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Flashback Feature: Ten years of transactions

by Kevin Wilson / Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators' 2007-2008 season marks the tenth season in the history of the franchise. We're celebrating the occasion with a special section of our Web site, dedicated to revisiting the history of the organization. This section will grow with new features and interactive elements as the 10th Anniversary Season unfolds. (Note: Click the 10th Anniversary banner at the top of any page in this section to return to this index.)

This Month in Predators' History

Nov. 13, 1997
Craig Leipold and Jack Diller unveiled the "Predators" as Nashville's name (as selected by the fans) at the Wildhorse Saloon in front of inaugural season ticketholders and fans.

Nov. 10, 1999
Rob Valicevic notches the first hat trick in franchise history in a 4-2 win at the United Center in Chicago.

Nov. 21, 2001
The Predators unveiled an alternate jerseys. The gold sweater featured an animated saber-toothed tiger logo on the crest and a pair of tiger skulls on the shoulders.

Nov. 8, 2003
One of the most memorable comebacks in Predators history - Nashville scores three in the third to defeat Detroit 4-3, starting its run to the playoffs.

Nov. 21, 2003
Scott Hartnell pots the franchise's 1,000th goal in overtime to defeat Anaheim 4-3 .

Flashback Feature: Ten Years of Transactions

By Kevin Wilson, Nashville Predators

Over the course of 10 seasons, the Nashville Predators have wheeled and dealed with the best of them, with the majority of their most notable acquisitions flying under the radar at the time. Here is a look back at some of the most memorable:

June 26, 1998 – Expansion Draft
•    Selected Andrew Brunette (WSH), Mike Dunham (N.J), Greg Johnson (CHI), Tomas Vokoun (MTL), Scott Walker (VAN)

The Nashville Predators built the early foundations for the franchise on this Friday afternoon at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y., picking up one player left “unprotected” by each of the other 26 established NHL franchises. Among the selections were Andrew Brunette (Wsh), Mike Dunham (N.J), Greg Johnson (Chi), Tomas Vokoun (Mtl) and Scott Walker (Van).

While Brunette stayed with the Preds for just one season, he netted the first goal in team history – in a 3-2 win over Carolina – and has gone on to have productive campaigns for Atlanta, Minnesota and Colorado, most recently notching 83 points in 82 games for the Avalanche in 2006-07.

Dunham, who started his career as Martin Brodeur’s backup for the Devils, was the first face of the franchise as the starting netminder for four seasons. His best year came in 2000-01 when he posted a 21-21-4 mark with a 2.28 goals against average and .923 save percentage, good for second in the league.

Dunham’s departure on Dec. 12, 2002 made way for Tomas Vokoun to take over as starter. Vokoun was Nashville’s expansion selection from Montreal despite having just one period of NHL experience. The Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic native rewrote the Predators record books from 2002-07, serving as a fan-favorite and undeniable leader of the team. He led Nashville to its first winning season, and first playoff appearance in 2003-04.
Mike Dunham manned the Nashville net from 1998-2002.

The Preds also snagged a pair of front-end mainstays from Western Conference foes as well, selecting Greg Johnson from Chicago and Scott Walker from Vancouver. Johnson, who wound up being the team’s second captain prior to the 2002-03 season, was a consistent second and third-line center until his retirement in 2006. Johnson had the most productive years of his career in the Music City, posting highs in points in 1998-99 with 50 and goals in 2001-02 with 18. He also sits among the franchise’s career leaders in games played, goals and points.

Meanwhile, Walker developed from a grinding enforcer in the early years of his career to a productive scorer in Nashville – twice posting 25-goal seasons. When he was traded to Carolina in the summer of 2006, he stood as the all-time goals leader in franchise history with 96. That record was surpassed by the team’s first draft pick, David Legwand, in 2006-07.

•    Acquired defensemen Jan Vopat and Kimmo Timonen from Los Angeles for future considerations.

