come there, and that made the decision much easier for me, knowing what my role would be and knowing what to expect going forward… I’ve had brief conversations with all three [Preds coaches] since I’ve made my decision, and I’m just really looking forward to getting there in September and getting going.”
A self-proclaimed “huge country music fan” who enjoys the likes of Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean and Eric Church, Carle is hoping to fit right in with all the city has to offer. A member of the San Jose Sharks from 2006-08, Carle recalled skating in Nashville during the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, an atmosphere that has always stuck with him. Now, he’s on the other side.
“It’s an electric building, and it’s a fun place to play as an opponent, so I’m really looking forward to getting there, getting to know some of the fans and playing in front of those fans,” Carle said. “Even my conversations with [Laviolette], he touched on it as well. The fan base is growing there, this team’s had success over the last couple of years and the building seems like it’s rocking every game every time I’ve been there, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Carle knows he won’t necessarily be counted on to put up Roman Josi and P.K. Subban-like numbers from the backend, and he’s just fine with that. Rather, he hopes to provide a veteran presence to a team that could be on the cusp of something special.
“I’m the type of guy that’s going to try to lead by example on and off the ice,” Carle said. “I’ve played in all situations and know what to expect whether we’re playing in October or in June. It’s an exciting time for myself and my family, and I hope to come in there and just complement the team and help them be even better.”