Many thought that Nashville Predators GM David Poile had overpaid by trading a 1st-round draft pick to Buffalo for a player known best for winning faceoffs and killing penalties, but the Preds doubled down on Paul Gaustad by signing him to a $13 million, 4-year contract last summer. Will that confidence be rewarded?
GP Goals Assists Points +/- PIM Shots Avg Ice Time 70 7 14 21 -1 76 75 14:46 493 71 114 185 +14 591 749 14:56
Avg Ice Time
Gaustad came over to Nashville at the Trade Deadline from Buffalo, backfilling the role of 4th-line center, faceoff specialist and top penalty killer previously held by Jerred Smithson, who had previously been sent to the Florida Panthers. Thanks to his dedication to the art of the faceoff (he finished 7th in the league last year with a 57.3% win rate), Gaustad can be used for draws on either the right or left side of the ice, where instead sometimes the coaching staff might opt to swap a center out based on the location of the draw.
Gaustad's 6'5" frame was also a welcome addition to a forward lineup which previously lacked a big body playing a regular shift. His toughness was put on display in a scrap with Kyle Chipchura during the Phoenix series:
With a fresh 4-year, $13 million contract signed last summer, the Predators have made a strong commitment to Gaustad. While he's no threat to post major offensive numbers, look for him to match up against opposing scorers and be the team's #1 penalty killing forward.
There's also the potential that he could lead the Predators in fighting majors. As a tough player who can expect to be in the lineup every night, Gaustad will be in the middle of the fray on a regular basis, and isn't shy about dropping the gloves.
The Predators have long held penalty killing to be a team strength (recall three consecutive Top 5 finishes from 2005-6 to 2007-8), and placed 10th in the league last season. Can Gaustad's size, strength and faceoff ability help left them back up among the league's elite PK squads?