On the same day as the expansion festivities, the Predators acquired another future captain, Kimmo Timonen, for next to nothing. Timonen was not only selected to the all-star squad three times, but established himself as one of the elite two-way blueliners in the league, posting 50-plus points in both of his final two years for Nashville. The Kuopio, Finland native also emerged as a leader in his eight seasons with the Preds, wearing the captain’s “C” for the squad in 2006-07 and mentoring a young and inexperienced defensive corps that helped the Preds reach a franchise record 110 points.
July 6, 1998
•    Signed free-agent forward Tom Fitzgerald

Tom Fitzgerald was the first Predator captain.
Nashville signed its first captain a week-and-a-half after the expansion and entry drafts, inking unrestricted free agent Tom Fitzgerald to a three-year contract worth about $4.5 million. The Billerica, Mass., native came to the Music City with nine seasons of NHL experience, appearing in 569 regular season games for the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche from 1988-98. He went on to captain the Preds for nearly four seasons as a serviceable role player and third line winger, notching 88 points in 307 contests until being traded on March 13, 2002 to the Chicago Blackhawks. In exchange, Nashville received a fourth-round selection in the 2003 Entry Draft in addition to future considerations.

At his farewell press conference on the day of his trade, a tearful Fitzgerald said, “I’m very proud to have been the first captain of the Nashville Predators. I feel good that I have had a chance to work with the young players. When I look back in 10 years and a lot of these young guys are superstars, I’ll feel proud that I played a part in that.”

Upon retiring following the 2005-06 season, Fitzgerald spent a year as an analyst for the New England Sports Network, and has since been hired as Director of Player Development for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

October 31, 1998
•    Acquired forward Cliff Ronning and defenseman Richard Lintner from Phoenix for future considerations.

General Manager David Poile waited only eight games into the Predators inaugural season to shake up the roster, acquiring 5-8, 165-pound forward Cliff Ronning and d-man Richard Litner from the Phoenix Coyotes for future considerations. The move paid off big time for Nashville, as Ronning emerged as the first record-setting offensive player in team history.

“I think it’s fantastic from our standpoint,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said at the time. “He’s a very exciting player. He’s quick, he’s got great offensive instincts and opportunity wise, this is a chance for him to get a lot more ice time.”

“The Rat” as he was affectionately called, didn’t disappoint his new organization. After a short adjustment period, the Burnaby, B.C., native put together a six-game point-scoring streak in early November, and had 10 points (3g-7a) in eight games from Nov. 10 at San Jose to Nov. 27 vs. Anaheim. Ronning led the team in points for all four seasons he played for the Preds – even in 2001-02 when he was dealt prior to the trade deadline to Los Angeles for defenseman Jere Karalahti and a conditional selection in the 2003 Entry Draft. The transaction occurred just six days after Ronning played in his 1,000 career NHL game at Florida on March 10, 2002 and three days after the trade of Tom Fitzgerald.

“This has been a tough week, not only trading away two of our most prominent players, but two of our more prominent personalities,” Trotz said. “But we’ve got to move on. We’ve talked a lot about a new era and a new stage of our development. Well, this is it.”

May 6, 2002

•    Signed free-agent forward Vernon Fiddler

There was hardly even a blurb in the local newspapers when the Preds inked 21-year-old forward Vernon Fiddler to a two-way contract following the 2001-02 season – and justifiably so since the undrafted free agent spent the campaign bouncing between the Roanoke of the East Coast Hockey League and Norfolk of the American Hockey League. But to the delight of everyone within the organization, the native of Edmonton, Alta., has emerged as a pleasant surprise, most recently notching a career-best 26 points (11g-15a) in 72 games as a third and fourth-line centerman in 2006-07, leading to a new two-year contract. Fiddler’s hard work helped him ascend up the depth chart after being expected to toil in the minors for the majority of his career. Spot duty in 2002-03 and 2003-04 for Nashville led to him spending all but 11 games with the big club in 2005-06, and ultimately finding a permanent role with the Predators in 2006-07.

