With the unofficial start of the 2015-16 campaign dawning on Wednesday alongside the opening of the NHL Free Agency period, Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile shed some additional light Tuesday afternoon about his plans for the rapidly approaching new season. The GM, entering his 18th year at Nashville’s helm, explained his stance on the Preds potentially re-signing Mike Ribeiro to a new deal, offered some projections for the 2015-16 lineup and provided his thoughts on the future of Nashville’s prospect pool.
Ribeiro’s Place in Nashville:
Poile said the team has offered pending unrestricted free agent center Mike Ribeiro a contract and are hopeful the veteran will re-sign with the club soon. The general manager went on to discuss the club’s desire to bring Ribeiro back:
“Last year before we signed Mike [Ribeiro], we talked to he and his family a lot about his past, and I guess you’d say his plan and commitment for moving forward, both on and off the ice. After a lot of time, a lot of discussion, we did sign him last year to a one-year deal, and for that one-year deal, it provided us an opportunity to cut any ties if anything went wrong. As it turned out, Mike was a good teammate and a productive player. I don’t think anyone would argue with that, and he was great amongst his teammates and he and his wife were excellent in the community. He did make us aware of the potential of the civil case last year, but he told us, as he has now, that he’s prepared to vigorously defend this civil suit. The civil suit was filed in March, and at that time and now, we do not think it’s appropriate to comment since this case is in the legal process. I think it’s important to point out once again, this is a civil case and there have been no criminal charges filed or alleged. From our end, after reviewing the case with the National Hockey League and some law enforcement representatives, we’re comfortable moving ahead. With that background, we’ve discussed and we’ve offered Mike a contract. He was among the NHL’s leaders in assists last year, and he played a significant role in helping Filip Forsberg develop. We’re confident that if we’re able to sign him, he can be a key part of our team moving forward.”
Poile continued by reaffirming his belief in the type of players and people he wants to bring to the Predators organization and the club’s track record of helping those in need when necessary:
“As I sit in this seat where I’ve sat for a long time, it’s very important to me to have integrity and to bring character people to our organization. I think for the most part, I’ve done that here in Nashville, and I think I do have a particular focus on bringing good people to our organization. We do have a good, strong record with dealing with players. Three years ago in the playoffs, [Alexander] Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn had an off-ice incident and we suspended them from a playoff game. Jordin Tootoo had some problems, and I think we were very encouraging to his participation to get into the League substance abuse program. Jordin has resurrected his career, he had a terrific season last year with New Jersey and he’s signed up with them again. This year, I talked to Rich Clune today, and he thanked the [Predators] organization for all they’ve done. The things that he’s been through, I’m sure that given a second chance by teams like ourselves that he will do just fine; same thing with Brian McGrattan who had troubles earlier in his career. We weren’t with Mike [Ribeiro] during the earlier years, but we’ve seen him as a good person this year, both on the ice and off the ice, and we think that he and his family are doing really well and are conformable here. That’s why we hope to sign him. I applaud him for his efforts for being a good husband, father and family man and I just hope that it continues forever. Because of that, that’s why we’ve offered him a contract. So I hope it all works out well for Mike and hopefully today or tomorrow, I hope that we can announce that we’ve signed him.”
With the NHL’s Free Agency period set to begin July 1 at 11 a.m. (CT), Poile will certainly be paying attention. Although he doesn’t necessarily believe the Preds will have to make a big splash into the group, the GM could be looking for something, particularly on the blue line.
“I’m going to be at least looking at some possibilities of replacing [Anton] Volchenkov, maybe with a similar type of player,” Poile said. “We’re sort of debating in comparison with Victor Bartley on a regular basis and Anthony Bitetto, who came up and played some games for us last year.”
There are also plenty of other prospects in Nashville’s system, namely forwards like Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson, who saw time at the NHL level last season and could make a much larger impact come October.
“I’m excited about the prospects that we’re going to give a chance to play for us this year,” Poile said. Kevin Fiala [has] been in town since June 6, he’s working out every day...he’s going to be hard to keep off the team if he gets big and strong and a little bit quicker. Steve Moses is supposed to come into town in a couple weeks, and he could be a new player on our team. I’m excited about Viktor Arvidsson, a young guy that can score some goals and played a (few) games for us last year. Austin Watson, he should have a good chance of making our team, Colton Sissons, after having a strong second half, will be a guy to look at in training camp, so there are a lot of things to be excited about next year.”
The Preds GM also gave his vote of confidence to forward Austin Watson, who inked a new two-year deal with the Preds on Monday. Watson, who spent last season with AHL Milwaukee, is fully expected to not only contend for a spot, but make the Predators roster this season, according to Poile, with the ability to play center and right wing.
“I think [Watson will] make it this year,” Poile said. “I’m very confident of that. He is here all summer long, he’s moved down [to Nashville] and I think he’s ready to go. I just don’t think we had the room to give him that chance last year, and I think he’ll make the team right from the outset; that’s my opinion.”
Poile said that Captain Shea Weber
’s recovery from an injury suffered in the playoffs is also going well, believing that the defenseman will be ready in time for the 2015-16 campaign.
“Shea is probably just restricted in a couple of areas, and that’s more protocol, but he’s in the gym every day, doing I would say, 90 percent of the things he traditionally wants to do,” Poile said. “Shea wants to do 110 percent of the things he wants to do, so he thinks he’s behind, but we don’t. He’ll be all set for next year.”
Poile confirmed that the Preds have bought out the contracts of forwards Rich Clune and Viktor Stalberg and are hoping to trade goaltender Magnus Hellberg. With goaltenders Marek Mazanec and Juuse Saros expected to mind the net for the Predators American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee, Poile is looking for a deal involving the 24-year-old Hellberg.
Poile touched on Nashville’s restricted free agents who received a qualifying offer on Monday, namely those who were on the NHL roster last season. The general manager says that negotiations are continuing with forwards Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, Calle Jarnkrok, Taylor Beck and Gabriel Bourque, but nothing is imminent at the moment.