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Predators move quickly in Summer '05 to set roster

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
When the National Hockey League’s new collective bargaining agreement was ratified by the Board of Governors on July 22, 2005, league general managers were challenged with cobbling together their rosters for 2005-06 in a mere fraction of the time usually allotted.  With a list of teams (including Nashville) dipping deeper into free agency than ever before, as well as a free-agent list culled together over two summers, teams were forced to move swiftly to pull their rosters together.  For Nashville, GM David Poile led the charge.

Before the new CBA was in place, however, Poile moved to get some other important pieces together.  On June 27, Nashville announced contract extensions for head coach Barry Trotz and his entire coaching staff. 

The Predators have a new look for the "new NHL."
"This is the coaching staff that we want leading the Nashville Predators when the National Hockey League returns," said Poile at the time. "Our goal is for Barry Trotz to pick up where he left off and build upon our playoff run in 2004. This staff is prepared to handle the challenges that the 'new NHL' may present and we're confident that they will create an environment in which our team will be successful."

Two weeks later, Poile renewed the deals of director of player personnel Paul Fenton and his cadre of scouts.  The Predators GM also introduced the club’s new pro scout, Nick Beverley, a former NHL general manager, coach and player.  In his last NHL position, Beverley served as the assistant GM for the Chicago Blackhawks from 2000-2003.

When the new CBA was ratified, it featured a calendar of deadlines for teams to follow in preparation for 2005-06.  This timeline, in turn, created a logical action plan.  First off, the NHL Entry Draft was slated for July 30.  Before the Draft, teams had one week to “buy out” players from previously-signed contracts, sign any unsigned draft picks from 2003, exercise club options for 2005-06 and negotiate exclusively with unrestricted and restricted free agents that had been on the team’s reserve list in 2004-05. 

The Predators did not buy out any players under contract nor did the club have 2003 draft picks to tend to.  What Nashville did do, however, was sign an important part of the team since the franchise’s inception.  Center Greg Johnson inked a one-year contract, insuring that the Predators would have their versatile captain back for 2005-06.   The team also exercised its option on goaltender Chris Mason, who returns to Nashville after earning playoff MVP honors and a league championship with Norway’s IF Oslo Valerengen.

Poile engineered a couple of pre-draft trades, one of which brought the rough-and-tumble Darcy Hordichuk to Music City.  Arguably one of the most popular players in each of his previous stops, the 25-year-old led the Florida Panthers in penalty minutes (158) in 2003-04 and is known for his high-energy, aggressive style of play.  The 6-1, 215-pound left winger played for Predators assistant coach Peter Horachek with the 2000-01 International Hockey League Turner Cup Champion Orlando Solar Bears.

Following Draft day (see story on page), Nashville had 24 hours to extend qualifying offers to its restricted free agents.  The following day – August 1 – it was open season on the free-agent market.

Key members of the Predators’ 2003-04 playoff team that accepted their qualifying offers and re-signed with the club over the course of the next month included Dan Hamhuis, Scott Hartnell and David Legwand.  Nashville also inked a new deal with backliner Mark Eaton, who set a franchise record with a +16 rating in 2003-04.

Right off the bat, the Predators’ became the beneficiary of another team’s assault on the free-agent market.  After inking three free-agent defensemen, Philadelphia was forced to move backliner Danny Markov, and Nashville was more than happy to add the gritty, battle-tested veteran to its defense corps.  Now entering his eighth NHL season, Markov has been a part of playoff teams in Toronto and Philadelphia, and brings the most playoff experience of any Nashville Predator.  He led the entire NHL with a +17 rating in the 2004 playoffs.

With the flurry of free-agent activity early in the week, the move to acquire Markov flew under a lot of radars, north and south of the border.  The Predators expect the 29-year-old Russian to play an important part on this year’s club.

“In Danny Markov, we have acquired a physical, aggressive, well-rounded player who will complement our skilled corps of defensemen,” said Poile.