Fiddler is yet another example of a nice payoff for the franchise taking a chance on an unproven player.

December 12, 2002
•    Acquired forward Rem Murray and defensemen Tomas Kloucek and Marek Zidlicky from the New York Rangers for goaltender Mike Dunham.
On Dec. 12, 2002, the Predators made yet another franchise-altering trade when it shipped the first face of the franchise to the Big Apple for defensemen Tomas Kloucek and Marek Zidlicky in addition to grinding forward Rem Murray.
The trade of Mike Dunham enabled Tomas Vokoun to emerge as one of the top netminders in the game.

At the time, the move wasn’t as much about who Nashville received in return for Dunham as much as it was putting expectations on a player to take a large jump from backup to full-time NHL starter. Tomas Vokoun certainly didn’t disappoint.

“It was time to make a change in Nashville,” General Manager David Poile said at the time. “We have not had a clear-cut situation this year in terms of our goaltending, and I believe it’s been almost identical in terms of minutes played between Tomas and Mike. If you would look at 30 teams in the NHL, I believe only five are using that kind of two-goalie system…that’s really the way we wanted to go.”

While Murray provided hard work on the ice and a veteran influence in the locker room, and Zidlicky surprised everyone with 53 points (14g-39a) in his first full NHL season, 2003-04, the move was about the front office’s faith in Vokoun, who hadn’t played more than 37 games in any prior season. Not only did the Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic native grab the starting goaltending reins and run with it, he developed into one of the League’s elite goaltenders while serving as a voice for the team in the locker room, and an active participant in and around the Middle Tennessee community. When Vokoun was traded to the Florida Panthers at the 2007 Entry Draft for a collection of draft picks, it marked the final player from the 1998 Expansion Draft to depart. Fans of the Predators, the city and Vokoun were shocked and saddened.

“It’s definitely hard to leave when you live somewhere for basically 10 years, my children were born there and I have lots of friends,” Vokoun said upon hearing the news. “I love Nashville and I have only good things to say about the people there and my time playing in Nashville, the franchise, and the way they treated me.”

Vokoun broke virtually every Predators goaltending record over the course of eight seasons and 383 games from 1998-2007. He finished fourth in Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender) voting in 2005-06, appeared in the NHL All-Star Game in 2004, and consistently ranked in the top 10 in both the goals against average and save percentage in his final four seasons with the team.

October 3, 2003
•    Claimed goaltender Chris Mason from Florida in the 2003 NHL Waiver Draft
Mason returned to the Predators after spending the 2002-03 season with Florida.

After a season-long hiatus spent with the San Antonio Rampage, American Hockey League affiliate of the Florida Panthers, goalie Chris Mason returned to the Predators organization via the waiver draft just prior to the 2003-04 season. Mason played in just four games – all with Nashville – before the team reacquired him, but this time he was brought in to backup Tomas Vokoun. Never did he imagine that the trade of Vokoun in the summer of 2007 would open the door for him to become an NHL starter for the first time in his career just four years later.

“You work your whole life for something like this, so it is a dream come true,” Mason said. “But at the same time, I want to go out and prove to everyone that they made the right decision. I look forward to the pressure of playing every night.”

February 16, 2004
•    Acquired forward Steve Sullivan from Chicago for a second-round selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and a second-round selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft

The acquisition of diminutive speedster Steve Sullivan from the Chicago Blackhawks served as a launching pad for the Predators first playoff berth in mid-April, and might have been the biggest steal in the trade history of the team. Sullivan was an inferno out of the gate, registering a hat trick and four points in his very first contest – a 7-3 beating of San Jose on Feb. 18.

“Obviously it’s one game, but I like the way things look,” Sullivan said after the four-point performance. “The puck just followed me and the puck went in. You’re going to get those nights, it was just a coincidence it was my first game.”

“Sully” didn’t slow down though, registering 30 points (9g-21a) in 24 games after the trade. He was held scoreless in back-to-back contests just once down the stretch, and was named one of the “three stars of the game” seven times, including the “first star” four times.

