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Columnist wonders why players snub Preds

Jul 5, 2014, 9:21 PM EST

Minnesota Wild v Nashville Predators Getty Images

Nashville Predators GM David Poile is going to great lengths to remodel his team in new head coach Peter Laviolette’s image. Unfortunately, in pursuing attractive targets, they opened the door for some high-profile rejections.

Jason Spezza nixed one (if not two) chances to relocate to Nashville. Ryan Kesler placed the Predators on his no-trade list, too.

So, what’s the deal? The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper provided three interesting hypotheses that we’ll break down a little bit further:

1. They give off the  “feel of an expansion team” to some.

Cooper provides an anecdote that would probably be unsettling to Poile & Co. after years of building things up in the Nashville market:

A former player joked with me on the phone during a recent interview, “Are the Predators still rebuilding?” It was said in jest, but players talk, and if that’s the vibe about here from other players, then that’s not good.

To be fair, the Predators are rebuilding, or at least retooling. After years of being a grind-it-out, defense-first-second-and-last team, Poile acquired James Neal and hired Laviolette to change to a more offensive-minded setup.

So far, it looks like they’re off to a good start, but there’s still clearly plenty of work to be done.

2. The Shea Weber situation

For better or worse, the Predators matched the big offer sheet the Philadelphia Flyers sent Weber’s way.

This might be an overrated situation in some ways, yet it’s not a great sign when your biggest homegrown star wants out. What really might be the egg-on-face moment could be Ryan Suter walking; beyond his departure to an eventual division rival, there was some drama between Suter and Poile after he left.

(It’s probably not fair to pin all of the blame on the Predators for the Alex Radulov fiasco, yet that’s another moment the franchise would like to forget. It can’t make star players feel too optimistic that things have worked out so poorly with Nashville’s rare “high-end” guys.)

3. A lack of recent success

Bad luck or not, the Predators have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons. The franchise also hasn’t ever advanced to a conference final series, bowing out in the second round twice.

In these trade situations, you’re talking about guys whose contracts are covered for the 2014-15 campaign (if not longer), so getting on a winning team is the top priority. Aside from maybe Poile himself, few would point to the Predators as an elite team heading into next season. There’s no doubt that such a thought must have occurred to Spezza and Kesler.

***

As Cooper mentions, the Predators are building a nice following in Nashville and the city has its perks: delicious barbecue, no state income tax and warmer weather.

Ultimately, they best drawing card is still winning. The Predators need to do more of that if they expect to land big fish in the future.

  1. broadstreetbeatdown - Jul 5, 2014 at 9:37 PM

    Probably for the same reason players snub the Coyotes and Panthers. Its a non hockey market.

    • greatmiamisportsmind - Jul 5, 2014 at 9:45 PM

      Oh you mean like Roberto Luongo waiving his NMC to go to Florida? Or like Brian Campbell waiving his NTC to go to Florida? I don’t really get you on that one.

      • broadstreetbeatdown - Jul 5, 2014 at 9:54 PM

        Two overpaid has beens waved their NMCs to go to Florida and all of a sudden its the Mecca of Hockey. Alrighty then.

      • stakex - Jul 5, 2014 at 10:38 PM

        Florida has favorable tax laws. That’s about the only reason I could see someone willingly going to the Panthers.

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Jul 6, 2014 at 1:19 AM

        Oh so suddenly 34 and 32 years old is now a has been? Good thing you signed that 33 year old Vinny Lecavalier last year then.

    • stixzidinia - Jul 6, 2014 at 12:48 AM

      Didn’t Hartnell just waive his NTC to go to Columbus? Don’t even try to tell me that’s a hockey market.

      Anaheim is a “non-hockey market” and yet Kesler just requested to go there. You could say the same about any California team, and yet those are pretty popular destinations for players right now…….far more so than Philly. Nobody seems to go want to play there these days.

      • phillyphanatic77 - Jul 6, 2014 at 1:46 AM

        It’s pretty easy to see that players want to go to winning organizations. The fact that California is beautiful and Anaheim, San Jose, and LA are all coming off hugely successful seasons makes it that much more attractive. However, to say that nobody wants to go Philly is ridiculous. There’s no question the Flyers would’ve signed a big name or two this off-season had they not already done that in season’s past. Now does that mean Philadelphia is more attractive than the California teams right now? No, but when stars are on the trading block and you hear about their “no trade lists” are the Flyers on them? Rarely, if ever.

