In the first few hours of free agency on July 1, the Nashville Predators signed defenseman Barret Jackman and forward Cody Hodgson, both of whom are anxious for their start in Music City.
Two of the newest Preds, Jackman and Hodgson met with the Nashville media for the first time on Wednesday morning at Centennial Sportsplex, expressing their excitement upon joining the organization.
“It’s amazing,” Jackman said of the city. “I don’t think I could have picked a better place to come to. Everyone I’ve met is very accommodating, very welcoming; I’m just excited to get to know the city and the rest of the people in the organization.”
Jackman’s entire NHL career has been spent with the St. Louis Blues since 2001-02, skating in 803 contests while adding 181 points. A veteran, Jackman is known to have a very physical, aggressive style of play, having recorded over 1,000 penalty minutes.
“[The Predators have a] chance to win right now,” Jackman said. “Talk about the strength of the defense, the best goalie in the League and a lot of very exciting, young forwards with a good group of older guys too that are playing well. The style of living too is a big draw for me and my family. Everything I’ve heard about Nashville through past teammates, Chris Mason, Scott Nichol...they’ve got nothing but great things to say.”
Jackman admitted that before signing, he looked at the depth in defense and wondered if there could be a spot for him on the Nashville blue line. But his addition to the defensive corps will make it even stronger.
“I definitely think Barret brings a different style of play,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “If you look at our other five defenseman, they’re all really talented, two-way defenseman. They can all play the power play, they are good defending defenseman, they can all skate, they can move the puck really well and they’re able to contribute offensively. I think Barret brings a little bit of a different element. The fact that he could be a guy that goes over the boards for the penalty kill first, shot blocking, little bit of grit, little bit of sandpaper; he brings some experience and some veteran leadership to the team, so lots of positives for filling that position.”
Although Jackman is a seasoned veteran, he still plans on coming into training camp and performing his best.
“I look forward to earning my stripes and earn the respect from other teammates and coaches,” Jackman said.
Before joining the Preds roster, Hodgson spent his time with Vancouver and Buffalo, tallying 134 points (61g-73a) in 289 games. Knowing a handful of players personally on the roster, he has already felt welcomed on the team.
“It’s all about winning here,” Hodgson said. “The culture that these guys have instilled, I got a call from Shea Weber pretty much right as I signed and Ryan Ellis texted me. It just seems like everyone is committed to making this like a family and one that competes to win. I’m excited to be here.”
In 2013-14, Hodgson had his most successful season to date, scoring a career-high 20 goals and leading the Sabres with 44 points. In his rookie season, he finished in the Top Five NHLers in goals and points. Hodgson believes his style could provide for a seamless transition into the Preds system.
“Just watching how these guys play, it’s a real offensive, high-pressure system...that’s something I can identify with,” Hodgson said. “I’ve played on teams like that before and had some pretty good success, so it should be a good fit.”
Hodgson’s last season with the Sabres was not as productive as he would have liked, only scoring six goals and recording seven assists, but the Predators bench boss is optimistic of a turnaround.
“Cody’s had a few good years and this is an opportunity for him to come back to a situation where he can try to find success in his game and help our team be successful as well,” Laviolette said. “We’re eager to find out. We certainly can provide an opportunity for him and then ultimately, he’s got to work hard this summer. In talking with him, he was pretty honest about last year. He knows he’s played better in the past and knows he is capable of playing at a higher level and we’re going to provide him that opportunity to see if he can get back there and help us.”
For Hodgson, signing in Nashville provides not only a personal opportunity, but a chance to compete for something much greater.
“That’s what everyone's committed to,” Hodgson said. “As a hockey player, you want to play in games that mean something, to compete for the Stanley Cup. It’s a great opportunity here and I think it’s going to be a good fit.”