Photo by John Russell
Predators head coach Barry Trotz (right) presents Jason Arnott with his Predators jersey Friday.
"Let's make it official," Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz said Friday afternoon at the Predators practice facility as he handed the number 19 jersey to his team's newest member, Jason Arnott. The 6'4", 220-pound center pulled the home sweater over his head then shook hands with his new coach during a media event designed to introduce the highly-coveted summer free agent who signed a five-year contract with Nashville on July 2.
"Obviously it was one of the teams that was interested in me and they were definitely on my list of teams to come to," Arnott said of his decision to sign with the Predators. "Just from playing against them, they've got a quick, fast, young team that's really gritty and I see a lot of similarities in the teams that I have been on--especially in New Jersey."
Arnott, 31, becomes the only player in the Predators locker room with a Stanley Cup on his resume. The Collingwood, Ont. native scored the game-winning goal in double overtime of Game 6 to secure the prized trophy for his New Jersey Devils team in 2000. During his 12-year career, he has also spent time in Edmonton--the club that drafted him seventh overall at the 1993 Entry Draft--and, most recently, Dallas. He had the most productive season of his NHL career in 2005-06, finishing second on the Stars in scoring with 76 points in 81 games. The club's points leader, center Mike Modano, anchored the top line, relegating Arnott to second-line duties. Now as a Predator, Arnott relishes the opportunity to take on a bigger role, and the Predators organization views him as a go-to player that could potentially bring the club a championship.
"With their coaching staff and their personnel, it just seemed like a great fit for me and a chance to become a No. 1 center and be helpful in the dressing room and be a big leader," Arnott said.
Arnott said he talked to former Predators Jim McKenzie and Mike Sillinger for some insight into the team before signing.
Photo by John Russell
Predators center Jason Arnott signs the jersey of a student at the Predators hockey school.
"I wanted to talk to guys that had played here that aren't playing here now just to get a perspective on what are the bad things about playing here," Arnott said. "And they couldn't come up with one. They said the community's fantastic, the fans are great. It is a small market team, which I like. If you want to get away from the rink you can get away from it and enjoy your family life and things like that."
As for his new jersey number, Arnott--who wore 44 in Dallas--said he's had his sights set on 19 for years. He's never worn it before, though.
"I knew that [Predators defenseman Kimmo] Timonen was 44 and I just wanted a fresh start and a new number," Arnott said. "I actually thought about being 19 on a few of the teams that I went to--New Jersey and Dallas--but they were taken. I've just always liked the number. I've always been a fan of Joe [Sakic] and Steve [Yzerman], growing up and playing against them over the years."
After Friday's meeting with the media, Arnott stood rinkside at Centennial Sportsplex and signed autographs for attendees of the Predators hockey school. Then he and his wife, Dina, spent the afternoon looking for a house in the area. After signing a five-year deal with the Predators, Arnott is planning on being around for a while.
"They've got all the makings of a great, winning hockey team here," he said. "It should be fun."