July 9, 2004
•    Signed free-agent defenseman Greg Zanon

Similar to Vernon Fiddler signing in the summer of 2002, the inking of free-agent defenseman Greg Zanon went largely unnoticed by both the local media and the league. Originally a fifth-round selection of Ottawa in 2000, Zanon went unsigned by the Senators, and joined the Preds organization following four years of college at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. For his first three professional seasons, the 5-11, 211-pound rearguard paid his dues in the American Hockey League, winning a Calder Cup with Milwaukee in 2004, and captaining the Ads to the league final again in 2006. Upon getting his shot at “the show,” the Burnaby, B.C., native didn’t disappoint, playing 66 games for the Predators in 2006-07, leading the squad in blocked shots with 189, in addition to ranking among the NHL’s leaders in the category. Zanon’s gritty style and emergence as a key cog on the Pred’s blue line led to him being rewarded with a two-year contract in July 2007.

August 5, 2005
•    Signed free-agent forward Paul Kariya

The signing of Paul Kariya prior to the 2005-06 season showed the league Nashville was ready to compete.
It was the signing of unrestricted free agent Paul Kariya to a two-year, $9 million contract that officially put Nashville on the map as a force to be reckoned with in the National Hockey League. The move sent shockwaves through the hockey community, primarily because it proved that players wanted to come play in a small, non-traditional market in the South. It was also the first time the Preds competed directly with other clubs for a marquee player and won.

“He had a lot of places to go, it’s fantastic that he chose Nashville when we know he had at least half of the clubs in the NHL after him,” General Manager David Poile said.

Added Kariya: “If you take a closer look at it, I don’t think it is that stunning of a move. I think that Nashville has a terrific young hockey club, and a club that I wanted to be a part of.”

The seven-time NHL All-Star selection, Olympic gold medalist and two-time Lady Byng Trophy winner proved his worth in a Predators sweater, leading Nashville in scoring and establishing franchise records for assist (54), points (85) and power-play points (45) in his first campaign, 2005-06. He also tied team records for goals (31) and power-play goals (14) in a year. To date, it is undoubtedly the most prolific offensive season in the Predators 10-year history.

July 2, 2006

•    Signed free-agent forward Jason Arnott

The Predators caused a stir on the free agent market again just 11 months after signing Kariya by inking the top available center, Jason Arnott, to a five-year, $22.5 million contract. The 6-4, 220-pound pivot not only added some much-needed size to the roster, but brought a history of success to a young squad.
The signing of Jason Arnott sent a message that the Preds were poised for a run at the Cup.

“The signing sends a very clear message that we are serious about winning a Stanley Cup,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said at the signing’s announcement. “We were sending that message last year when we signed Kariya, and will continue to send it until that dream comes true.”
The native of Collingwood, Ontario not only brought a Stanley Cup ring to the table, but scored the Cup-clinching goal at 8:20 of the second overtime period in Game Six of the 2000 finals. He appeared in the finals again the following year.

“I feel it is time in my career to move on and be that go-to guy and horse on the ice,” Arnott said on his signing day. “I will take that role in the dressing room as well as on the ice, and move forward with my career.”
He did just that in 2006-07, posting team high in power-play tallies (12) and tying for the team lead in goals (27), despite missing 11 games with a knee injury.

August 29, 2006
•    Signed free-agent forward J.P. Dumont

J.P. Dumont instantly became the most coveted forward on the unrestricted free agent market late in the summer of 2006 when the Buffalo Sabres failed to accept a one-year, $2.9 million arbitration award. After surveying the market and talking to friends in the hockey world, Dumont decided Music City was the place for him.

“Nashville is a team that has been moving forward the past few years,” Dumont said. “Joel Bouchard told me good things about Nashville, the town and the organization. He told me the Predators were the best pick by far because they know how to treat everyone like a family and that was something I was looking for.”

