2015 NHL Free Agency: Predators tinker the roster in the right ways

Yesterday's free agent acquisitions are minor, but still good for the team.

Even though David Poile said the Predators were likely to be quiet during free agency, he still went out and brought in one player who'll help to have on the backend, and another low-risk option with a potential upside.

Barret Jackman and Cody Hodgson are the newest members in the Nashville locker room, and they both should help the team keep up what they started last year. The former is more a safer bet than the latter, so let's get into the knitty gritty of yesterday's pickups.

Barret Jackman

With the departure of Anton Volchenkov, the Predators needed a physical, non-scoring presence next to Seth Jones. The pairs seemed to click better when Josi was with Weber, Ellis was with Ekholm, and Jones was with Volchenkov. As talented as Cody Franson is, we saw how well throwing him into the mix worked out. Thankfully, Nashville acquired pretty much the exact type of player. Not fast or high-scoring, but physical and reliable.

Last year, Sethchenkov (RIP) combined for a 54.3 CF% and 61% GF in 355 minutes paired together. It worked because Jones is a sensational player, and Volchenkov is a good possession player in his own right. Only once in his career was he ever below the break-even point, and he posted great numbers the two seasons before coming to Nashville.

Jackman is remarkably similar. The only regular Blue defenseman with a better CF% last year was Kevin Shattenkirk, and, though he's not driving play, he wasn't solely benefitting from the Blues' system. The 34-year-old didn't face the easiest competition, but he did perform relatively well with lots of defensive zone starts. If he can bring that same game with him to Nashville, there's no reason to think he can't be just as successful wearing gold.

Plus, over the last five seasons, Jackman has played 346 NHL games out of a total of 376 - a whopping 92%. On the surface, it's hard not to like this signing. He'll kill penalties, and provide an important depth role on an already stacked blue line. He doesn't have to light the world on fire or be the best defenseman in the world because of that.

Cody Hodgson

Ah, yes. The Poile Patented one-year, $1 million reclamation contract.

This signing isn't anything sexy or exciting. It's neither a great thing nor a terrible thing. Hodgson is coming off an awful season with an even worse Sabres team, where he only netted six goals and 13 points, despite playing 78 games. That's a stark difference from his 19, 15, and 20 goals the previous three years with Buffalo and the Canucks. Is that just because the Sabres were so bad?

Yes and no. Though his production (and ice time) have decreased in each of the last three season, his shot rates have stayed almost identical. Hodgson shot 7.60 Sh/60 in all situations this past year, which was the most on the team among players who skated more than 500 minutes. That isn't a crazy amount (Craig Smith led with 11.67), but Hodgson also had a dismal 4.7 Sh%. Woof.

Over the past two years, his even strength shooting percentage hasn't been exceptional. but he was able to produce on the power play, which really helped him crack 20 goals. This past season he saw his role on the extra man unit cut in half, and nothing he shot went in.

Year 5v5 Minutes 5v5 Shots 5v5 Sh% PP Minutes PP Shots PP Sh%
2013-14 983:35 121 7.44 210:33 40 20
2014-15 872 106 5.66 100:43 19 0

That's a pretty stark difference, and that drop in power play time definitely didn't help. To put his shooting percentage at even strength in perspective, he would have ranked 16th in that regard for the Preds last year.

But Hodgson had his problems in other areas as well. Former OTF contributor and current Die By the Blade Assistant Editor Jack Goods corroborates the power play issue, and had this to say about Hodgson:

Hodgson was at a real bad point in Buffalo this season. A majority of the fan base seemed to want him bought out, and it was one of the more inevitable moves of the Sabres off-season. The issues with Hodgson start with his poor defense. He's a pretty poor skater, and his defensive hockey IQ is lackluster. He's constantly out of position, leading to numerous high opportunity chances for the opposing team.

Ted Nolan was a coach that was very focused on earning everything you get. Talent seemed to be on the back-burner, with everyone's favorite buzz-word "compete" serving as the constant Sabres mantra. Thus, since Hodgson was playing poorly on defense, his power play time was cut and he was relocated to the third or fourth line for a majority of the season. Nolan's point was understandable, but it led to the Sabres not using Hodgson in his most favorable position. At his best he's an above-average power play specialist. Take away that extra man time, and you get the six goals he scored this season. It was a tough hole for him to dig his way out of. He could never get off the fourth line, because to do so he needed to produce, and he couldn't produce unless he got the better linemates and power play time.

Hodgson is a talented player, you just have to shelter him defensively. Although he's listed as a center, he cannot handle the duties that go along with it. If he is successful in Nashville, it will be on the wing away from other team's top offensive weapons. I do think he can be effective if used correctly. It's easy to forget that he had 44 points only two years ago. He will never be the player that he was projected to be coming out of Brampton, but on a one-year contract with a small price tag, he's an interesting flyer for the Predators.

Not the most sterling review of a player, but there's a glimmer of hope at an end. It's curious to hear how Hodgson will be better served on the wing when Poile said he'd likely be center, pushing Calle Jarnkrok to the wing. The roster is still being molded, though, and that could quickly change. He just better hope he gets some power play time.

Hodgson's possession stats are predictably awful, and his impact on linemates is marginal as is his individual impact.

Those charts aren't necessarily bad, they just aren't good. In reality, Hodgson may provide a little boost to a seriously lacking third line. He shouldn't be counted on for 20 goals again, but if he puck decides to cooperate with his stick he could chip in 10-15 goals. Especially playing with the likes of Janrkrok, Kevin Fiala and Steve Moses, rather than Chris Stewart and Nicolas Deslauriers. If he doesn't, management has shown they aren't afraid to get rid of non-working parts with light contracts. Just ask Mark Arcobello, Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen or even Viktor Stalberg about that.

So the first day of free agency ends with the Preds going pretty much exactly what they needed to do. They tweaked the right parts and didn't go overboard throwing money at players they didn't need. While we'll all still dream about a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Alex Galchenyuk getting traded to Music City, the team (for now) has a similar roster to the one they started last season with, and that worked out pretty well. The main differences are the players that could be promoted from within to be difference makers. But that's a discussion for a different day...

What do you think of the Jackman & Hodgson signings?

Love them both.232
Hate them both.2
Love Jackman, meh on Hodgson.182
Love Hodgson, meh on Jackman.4