For the first time in his 13-year NHL career, Barret Jackman is on the move.
After spending over 800 games with the St. Louis Blues since 2002, the defenseman signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Nashville Predators on Wednesday, a deal that the former Calder Memorial Trophy winner as the League’s top rookie was more than willing to ink.
“Once Nashville became an option, I got really excited,” Jackman said. “I don’t think there was another place I’d rather go than Nashville at this point.”
A 6-0, 203-pound blueliner born in Trail, British Columbia, Jackman has become known for his physicality and penalty killing abilities, two elements that Predators General Manager David Poile was pleased to add to the Nashville roster.
“This is a perfect fit for our defense,” Poile said of Jackman. “He brings veteran leadership, physicality and his biggest asset to us is that he kills penalties. In theory, he should be the first one out to kill penalties, and I can’t tell you how important that will be in terms of the total balance in resting a Shea Weber or [Roman] Josi in those critical areas…It’s just a super add to our blue line.”
There’s also some sandpaper in the 34-year-old’s game, an attribute that can go a long way in the ultra-competitive Central Division.
“It’s been no fun playing against him,” Poile said. “He’s one of the guys that just seems to have that knack of knowing when to make the big hit, get in the big scrum, rub the glove in your face; I don’t think it’s very much fun playing against Barret Jackman.”
And for Jackman, hearing that from his new general manager is the ultimate compliment.
“If I ever have a player that says, ‘I hate playing against you,’ I’m definitely doing my job,” Jackman said. “That’s the style of game that I’m going to bring. I’m not going to be flashy, but I’m going to make it tough for the opposition every night, and hopefully gain the respect of my teammates, coaches and the fans.”
Having played in the same division as the Preds his entire career, Jackman has certainly seen his fair share of Nashville along the way. Although he admits it’s not easy leaving the only NHL team he’s ever known, he’s anxious to contribute to another club.
“It’s always been a lot of fun traveling to Nashville, and I’ve got a lot of respect of the way the Preds have always played,” Jackman said. “I’m definitely excited to bring my type of game to the team and contribute in any way I can.”
And it wasn’t just the on-ice potential of the team that attracted the blueliner. Married with two young children, Jackman, also a country music fan, was familiar with Nashville as a city, thanks to advice from former teammates like Scott Nichol, Chris Mason and Jason Arnott.
“I knew what kind of a city Nashville was and what kind of an organization it was, and it was really a no-brainer when David Poile called and started talking about things,” Jackman said. “It didn’t take long for my wife and me to come to the conclusion that Nashville is the best spot.”
After informing his five-year-old son on some of the things to look forward to in their new city, the entire Jackman family is on board.
“We’re definitely excited,” Jackman said of his family. “I broke the news to them that we had to leave St. Louis, but I showed my son the Predators mascot and told him about Nashville and he’s pretty excited.”
While Jackman’s son is looking forward to meeting Gnash upon his arrival, the veteran believes this is simply the right fit at this point in his career.
“The defense is absolutely solid, the goaltending is probably the best in the League and the forwards have so much potential,” Jackman said of the Preds. “Then the city speaks for itself. A big part of it was about family, as well as going to a place that I have a chance to win and Nashville has a great mix of both of those things.”