In the first season of his two-year, $4.5 million deal, Dumont set career highs in assists (45) and points (66), good for second on the club in both categories. With the departure of several veterans after the 2006-07 season, Dumont has been leaned on even more as a team leader both on and off the ice.

February 15, 2007
•    Acquired forward Peter Forsberg from Philadelphia for forward Scottie Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent, and a first-round and third-round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Before 2007, the Predators had made late-season trades for a playoff push, acquiring the likes of Steve Sullivan in 2004, and Brendan Witt and Mike Sillinger in 2006, but they had never gone out and gotten arguably one of the most impactful players in the world like Peter Forsberg. The future hall of famer carries a quiet mystic with him that has captivated every market he has played in – and Nashville was no exception. The acquisition created an instant buzz around town, luring capacity crowds to the Sommet Center, in addition to extensive national and international media coverage.
Peter Forsberg came to the Preds from Philadelphia on Feb. 15

“When you're talking about Forsberg in the history of the NHL, he's going to go down as one of the best ever to play in the National Hockey League,” General Manager David Poile said at the trade’s announcement. “This is a really huge deal for our franchise. It's certainly, I think, a clear message also to our community that we are aiming to be the best that we can be.”

Despite battling nagging injuries for the remainder of the season, the Ornskoldsvik, Sweden native showed flashes of brilliance that won him two Stanley Cups, a Hart Trophy (League MVP), an Art Ross Trophy (Top Scorer), World Championship and Olympic Gold Medals. In one of the most memorable games of the season, a 4-3 come-from-behind overtime victory against divisional foe Detroit on Feb. 24, Forsberg setup Paul Kariya for the contest’s first goal, and scored the game-winner on a tip-in at the 2:11 mark of overtime. Three games later, he notched three assists in a 6-3 rout of Los Angeles at the Staples Center. In the 17 regular season games he played, “Foppa” had five multi-point contests.

"A year ago, would you ever think that Peter Forsberg would be available at the trade deadline? I wouldn't, and I don't think too many people around the league would think that," Kariya said following the L.A. game. "He's the ultimate professional and he makes players around him better. There's no higher a compliment that you can give a player than that. I've never seen him take a shift off."

June 18, 2007

•    Acquired a first-round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft from the Philadelphia Flyers for the rights to forward Scott Hartnell and defenseman Kimmo Timonen

In reacquiring their own first round pick that they traded to Philadelphia in the package for Peter Forsberg, the Predators said goodbye to two pillars of the organization – 1999 first-round pick Scott Hartnell and original Pred Kimmo Timonen. Hartnell, who originally arrived in Nashville as an 18-year-old kid fresh out of junior hockey, was set to be the youngest to reach unrestricted free agency under the league’s new collective bargaining agreement signed in 2005. Timonen, grew from an unproven prospect when he was acquired in 1998, to an elite blueliner, three-time all-star selection and NHL captain.

“We expected both Scott and Kimmo to be among the most sought after at their respective positions when the unrestricted free agent marketplace opens on July 1, and it did not appear as if we were going to be able to sign either player before then,” General Manager David Poile said at the time of the trade.  “That being said, we received a first-round pick for the exclusive right to negotiate with two players who ultimately could have hit the market in two weeks.”

Hours after becoming Flyers, Hartnell and Timonen signed six-year contracts worth $25.2 million and $37.8 million, respectively. Both players made their marks on the Preds record book – being two of just four players (along with David Legwand and Dan Hamhuis) to play in every one of the franchise’s 16 playoff games dating back to 2004. Timonen holds 13 franchise career records, including most games (573) and most points (301) in club history. Hartnell meanwhile sits third all-time in goals (93), second in game-winning tallies (19) and first in penalty minutes (544).

10th Anniversary Feature Archive:
Flashback Feature: Where are they now? Greg Johnson
Flashback Feature: Most Impressive single-game offensive performances
Flashback Feature: Where are they now? Cliff Ronning
10th Anniv.: Where were they then? 
Flashback Feature: Ten years of transactions 
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