        People love to hate on Philadelphia (I get that), but just because the organization was financially unable to bring aboard any names hardly means it isn’t a destination. They recognize the passion and that management will ALWAYS do what they can (right or wrong) to win. That won’t change and it’s why we’re consistently competitive… even without that elusive 3rd Cup.

      • broadstreetbeatdown - Jul 6, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        Yeah you’re right no one wants to play in Philly. Except of course the Preds very own captain and Ryan Kesler as well.

      • stixzidinia - Jul 6, 2014 at 12:08 PM

        Philly wasn’t on Kesler’s list of teams he was willing to go to.

    • flyerspsu - Jul 6, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      Nasville has a much better hockey market than the Coyotes or Panthers

  2. alicesrightfootesq - Jul 5, 2014 at 9:40 PM

    They’re just on a down cycle. You could have said the same things about Dallas a few years ago. Now the Stars are major players in the league again.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Jul 6, 2014 at 1:54 AM

      It’s true they’re in a down cycle but the major difference between Nashville and Dallas is that period of great success in the late 90’s and early 2000s. That Cup. The Stars were a legitimate destination for premier players during that period. Even at their best the Preds were always a homegrown bunch… which, don’t get me wrong, was built nicely. But it was a fledgling franchise while the Stars were contending and I think that’s still somewhat in the mind of players today. I mean Nashville did bring in stars like Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg but it was at the tail end of their careers. Guys in their prime, who weren’t drafted by Poile, just don’t seem to choose the Preds.

  3. jmcurran28 - Jul 5, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    I’m a loyal Red Wings’ fan who has lived in Nashville for the last 7 years but I’ll give the Preds and their fans respect for being able to keep the team in Nashville. I come across a lot of people who are getting to know the game of hockey and becoming big fans of the sport. I hear a lot of people say they got hooked after going to the first game.

    Pred’s games are loud and in your face. It’s a tough building to lose in, but ultimately it all comes down to winning in a non-traditional market.

    • mcphillthy - Jul 6, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      I’m a Philly fan who lives in Nashville now and I coupdnt agree more. The preds fans absolutely love their team!! Matter of fact I’ll go as far as to say they are more passionate here in Nashville than in Philly. The crowd actually gets excited here and the fans are completely committed to the entire game. I prefer the Nashville crowd over my hometown crowd. Sorry Philly. Still a flyers fan but I wish our Philly fans were as into the games as Nashville fans are. It’s exciting to watch Nashville turn into a hockey town

    • flyerspsu - Jul 6, 2014 at 12:56 PM

      as a Flyers fan whose seen a game in Nashville I have to agree as well, I was very surprised how much the town loved and followed the team and more and more are just getting to know and love the game

  4. Stiller43 - Jul 5, 2014 at 10:12 PM

    Hate to agree with broadst on anything… But he’s 100% correct

  5. stevedurbano - Jul 5, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    One of the best “atmosphere” venues in the game. I would advise anyone with the chance to see a game in Nashville to do it. That being said, I’m not sure I’d want to play there. The management doesn’t seem to have a vision of what they want to do- rebuild? Pick up a couple of free agents for a “now is the time” playoff run? Just keep a few popular vets to get asses in the seats and pocket the savings? That’s the problem.

    • sfischer1967 - Jul 5, 2014 at 10:49 PM

      reading this post, I get it – atmosphere does not equal revenue. The pockets of ownership run but so deep. Selling out Bridgestone Arena is not like selling out MSG, The United Center, TDBankGarden, or any of the the other larger market venues. Not sure even with a moderate payroll, Nashville is a “profitable” team, even with the large percentage of seats being sold.

      • stevedurbano - Jul 5, 2014 at 11:23 PM

        I agree. But, having a management and ownership that can lay out a vision to free agents (like the Blues, Wild, and Stars have been able to do) they won’t get any top players to climb on board. By the way- what idiot in the league office is responsible for the Blues not having a late season game in Nashville? Idiots.

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Jul 6, 2014 at 10:32 AM

        I get what your trying to say, but if I’m not mistaken, league revenues are shared. So it wouldn’t matter if the Preds sell out Bridgestone or not. On top of that, player get 50% of that the following season.

