Nashville Predators Best and Worst Free Agent Signings

Nashville Predators free agent signings
Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2022 summer series, exploring the best and worst free agent signings for each NHL team of the post-lockout, salary cap era. With this past offseason seeing some big splashes (and potential gambles) like Johnny GaudreauClaude GirouxJohn Klingberg, and others, it’s time to take a look at how teams have boosted and stunted their progress in recent history. Today, we look at the history of Nashville Predators free agent signings.

Best and Worst Nashville Predators Free Agent Signings

The Predators have become a consistent contender over the last few years. Smashville has become a hockey town with a passionate fan base and smart management. David Poile has been the team’s only general manager in its team history. He’s made some shrewd trades and some smart signings. (Also some not-so-good ones.) We take a look at the good and the bad of these Nashville Predators free agent signings since 2005.

Best Signing: Jason Arnott

Jason Arnott came over from the Dallas Stars and immediately endeared himself to the Nashville faithful. The Collingwood, Ontario native signed a five-year contract worth $22.5 million in time for the 2006-07 season. Arnott was coming off his best season since his rookie year with 44 assists in his last season in Dallas.

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The big forward recorded 27 goals and helped get the Predators into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Arnott was named Nashville’s captain in Sept. 2007 and immediately showed his leadership. He reached the All-Star Game for the first time in 2008.

Arnott tied his career-high in goals with 33 in 2009, which was the most since his rookie season with the Edmonton Oilers. Nashville missed the post-season, but it wasn’t due to Arnott. His production dipped in what would be his final season in the Music City. He only scored 19 goals, but the Predators made the playoffs.

The veteran was traded back to the New Jersey Devils before his fifth season. However, Arnott paid dividends in his time with the Predators and is a solid pick for the best free agent signing.

Honourable Mention Best Signing: Paul Kariya

Paul Kariya became an unrestricted free agent in 2005 after the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season ended. He got offers from 10 different teams but signed the Predators. The former University of Maine product inked a two-year deal worth $9 million total.

Kariya’s stint in Nashville was short but memorable. He scored 31 goals despite suffering from injuries during training camp. The future Hall of Famer helped the Predators make the post-season in his two years in Nashville. Kariya netted 24 goals in what would be his final season with Nashville.

During the 2006-07 offseason, the Predators were put up for sale and were almost certain to move. Kariya cited that as a reason why he chose to sign with the St. Louis Blues. His time in Nashville was memorable, but imagine what could have been had there been more clarity in the team’s future. He may have re-signed and given the club a couple more memorable seasons.

Worst Signing: Nick Bonino

Nick Bonino had just played a hand in the Pittsburgh Penguins defeating Nashville to win the Stanley Cup. He was part of the devastating “HBK” Line with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin that helped Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin shoulder the offensive load.

Pittsburgh won back-to-back Cups and Bonino was key in that. Poile and the Predators thought they could cash in on some of that mojo. However, that did not happen as the Hartford, Conn. native struggled in Nashville. He scored nearly 20 goals twice, but it didn’t seem to justify the four-year, $16.4 million contract that he got.

Bonino’s time in the Music City ended when he and some picks were packaged to the Wild for Luke Kunin and picks. The money just didn’t seem like the right money and the right fit for Bonino with the Predators.

Dishonourable mention: Viktor Stalberg

Viktor Stalberg did have a 22-goal season with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011-12. He seemingly benefited from being with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the division rivals. The Swede came split time between Sweden, the KHL and the Blackhawks during the 2012-13 season.

Stalberg landed a four-year, $12 million deal in the off-season for a player who hadn’t scored a lot the last few seasons. He scored eight goals in his first season in 2013-14 and slid down the lineup. Head coach Barry Trotz didn’t really trust Stalberg and he didn’t seem much ice time.

The Swede’s second season was even worse as Stalberg was demoted to AHL Milwaukee. Nashville was basically paying him to be a Milwaukee Admiral. Poile bought out the last two seasons of his deal and Stalberg never really found the magic of his 2011-12 season.

Stalberg finished his career in Russia and Switzerland in 2021. His contract seems to be just as big of a miss as Bonino’s and one of the worst Poile signed during his long tenure.