Wednesday was not a bad day for the Nashville Predators.
Firstly, the tricky contract of Calle Jarnkrok was completed. The young Swede took a big step forward in his development, and showed a bit more offense in last year’s campaign. Jarnkrok’s deployment has been varied over the past two seasons, and he’s spent time on the top line and the third line. He also helped push Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen, and Cody Hodgson down the depth chart and out of town. He has taken his spot.
Then you have the acquisition of a depreciated asset; Matt Carle. A way’s back, many of us thought he would have been a great replacement for Ryan Suter.
HEY MATT CARLE. YOU WANT TO PLAY BESIDE THE BEST DEFENSEMAN IN THE WORLD ? And an angry franchise with cash to spend? Come on down.— Dan D Bradley (@DanDBradley) July 4, 2012
Check out the timestamp. And in 2012, Weber was the best in the world. Yes... we were all upset that day. David Poile’s press conference call was epic.
Carle instead went to Tampa Bay, and had a rough time. On the left is what he did from 2010-11 to 2012-13 compared to 2013-14 through 2015-16 on the right.
Keep in mind that for much of the time he spent in Tampa Bay, he was the highest-paid defenseman.
All of that said, Carle is stepping into a more honest role in Nashville. And he won’t be the highest-paid either...but he will be the oldest.
Both of these moves present some questions, both good and unknown. Let’s dive in a little deeper.
Jarnkrok can play anywhere on the ice.
Yes indeed, he’s as versatile as a Victorinox knife. As mentioned, he’s spent time on the top line, second line, and the “I hope this works” third line. He’s nothing flashy, but he does tend to find himself in the right place at the right time.
His only trouble was dealing with larger players, which caused him to move down the depth chart in the playoffs. But with an opening at wing in the top six and at center in the middle six, Jarnkrok is a safe bet. The coaching staff loves this guy, because he doesn’t make many mistakes on the ice. It’s funny how that coincides.
Let’s talk about that contract term
Jarnkrok signed for $2 million, AAV. That’s about fair for the time he’s put in. He’s a player that saw his stats get buoyed by a stint on the top line, and he’s a solid two-way forward. And Nashville could stand to keep around a player who can play center, seeing how Mike Fisher is in his last year and Mike Ribeiro is well... old Mike Ribeiro. That is the same Ribeiro who vanished after March and needs to have the “summer of his life” to justify his roster spot.
If Nashville is getting faster across the board, Ribeiro doesn’t fit that mold at all. And if it takes a hockey reason to jettison him, no complaints.
HE SIGNED FOR SIX YEARS
YEAH. ABOUT THAT. Athletes usually love to bet on themselves, especially at a young age. The bridge deal in the NHL is slowly becoming less prominent. Example: why pay Filip Forsberg $4.5-5 million for 3 years when you can pay him $6 million for $6? The player gets more money sooner and the option of free agency, and the team isn’t faced with the challenge of paying the player $7.5 million or more.
Jarnkrok doesn’t fall into that category. So far, he’s been a useful utility player and is slower in his development. That’s not to say he’s been disappointing, but he’s not on the level of a Forsberg or Landeskog or Barkov.
But still, he signed for six years. Maybe he really likes it in Nashville? Maybe he wants to play beside Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm for six more years? Maybe he just wants to win? Only a few folks will know that answer. All of them are acceptable as to why he signed that deal, so we can be happy about it. To top it off, the coaching staff has another six years to figure out where to play him.
He was really good a few years ago
That’s the most common phrase we’ve uttered about Predators’ free agent signings over the last few years.
He’s here to earn another contract and rebuild his career
And that line is used almost as much. But in Carle’s case, it’s true. If you’re going to sign with a contender and play in a system that uses well-rounded defensemen... there aren’t many better destinations than Nashville.
His contract is very cheap
But don’t worry, the Lightning are still paying him too.
He’ll fit in nicely on the third pairing with Yannick Weber
This is why the deal for Carle makes sense. Now Nashville doesn’t have to rely on young Anthony Bitetto and Petter Granberg completely for their third pairing. Carle/Weber can take more mixed use deployment, and might fetch more than 11 minutes a night.
If you remember how exhausted Josi and Weber were by the middle of the San Jose series, you’ll appreciate this signing even more.
Did Calle Jarnkrok and his awesome deal maybe throw a wrench into Nashville’s plans for the expansion draft?
Right? Well, maybe. If Nashville decides to go the route of protecting eight skaters and a goalie, that would likely mean the exposure of some decent forwards. If the top-four defensemen are protected along with Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, the Preds can only protect two of their other forwards. James Neal has one year left on his deal after next season, but Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, and now Jarnkrok will look like prime candidates for the draft.
Even if the Predators get bold and leave Neal unprotected due to his contract, they can work a deal out with Las Vegas to protect him and protect two of the other three. Let’s not forget this fact: David Poile has been through six different expansion drafts, including one for the Preds.
Chances are that some player that we all like (yes, even Wilson) will leave next summer, but it’s hard to fathom a player who just signed a six-year extension will be among those leaving. They (the front office) will figure it out.
Will Matt Carle hold on to his spot on the depth chart ahead of Anthony Bitetto?
I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. But regardless, it’s a good problem to have. There’s a big different in the NHL between “depth” and “proven depth”. Bitetto showed signs of a good young defenseman last year, but Carle is 31 and has been there, done that. Both are decent options, and both will likely see time if this team gets back to playing in May.
As mentioned before, Carle’s contract is cheap. It’s not like Hodgson bankrupted the team last year.
Here’s a side question- is Carle that much better than Barrett Jackman? Carle may skate better and we’re sure Carle isn’t made of provel cheese, but is he that much better? While that is also to be determined, remind yourselves that he’s on a cheaper contract and he’s a guy Laviolette wanted. So here’s to a year of Carle.
Again, Wednesday was a very good day. The window for the Preds to win a title with this current group is looking more and more like a six-year plan. And in today’s in NHL that’s something to be proud of.