|5-5 Pts/60||CF%||CF% rel||Sh%||Sv%||PDO||Pen +/- per 60|
For a team that had many low points throughout the year and a bevy of disappointment from free agency acquisitions, Nick Spaling was one of the few bright spots that shone through the dismal gray of the 2013-14 season. Spaling had the highest total of goals (13), assists (19) and points (32) for his career, coupled with his lowest PIM total (14) over the last four years. He ended the year with five points in the last five games including a two point night against the Chicago Blackhawks. Spaling is the definition of an NHL USB drive. You can plug him in anywhere and get results. Hustle and defensive play earned him a ton of PK time and his work in front of the net paid off on the PP after Hornqvist was used on the first unit. Under the influence of Paul Gaustad, Spaling's FO% improved from 46.3% in 2012-13 to 52.7%. With all this production, Spaling also comes at a bargain with a $1.5M cap hit and his RFA status gives the Predators a greater advantage at retaining his services.
Showing off the speed and hustle that have become cornerstones of Spaling's game, this short-handed goal is a beautiful top-shelf against one of the more feared power play units and backstops in the NHL.
The Road Ahead:
For the Predators, the goal for the off-season is to acquire top scoring talent in the hopes that Laviolette will transform the philosophy of Nashville to an offensive, puck-possession style of hockey. Spaling isn't on many highlight reels (above video aside) nor does he have the elite offensive punch that the Predators are in need. But the fact remains that what Spaling contributes as the perfect third-fourth liner is incalculable for a team that needs the occasional offense while playing shut-down defense and eating up PK minutes. For every Jeff Carter you need a Dwight King, for every Patrick Kane you need an Andrew Shaw and for every Predator team you need a Nick Spaling. But just one Nick Spaling will do GMDP; the rest are simply taking up too much money or roster space. As contracts go and the fact that Spaling has stayed under the radar through much of the year, a slight raise and a lengthier contract (say 4 yrs) will do wonders for the Predators while saving them cap room for the elusive top six forward.
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