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Life after Lebda: Predators sign defenseman Jack Hillen to one-year, two-way contract

Aug 8, 2011, 8:16 PM EDT

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Jack Hillen Getty Images

It didn’t take the Predators too long to move on from the Brett Lebda era. After Lebda cleared waivers this afternoon, the Predators moved on quickly to find a more trustworthy defenseman to help try and fill out their depth ranks in Nashville.

The Predators signed away former Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen to a one-year, two-way deal that helps give the Predators flexibility as they’ll be testing the waters in training camp to see who can lock down their fifth and sixth defenseman spots to start the season. Hillen’s deal will come with a $650,000 cap hit should he make the team and stick around Music City, USA.

Last season in New York, Hillen had four goals and 18 assists in 64 games for the Islanders proving to be a useful offensive defenseman. With the Predators having given away Cody Franson to Toronto in the Lebda trade earlier this summer, if Hillen can fit into Barry Trotz’s system, he can try to provide similar production as a fifth or sixth defenseman.

Hillen’s competition there in training camp will be stiff though. Youngsters like Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm will all compete for one of the open spots on the blue line. Tyler Sloan will also be in the veteran mix with Hillen to try and get a starting job. With Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein, and Jonathon Blum locking down four spots already and Francis Bouillon still dealing with concussion problems, the competition should be fierce.

For guys like Hillen and Sloan it’ll be their chance to prove they’re full-time NHL guys. For the likes of Josi, Ellis, and Ekholm it’s a chance for them to show they’re ready for the rigors of everyday life in the big leagues. One thing is for sure, Trotz will be looking for guys that fit the system the best and won’t stand for a lack of effort. Hillen’s usefulness offensively could help give him an edge in the competition especially when he won’t have big minutes demanded of him.

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