    • stevedurbano - Jul 6, 2014 at 5:13 PM

      As I understand it, game revenues are shared by the teams that play a given game. So, the team gets 1/2 of the revenue of each game it plays in. It’s not all the ticket revenue goes in a big pot and it gets split equally. If a team (Hawks, Bruins, etc) are a good draw on the road they make more money than a team that isn’t. A team like Florida probably makes more on a Boston- NYR- Montreal trip than they do at home.That makes putting butts in the seats at home more important. If everything was split equally, why spend money on marketing at all?

  6. stakex - Jul 5, 2014 at 10:52 PM

    Its just really hard to come up with good reasons a player should sign with, or accept a trade to, Nashville at the moment. Its an off market that’s not a realistic threat to win the Cup anytime soon.

  7. bellicosejeff - Jul 5, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    Shea may have wanted out of Nashville. However if that was his intention by signing a 14 YEAR offer sheet with another team when our GM and management repeatedly said we’d match any offer. Then he has the dumbest agents in the history of sports agents because Shea is now stuck in Nashville for the next 12 years with no NTC or NMC. He has absolutely no control over where he ends up should we trade him. So part of my has to believe he didn’t want out but rather wanted one of those stupid mega deals that Poile was never going to give him. So he picked a team that would get him that deal and that he’d like to play for should we not match.

    As far as no one wanting to come here, well that’s because we haven’t made the playoffs the last two years. Sure we were only 3 points out with Pekka missing 51 games last season, but we still didn’t make it. Dallas made moves, improved their offense, and made the playoff. So I’m not shocked Dallas was a sexier destination to players than Nashville is this off-season. If the Preds can do the same this year I’d imagine we’ll have better luck next off-season attracting top players to join our club.

    • stevedurbano - Jul 5, 2014 at 11:27 PM

      Uh- how exactly do you convince another team to take that contract? Seems to me he’s got the most secure NTC in the league. If he’s traded it will ONLY be contingent on him being willing to restructure.

      • bellicosejeff - Jul 5, 2014 at 11:43 PM

        Yeah but it’s not an ACTUAL NTC or NMC. Plus after year six the actually money paid drops drastically, after year eight it drops even more. Sure he’ll keep 7+million cap hit but actually dollars will be extremely low. I think we’d have no problem trading the contact in the later years of it, given Shea is still able to play at a high level.

      • rmccleary97 - Jul 6, 2014 at 12:30 AM

        You can’t restructure a contract; that 14/110 deal is good for the duration, save a buyout (which the Predators aren’t likely to do anytime soon).

        How do you convince another team to that that contract? If Nashville sent out a fax tonight to the other 29 teams in the league saying “we’re interested in dealing Weber” they’d have at least 29 offers on the fax machine in the morning – and few (if any) of them would have “… and you guys need to eat part of the cap hit” in the details. That contract, the monster that it is, is quite tradeable because of the guy that’s attached to it.

      • stevedurbano - Jul 6, 2014 at 9:32 AM

        According to CapGeek (http://www.capgeek.com/player/1042) the Preds will pay Weber $14 million this year and next. In the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons he is slightly cheaper at only $12 million per year. Let’s recap- for the next 4 years Weber will cost his employer $48 million. He’s a great defenseman, but he’s not Gretzky. Nashville got blindsided by the Flyers offer sheet and had to match it for PR purposes, so let’s not pretend he’s worth that kind of money. No team except maybe the Leafs or Rangers could even think about taking on that salary.

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Jul 6, 2014 at 10:40 AM

        The Preds could trade him, and as part of the CBA. So it’s possible Nashville could trade him and keep part of his cap hit until his contract ends. But all that does is make their cap a mess for the next forever years.

      • stevedurbano - Jul 6, 2014 at 11:35 AM

        That’s right. And this thread is about why players don’t want to play in Nashville. The Weber contract will be a big factor in their ability to put a winning team on the ice. And rmmcleary97- I’m not lawyer and I’m asking you in all seriousness- can’t any contract be restructured if both sides are willing? Was there something in the CBA that prohibits it? Again, I’m curious and not being smartass here.

      • mcphillthy - Jul 6, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        ^great question. I would lobe to know the answer as well

      • stevedurbano - Jul 6, 2014 at 3:08 PM

        I did a little research and I don’t see anywhere in the CBA about contracts being written in stone. So, I’m going to assume I misunderstood the statement and what he meant to say was that the contract can’t be restructured without Weber’s approval. So, we come back to the original statement- if he’s traded it will only be contingent on him being willing to restructure.

      • killerpgh - Jul 6, 2014 at 5:03 PM

        You can’t restructure contracts in the NHL. Even the the player wants to it still violates the CBA. All NHL contracts a guaranteed. Wade Reddden wanted to redo his contract when the Rangers were able to send him down to the AHL and bury his cap hit. He wasn’t a horrible player, but he got signed to a horrible contract. He stated a few times he would rip up his contract if it meant he could have played in the NHL again. But CBA wouldn’t allow it.

      • stevedurbano - Jul 6, 2014 at 5:26 PM

        Thanks for the explanation. Is this only for contracts under the current CBA?

      • killerpgh - Jul 6, 2014 at 8:48 PM

        It’s been that way for a long time. That’s why you never have NHL players under contract holding out for a new contract like the NFL. RFA’s could be the only exception, but even that is very rare that they miss much time and the aren’t actually under contract it’s just the the team owns their rights. I’m sure there are probably more recent players holding out, but the last one that pops into my head Petr Nedved in the mid 90’s. Maybe Phil Kessel with the Bruins as well, but I think that was more recovering for injury/illness than it was holding out for more money. In the NHL when you sign the deal you and the team are stuck with that contract. The only possible way out is if the teams decides to buyout the contract and the team still gets hit with some of the cap hit as a penalty (unless they use a compliance buyout) and the player get either 1/3 or 2/3 of the remaining money owed depending on his age.

  8. nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 5, 2014 at 11:30 PM

    To summarize and add a thought or two: If a player wants a great shot at the Cup, there are probably a few better bets. If it’s an older player looking for a spot with milder winters, there are a few places higher on his list. If it’s a player looking for a town where hockey players are top of the heap and hockey history runs deep, there are much better markets. Now any franchise can get it together and make a title run, even where there is little such history. We’ve seen such things in Dallas, S. Calif., Florida, Carolina, but if you want big bucks and more than one item from the list above, are you looking at Nashville?

  9. luz56 - Jul 5, 2014 at 11:31 PM

    I going to catch some heat for this but….Nashville doesn’t offer a lot as a city…Culturally its almost backwards to Canadian born players.. Yes I’ve been there

    • justinbradford83 - Jul 5, 2014 at 11:48 PM

      But it’s the “IT” city.

    • mcphillthy - Jul 6, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      I agree again. Nashville has NOTHING to do here. But… There is no state income tax and this city is a great place to raise a family.
      It all depends what the player is looking for in life. If he doesn’t want the stress of an intense media market and doesn’t want to be under a microscope then this is a great city to play in. Some guys get tired of the pressure and media. Right now the franchise (poile in particular) has no identity. Poile put all his eggs in lavy. Maybe poile is the problem….

    • bspray - Jul 6, 2014 at 12:46 PM

      You’ve clearly never been to Nashville.

  10. dumbassgreg - Jul 5, 2014 at 11:40 PM

    they need to get more players married to or dating women who want to be Nashville like carrie underwood. this also reason the ex oilers lowe mctavish ryan smyth live in Edmonton . they married women who want to live there. they also have too do what Edmonton florida phoenix do over pay. then win. if dollars amount are equal winning will make a difference. Detroit when they were winning got players now they seem to be going down no luck. five years ago boyle, stralman etc at least a couple signed with detroit.

  11. dubblelznhell - Jul 6, 2014 at 12:02 AM

    Move the team to Quebec City

    • wranglerick - Jul 6, 2014 at 12:43 AM

      Seattle

  12. wranglerick - Jul 6, 2014 at 12:42 AM

    Hey dont feel so bad, im an islanders fan for over 30 years

    • bullwinkle88 - Jul 6, 2014 at 6:08 AM

      And I’ve been a Sabres fan for 44 years.

  13. Hard to BeLeaf - Jul 6, 2014 at 5:16 AM

    I don’t think it’s anything against Nashville as a city, but more because the Predators are one of the worst teams in their division. Nashville has to play a lot of games against the Blackhawks, Avalanche, Stars, Wild and Blues. Preds and Jets aren’t at that level.

    • comeonnowguys - Jul 6, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      True, but even the Jets got someone this week. And that’s… Winnipeg.

      • Hard to BeLeaf - Jul 8, 2014 at 5:41 AM

        Somehow I doubt Matthieu Perreault is going to turn the Jets around.

        …and didn’t Nashville get Ollie Jokinen FROM Winnipeg?

  14. flyboystransport - Jul 6, 2014 at 7:25 AM

    Because they’re cheap! They’ve never spent close to the cap. Suter left because they didn’t wanna pay him. Weber got an offer because the preds were being stingy money wise. Flyers are practically trying to give them a 1st line center and the preds are being difficult why????? Money. Players won’t go there if you don’t show you’re trying to win.

    • bellicosejeff - Jul 6, 2014 at 3:31 PM

      Sutter left because his wife is from Minnesota and he’s from Wisconsin. They wanted to he closer to family. No amount of money would have changed the fact his family is from that area. Rumor is Poile had matching deals for Sutter and Weber that were in line with the deal Sutter got from Minnesota. Weber was going to sign if Suter’s did, he didn’t. So Weber went for the cash grab. And yes, the predators have financial restraints, because management isn’t stupid. The economic climate these days is WAY diffrent from when even the Flyers got their start. Also, please remember it’s 2014, not 2008. We match Shea’s insanely stupid offer sheet. We gave Rinne 7+ million a year, we were going to take on Spezza with the hopes of re-signing. The preds may not spend right up to the cap ceiling but they’re no longer a cap floor team. Please get with the times.

      The reason we’re arguing over money with Vinny is because the contract is a risk. PHILADELPHIA signed him to that stupid contract and now PHILADELPHIA wants to move him. There absolutely no telling if Vinny will live up to it or not. Then if were saddled with buying him out that price needs to drop.

      Besides if it’s really just the Preds being cheap, then were are all the other team willing to take that sweet contract off your hands? There are many team that need a center, yet we’re the only ones it seems that Philadelphia is talking too. Even if the preds were a cap ceiling team, they’d still be trying to get Philadelphia to eat some of that contract. Your team has no leverage here. You either keep him and that contract, buy him out and eat the contract. Or eat a portion of it and get him off the books. Lesson learned, quit signing players to ridiculous contracts!!!

      • bellicosejeff - Jul 6, 2014 at 3:33 PM

        Suter, damn auto correct, forgive any other errors as well. Using my phone to do this.

  15. officialgame - Jul 6, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    Maybe because Laviolette is a tyrant in the mold of Mike Keenan.

  16. jcphitman - Jul 6, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    As a Wild fan, we were once like that. Just because Minnesota is the “State of Hockey” means nothing. Remember, we LOST a team to a market like Dallas partly because of no fan support (the other parts were a terrible owner who had no idea how to market in Minnesota and the legislature not agreeing to either build the North Stars a new arena or move them to Target Center and get proper revenue). The Wild got the nice new building and a ton of fan support. It wasn’t until they realized that they were losing the fan support that ownership (oddly enough the former Nashville owner) had to do something in order to change the culture.

    Part of the culture change was hire the right GM. We did it in Chuck Fletcher. He re-built our prospect list from scratch. Part of it was an owner who needed to spend. Yes Parise and Suter are either from MN or live very close by. However, part of the reason they signed with the Wild was because they saw the up and coming prospects. They did also get paid big time, which doesn’t hurt. After we got them, Fletcher made a great trade with Buffalo to get Pominville, who liked playing with stars and saw the up and coming players. One thing leads to another and Vanek wants to come home. While it doesn’t hurt players want to come home, all the stars have said they want to play in MN because there is a plan outlined to them, young players who are going to develop, and the culture has changed to a market of winning. Once upon a time, we were fly-over country with no hope of being good.

    The first step is Nashville needs to change the culture. A new coach helps, but maybe a new voice in the front office could help too? Develop those prospects and outline a plan to a solid star who wants to come play with Weber. Once a big name decides to go to Nashville, the sky is the limit.

    • avscup - Jul 6, 2014 at 12:28 PM

      Spot on. I might add the lack of fan support had a lot to do with choices. It was easy and a lot cheaper to take in a high school or Gopher game. And you were not reading about those players in the police blotter. There were a lot of reasons the No Stars left town.

      Glad to see MN with a great team again. The State of Hockey deserves it!

  17. 34defense2014 - Jul 6, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    You would think that good players would want to go there and play the best teams? I would! As a competitor!! I want to beat the best!!

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