We’ve hit a new decade. Welcome to a 2010 everyone! Moviegoers stressed themselves over the end of Inception, Lady Gaga visited a butcher shop for her VMA dress, and a newscast in Huntsville, Alabama introduced the world to Antoine Dodson.
As for the Nashville Predators? Well... after a roller-coaster end to the 2000s, the start of the 2010s looked to be on the up-and-up.
The Previous Season
Record: 47-29-6 (100 pts). 3rd in Central, 7th in West, 10th overall.
Playoffs: Lost to Blackhawks in Western Conference Quarterfinals (2-4)
After missing the playoffs the previous season, the Predators responded in a big way, topping 100 points for just the third time in franchise history. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter were bonafide NHL superstars at this point (and both key cogs for Canada and USA, respectively, at the 2010 Olympics). It was also Pekka Rinne’s first full season as the Predators’ top goaltender, and while it would be another year before we’d witness Pekka’s first EPIC season, his play left little doubt that the Preds had their goalie of the future on the roster.
The biggest surprises of the year were the Predators’ co-scoring leaders. Steve Sullivan put up 51 points in his first full season following a two-year hiatus while fighting through a near-career-ending back injury. The 35-year-old played at a level no one had expected to see from him again. The other guy with 51 points? It was a 23-year-old guy playing in his first full season in the NHL: Patric Hörnqvist. All he did was score 30 goals (at the time, just the fifth Pred to do so), including a team-leading 10 on the power play.
This all culminated in a thrilling first round series against the eventual Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. As we’ve pointed out before, you could argue the Predators were a botched five-minute powerplay in Game 5 from MAYBE winning the whole series, and derailing the Blackhawks dynasty before it began. In the end, though, Chicago won the series 4-2, sending the Predators home without a playoff series win yet again.
The Offseason Moves
Key Additions: F Linus Klasen (free agent from Södertälje SK of Swedish Elite League), F Matt Halischuk (trade with New Jersey), F Sergei Kostitsyn (trade with Montreal), D Shane O’Brien (trade with Vancouver).
Draft Results: F Austin Watson (1st round, 18th overall), D Taylor Aronson (3rd round, 78th overall), F Patrick Cehlin (5th round, 126th overall), D Anthony Bitetto (6th round, 168th overall), F David Elsner (7th round, 194th overall), F Jonas Rask (7th round, 198th overall).
Key Losses: G Dan Ellis (traded to Montreal, then signed with Tampa Bay), D Dan Hamhuis (traded to Philadelphia, then Pittsburgh, then signed with Vancouver), F Jason Arnott (traded to New Jersey), F Dustin Boyd (traded to Montreal), F Triston Grant (free agent to Florida), F Dave Scatchard (free agent to St. Louis), F Ben Guite (free agent to Columbus), D Denis Grebeshkov (free agent to SKA St. Petersburg of KHL), F Mike Santorelli (traded to Florida).
Best Move: Acquiring F Sergei Kostitsyn from Montreal
Alright, look. I know in retrospect Sergei Kostitsyn isn’t the most fondly-remembered Predator, especially given his... ahem... question marks surrounding “effort.” But for his first couple of seasons in Smashville, this move looked like a home run.
The Canadiens sent Kostitsyn, a restricted free agent, to Nashville in exchange for Dustin Boyd and the right to UFA Dan Ellis. At the time, it seemed like nothing more than a depth deal. Kostitsyn was a supporting player in Montreal, making more headlines for disputes with management than his on-ice ability.
But in Nashville, Kostitsyn got what he always wanted — but never got — in Montreal, a chance to play in the top six. He found instant chemistry on the up-and-coming Hörnqvist’s opposite wing. He finished his first season as the Preds’ leader in goals (23) and the co-leader in points (50) with Martin Erat.
While he didn’t quite reach that same stat plateau the following season, Kostitsyn was still a vital piece of the Preds’ 2011-12 campaign, racking up 43 points while complementing the likes of Erat, Hörnqvist, David Legwand, Mike Fisher, and later in the year, his brother Andrei. That season saw him score his first, and only, NHL hat trick against Calgary on New Year’s Day.