Three days after dealing for Markov, Poile made the announcement on the most prominent free-agent signing in team history – a two-year deal for three-time First Team NHL All-Star Paul Kariya (see story on page).  Poile continued to fill holes on the roster with the addition of
Paul Kariya
center Scott Nichol on August 6.  The pesky pivot, a wiz in the face-off circle, will bring even more toughness and grit to the Nashville line up.  Another fan favorite wherever he plays, the 5-8, 173-pounder has amassed over 100 penalty minutes in each of his three full NHL seasons.

On August 16, Nashville signed forward Steve Sullivan to a four-year contract extension.  One of the prime catalysts behind the team’s 2004 playoff run, the 31-year-old Timmins, Ont. native made history when he potted a hat trick in his Predators debut.

That certainly was the biggest turning point in our franchise, when we made the trade to get Steve,” said Poile.  “We were a young team. We believed that we were getting better, but we didn’t quite have that confidence that we were going to get there. That night (Sullivan’s debut) when Steve scored those three goals and got the assist, I think to a man everybody felt that we were definitely a team that could make the playoffs, and that we were going to make the playoffs. And that’s what I think the best players do for you. They make other players more confident. They make them better. And Steve certainly did that for us.”

For Sullivan, 2003-04 may have been magical, but the future for the Nashville Predators looks even brighter.  “I’m really looking forward to this new hockey club,” he said.  “We’ve got a young core of really talented players, from our goaltender all the way down. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why I want to stay here long-term—that I know where this hockey club is going to go in the next two, three, four years, and I really wanted to be a part of that. I didn’t want to miss the boat…

“From what I experienced in the spring of ’04, it (Nashville) was electric.  It was something that I had never felt before. This city was just absolutely unbelievable with its support of the hockey club, and excited about what we were trying to accomplish in our first playoff appearance. With the addition of Paul Kariya, the trade for Danny Markov—who’s just an unbelievable rugged defenseman—it just complements this hockey club.”

March 14, 2005:    Extended affiliation agreement with the Milwaukee Admirals (American Hockey League).

June 27, 2005:    Signed head coach Barry Trotz, associate coach Brent Peterson, assistant coach Peter Horachek, goaltending coach Mitch Korn, video coach Robert Bouchard and strength and conditioning coach David Good to contract extensions.

July 11, 2005:    Signed director of player personnel Paul Fenton to a contract extension.

July 27, 2005:    Acquired forward Darcy Hordichuk from Florida for a fourth-round selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft (Matt Duffy).

July 28, 2005:    Exercised the contract options for 2005-06 on forward Vernon Fiddler and goaltender Chris Mason. Signed forwards Greg Johnson, Libor Pivko and Jerred Smithson.

July 29, 2005:    Acquired a third-round selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft (Teemu Laakso) from Carolina for defenseman Andrew Hutchinson.

July 30, 2005:    Acquired a fourth-round selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft from Atlanta for defenseman Shane Hnidy.  Selected forwards Patric Hornqvist, Ryan Maki and Cal O’Reilly and defensemen Cody Franson, Teemu Laakso, Ryan Parent and Scott Todd in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

July 31, 2005:    Signed defenseman Jamie Allison and goaltender Brian Finley.

August 2, 2005:    Acquired defenseman Danny Markov from Philadelphia for a third-round selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

August 4, 2005:    Signed free-agent defensemen Sheldon Brookbank and Mark Eaton.

August 5, 2005:    Signed free-agent forward Paul Kariya.

August 6, 2005:    Signed free-agent forward Scott Nichol.

August 10, 2005:    Signed forwards Scott Hartnell and Jeremy Yablonski.

August 15, 2005:    Signed forwards Simon Gamache, Darren Haydar, Darcy Hordichuk and David Legwand and defenseman Greg Zanon.

August 16, 2005:    Signed forward Steve Sullivan and defenseman Dan Hamhuis.

August 19, 2005:    Signed free-agent forward Randy Robitaille.   

August 23, 2005:    Signed goaltender Pekka Rinne.
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