On a day when trades traditionally dominate the discussion, the Nashville Predators retained one of their own.
For the first time in his professional career - with the exception of his entry-level contract - Rocco Grimaldi signed a deal longer than a single season, and the forward's new agreement with the Preds will keep him around for the next two campaigns for a total of $4 million.
The contract is a well-deserved reward for the 27-year-old winger, who has career-highs in virtually every statistical category this season, including goals (10), assists (20), points (30) and games played (58). Grimaldi has become an integral part of Nashville's forward corps over the past two seasons, and the fan favorite has more than earned his spot once again.
And there's nowhere else he'd rather be.
"The last two years, I had to start from the bottom and work my way up, and I definitely did not want to have to do that with a new team," Grimaldi said shortly after signing the deal. "We're comfortable here, my wife and I both love it here, love the city, love my teammates, coaching staff and everyone here. It's been a great fit for us… I think both parties are happy about it and I'm just excited."
Drafted by Florida in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft, Grimaldi saw time with the Panthers and Avalanche over the first four seasons of his career, but he never found full-time work, bouncing back and forth between the League he wanted to be in and the American Hockey League.
The uncertainty that comes with an arrangement of that nature is taxing, and as the years went on, there were times Grimaldi wasn't sure he wanted to be in this line of work any longer.
"I honestly had said to my wife numerous times, 'If I do this for two more years, I think I'm just going to call it done,'" Grimaldi said. "I had teams from Europe reaching out and seeing if I'd come over, and it almost felt like I was kind of done. My chance to make my dream come true was over. But I had so many people that were behind me, who had been behind me for so many years, kept pushing me through, kept saying, 'Nope, you're good, you're going to make it, keep working. I know the type of person you are.' And without those people I don't know if I'd be here today."
Not only is Grimaldi here, but he's staying here, thanks to what he's done in a Nashville uniform.
He recorded five goals and 13 points in 53 games last season as he appeared in more NHL contests than AHL outings for the first time, and he followed it up with a stellar showing against Dallas in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring.
That earned Grimaldi another one-year deal over the summer, and the trajectory has only advanced upward. Everything he's been through to this point makes the two-year contract that much more rewarding, and Grimaldi is looking forward to continuing to prove the chances Nashville has taken on will be worth it.
Video: Grimaldi speaks on two-year, $4 million contract
"I'm grateful for the struggles… and it's grown me as a man," Grimaldi said. "[People will judge me by what I do as a player], but at the end of the day, I'm not [basing this] on what I do on the ice. I know people might say otherwise, but for me, the type of person I am is more important. The type of family man I am is more important. And I feel like I've grown so much in that area just with all these battles and struggles. It's really grown me stronger, and it's helped me to look for the positive in things and have a different perspective. It's been awesome."
Grimaldi and his wife, Abby, who happens to be a musician, say Nashville is the perfect fit for both of their professions. When it came down to it, Grimaldi wanted to keep playing hockey here and wanted Music City to be his place of residence, too.
But no matter the destination, Grimaldi can now call himself a full-time NHLer, something that didn't always seem possible just a short time ago.
Amazing what a little hard work and belief can do.
"I just kept the faith," Grimaldi said. "I kept working, and I think about all the kids that are going to be after me that, whether it's hockey or whatever it is in life that they want to do, and people are pushing them down and saying, 'No.' I wanted to be one that said, 'Even though that happened for a lot of years, I'll just keep pushing, keep believing, keep fighting, keep working every day and one day it can happen.' I also thought about my future children. I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I told them I quit. That's something I'll tell my kids one day, that I never quit."
Now that the deal is done, Grimaldi can focus his attention back to the push for the postseason, a goal he and his teammates are so feverishly working to attain. For everything the Predators have been through the season, that same belief Grimaldi carries has always been there.
Now, it's time for results. No doubt Grimaldi will do everything in his power to help the Preds do just that.
"We've got a lot of hockey left," Grimaldi said. "We're two points out of a playoff spot, we're pushing, we've got some games in hand; a lot of people are counting us out, but I'm hoping for a strong push from our team and a great response the next couple months."