Trotz Free Agency

If the hockey world anticipated a busy free agency for the Nashville Predators, General Manager Barry Trotz wasted little time delivering on expectations - and then some. 

Inking deals with Stanley Cup champions Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Marchessault, veteran blueliner Brady Skjei, Predators starting goaltender Juuse Saros and defenseman Alexandre Carrier, netminder Scott Wedgewood, and finally, a quartet of two-way depth pieces, Trotz threw the Predators organization into the center of the spotlight and set the stage for what is sure to be an unforgettable season.

All of it, mind you, on the market’s opening day.

“Today was a very good day for our team and the organization, but also for the players,” Trotz said. “I mean, when you start getting texts from your players saying, ‘I’m excited,’ I think that really says a lot… It's a statement for the rest of the NHL that these players will come to Nashville. These players see what we're doing with our franchise. We have lots to offer and we're very determined to win.”

Preds GM Barry Trotz on Day One of NHL Free Agency

Despite a whirlwind of rumors and speculation leading up to free agency on Monday, Nashville’s GM knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish in his second year calling the shots from the front office.

First, Trotz knew he needed to fill the hole left on Nashville’s blueline by veteran defenseman and former alternate captain Ryan McDonagh, who returned to the Tampa Bay Lightning via trade in May. Skjei, the former 28th overall pick (2012) and seasoned two-way defenseman of 609 career NHL games, proved to be the answer at seven years and $49 million.

Next, Trotz wanted to feed Head Coach Andrew Brunette’s fast-paced, offense-first system with high-scoring, high-caliber talent. At four years and $32 million, Trotz landed Stamkos - the winner of two Stanley Cups and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies, the Lightning’s all-time leading scorer and the second-highest goal-scorer in the National Hockey League since 2008-09.

Trotz continued to dump gasoline on the fire with Marchessault, adding the 2023 Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy winner - as well as the Vegas Golden Knights' all-time leading scorer - with a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Finally, the Predators GM wanted to lock up his existing franchise pieces, first doing so by extending the second-winningest netminder in team history to an eight-year, $61.92 million contract - set to begin next season - then 2022 NHL All-Rookie Team defenseman Alexandre Carrier at three years and $11.25 million.

By the time Trotz exited Bridgestone Arena for the evening, the Predators had spent a whopping $115.5 million in perhaps a telling sign of the confidence felt inside Nashville’s front office for what’s to come.
“They're all very important players that we signed today,” Trotz said. “And at the end of the day, I've known and coached against these players. I know that they all have hard skill, they're determined and they're high-skill players that compete at a very high level. And so, hopefully the plan for us is we put these guys in place, and we'll be very fortunate [to do so].”

Monday’s landslide of top-tier signings was, in no short order, the result of a carefully orchestrated, two-year restructuring - the benefits of which could be monumental in the months to come.

“It's pretty remarkable when you sit back and see what we did last year, see the dead cap space that we have and see what we just did,” Trotz said. “And that's a tribute to all the hard work that [retired Predators General Manager] David Poile put in before me to set this up. We made some good-value signings and we let it sort of come to the forefront today where we could take our shots… And that's what we tried to accomplish.”

It’s a signal of sorts, too - one sent to the hockey world and Predators fans alike - of just how serious the Predators are about achieving their ultimate goal.

Of course, it all remains intangible until the puck drops on the 2024-25 season and Smashville gets to see just what their new team is made of.

“Someday we're going to have that parade on Broadway,” Trotz said. “Once you’ve done it, it's addicting. You start looking at the number of guys we have on our team who have done it, and they pull you along. And hopefully they're able to pull us along and pull all our young guys along until, hopefully, we can have that moment.”

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