Nashville Adds AHL Depth on First Day of Free Agency

The Preds added three defenders earmarked for Milwaukee.

On the first day of NHL free agency, the Nashville Predators made little noise. The team has yet to confirm any new signings, but the organization has reportedly signed defenders Jordan Gross, Kevin Gravel, and Roland McKeown.

The team did confirm today that forward Jimmy Huntington and goalie Devin Cooley have accepted their qualifying offers and re-signed for the 2022-23 season.

Gross—a 5’10”, right-shot defender—has signed a two-year contract, but the financial details have not been disclosed. The 27-year-old was never drafted but signed with the Arizona Coyotes in 2018 after a four-year career at the University of Notre Dame. Since then, he’s played in ten NHL games with Arizona and Colorado and is a veteran of 179 regular-season AHL contests. After scoring 52 points in his first two AHL seasons, Gross exploded for ten goals and 65 points in 61 games last season (including 35 primary points), leading all AHL defenders. He also took home AHL Defender of the Year honors.

Gravel is a 6’4”, 30-year-old defender who was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 2010. The Michigan native, who has reportedly signed a two-year deal with a $762,500 cap hit, has played in the Kings, Oilers, Maple Leafs, and Flames organizations, including 59 games for the Stockton Heat last year where he scored three goals and 14 points. Gravel is a veteran of 273 regular-season AHL contests.

McKeown is another right-shot defender and formerly highly-touted prospect selected by the Kings in 2014. McKeown was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes as a deadline asset in 2015 and played his first full AHL season in 2016-17 with the Charlotte Checkers. Since then, he’s appeared in just ten NHL games and was loaned to Sweden for the 2020-21 season before signing a one-year deal with Colorado last year. McKeown scored three goals and 20 points in 61 games for the Colorado Eagles, including 12 primary points. McKeown has signed a two-year deal with a reported yearly cap hit of $762,500.

With the departures of Matt Donovan, Matt Tennyson, Alex Biega, and Jeremy Davies, the Milwaukee Admirals’ blue line lost a lot of experience. All three players should help fill those roles alongside newcomers like Spencer Stastney, Adam Wilsby, and Luke Prokop.

Former Nashville players who signed elsewhere today include Matt Benning (San Jose), Dave Rittich (Winnipeg), Matt Luff (Detroit), Jeremy Davies (Buffalo), and Nick Cousins (Florida). Other defenders who played in Milwaukee or Florida last year that remain unsigned include Ben Harpur, David Farrance, Stephen Desrocher, Jake McLaughlin, Dylan Blujus, Alex Biega, and Josh Healey.

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