In the weeks leading up to the new season, we'll preview the Nashville Predators on a player-by-player basis, examining their role on the squad and expectations relative to capabilities. So come along for the ride as we look ahead to 2010-11, from Andersson to Wilson. Next up: Matthew Lombardi.
Predators' general manager David Poile is not known for a tendency to make many deals, so this off-season has been a pleasant change of pace for Nashville fans. First, Dan Hamhuis was traded to Philly for defenseman Ryan Parent. Next was the trade of captain Jason Arnott to New Jersey for a 2nd round draft choice and prospect Matt Halischuk. One safely assumed, then, that Poile was finished wheeling and dealing after the trade of Dan Ellis and Dustin Boyd to Montreal for Sergei Kostitsyn. This was not the case.
The opening of free agency came and went, with no home for what was widely considered the best free agent center the market. The next day, though, David Poile had swept in and locked Lombardi up to a deal which is similar to one from the Coyotes that he had apparently turned down.
It was a shock, but it was also an extremely savvy decision. Lombardi is in the prime of his career and fits a need created by Jason Arnott's departure. We'll examine how Lombardi will fit into the team after the jump.
First line/power play center. He was signed to provide a bridge between Colin Wilson and the position Arnott left behind, so he'll assume much of the scoring duties while chipping in on the penalty kill. It's a role to which he is well accustomed - the majority of his 2009-10 in Phoenix was spent on the top line between Shane Doan and Wojtek Wolski or Scottie Upshall.
Being a marquee free agent signing has its downsides, not the least of which is being expected to produce immediately. Lombardi will be needed to put up similar numbers to his previous year, and contribute more defensively than Jason Arnott. He'll probably end up with the second most ice time from a center (after Legwand) on the team.
3 years, $3.5 million. It appears to be relatively good value for a player entering his prime and coming off a 50+ point year. To put it in perspective, Martin Erat scored less points in 2009-10 while making $5.25 million.
In 78 games for the Coyotes, Lombardi scored 19 goals, had 34 helpers, and finished a +8. In their seven game series against the Red Wings, Matt put up 1 goal and five assists.
With the nature of the acquisition, its somewhat difficult to temper our expectations for the newest Predator. He's one of the fastest players in the NHL, and would have led Nashville in points last season. I don't think he's a true top line center, but he's an upgrade over an aging Arnott. Lombardi should put up close to 60 points in 10-11.
To polish things off, here's a highlight video of Lombardi from his time in Calgary a couple years ago: