With more than a quarter century spent as an NHL general manager, David Poile rarely is befuddled by the business of hockey.
Even the Nashville Predators’ top hockey mind had to admit, though, that his vast experience provided no precedent when it came to negotiating a new contract with forward Patric Hornqvist. Perhaps that’s why it took longer than almost every deal to be completed this offseason.
Tuesday, Poile finally concluded negotiations with Hornqvist, who went from a part-time NHL player with two goals in 2008-09 to one of the league’s top 20 goal-scorers with a franchise-best 30 in 2009-10.
“Two to 30 is the biggest increase I can ever recall,” Poile said. “… At the end of the day, we believed that what he did last year is what he’ll be doing.”
Hornqvist’s new deal is for three years and a total of $9.25 million. It pays him $3 million each of the next two seasons, $3.25 million in the final year and expires one year before he is eligible for unrestricted free agency.
That means Nashville will one more round of exclusive negotiating rights with him, if it so chooses, provided Hornqvist is not traded or has his career somehow cut short before then.
“He’s always been a goal scorer in his hockey career,” Poile said. “
Hornqvist entered this offseason as a restricted free agent, and the Predators retained his rights when they made him the necessary one-year qualifying offer of a 10 percent above his 2009-10 salary of $575,000. He did not sign that offer, though, and chose to negotiate a larger, lengthier deal.
In addition to the fact that he became the fourth player in franchise history (and the first Predators’ draft pick) to score at least 30 goals in a season, the 23-year-old forward who was the final overall selection in 2005 set a franchise record with 275 shots, tied for the team lead with 51 points and had a team-high plus-18 rating.
No one among the league’s top 20 goal scorers last season averaged less ice time than Hornqvist, who also missed two games.
Now, with a little more than three weeks to go before the start of training camp, only defenseman Cody Franson is unsigned. Franson is in the same position Hornqvist was having declined to sign his qualifying offer.
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t get it done,” Poile said. “We haven’t had a lot of talks the last couple weeks. Just like everything else, it’s a process.”