The Preds expected Kostitsyn to play a big part of the team’s future, rewarding him with a 2-year deal worth $6 million right before the NHL lockout. Unfortunately, that’s when the wheels feel off completely. The 2013 season (to be fair, a disaster for most of the Preds) saw Kostitsyn find the net just three times despite spending the majority of the year on the top line. The Predators bought out Kostitsyn the following summer. He signed in the KHL, and to date, has not returned to the NHL.
Still, acquiring a leading scorer in exchange for nothing more than an expiring backup goalie contract and an extra skater is a pretty good steal, even if the success was short-lived.
Worst Move: Trading F Mike Santorelli to Florida for a Conditional Draft Pick
Yes! Believe it or not, the Predators had not one, BUT TWO Mike Santorelli trades that backfired!
This one was a little less high-profile than the one that took place in 2015 (oh, don’t worry, we’ll talk about that in a later list). Back in 2010, Santorelli was simply an exciting prospect who had struggled to make a mark in the Music City. He was a perennial leading scorer with the Admirals, scoring 70 points in 70 games in 2008-09, the adding 59 points in 57 games during the 2009-10 season. The Predators gave him a sizable look in the NHL, including a 25-game stint in 2010, but he didn’t come anywhere close to displaying the same firepower he displayed in the AHL.
In the 2010 offseason, the Predators shipped Santorelli to the Panthers in exchange for a conditional draft pick. At the time, it didn’t make much traction. Santorelli didn’t look like a big part of the Preds’ future, and even Florida saw him more as a depth guy than a main cog.
Yet, in Santorelli’s first season with the Panthers, he set career highs across the stat board: 20 goals and 21 assists.
While he never came close to those numbers again in subsequent seasons, he did establish himself as an effective bottom six center in stints with Florida, Vancouver, and Toronto. Santorelli earned a reputation as a reliable penalty-killer who could add a scoring pop from the fourth line. It was that reputation that... sigh... made him a desirable target for the Predators at the 2015 trade deadline, leading to possibly the worst trade in franchise history.
As for THIS deal, no, it’s not like the Preds gave up a future hall of famer for peanuts. But Santorelli still had a pretty decent NHL run, and it makes you wonder if he may have been an upgrade over someone like Blake Geoffrion or Brandon Yip down the line.
This year continued the post-sale trend of the Predators not making a huge splash in the summer. This year, there wasn’t a ton of good or bad either way.
The Jason Arnott for Matt Halischuk trade was the move that made the most noise. Halischuk didn’t quite develop into the high-impact player the Predators had hoped (although he did contribute one of the most famous playoff goals in team history), but considering Arnott only lasted two more years in the league, and failed to get close to his level of play in Nashville, that deal was a wash.
As for the other signings, Shane O’Brien proved to be a fairly solid bottom-pair defender in his one season in Smashville. Linus Klasen, a popular player in Sweden, played a few games with the Preds but stayed primarily in Milwaukee.
The only big loss that hurt the team was Hamhuis. I didn’t put that as “worst move” because David Poile did his best to lock him into a long-term deal. But by all accounts, Hamhuis had his heart set on playing in western Canada (where he’s from), and was asking a ransom from Poile to sway him to stay in Nashville.
The draft class is what’s going to be divisive. There are varying opinions about Austin Watson as a player, and the fact that he was taken ahead of the likes of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Charlie Coyle, and Brock Nelson is likely a sore spot. Sure, his development seemed to hit a plateau in Nashville — who’s to blame for that is up for debate. But we also witnessed a handful of positive stretches from Watson as well, including the 2017 and 2018 playoff runs. Also, Tony Bitetto was fun while he was here!
The Final Grade
Nothing truly special happened this offseason, but there wasn’t anything to shake your head at either.
Your turn to weigh in!
What Grade Would You Give The Predators’ 2010 Offseason?
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