The forward position is getting a little crowded for the Nashville Predators.
With the signing Tuesday afternoon of Josh Langfeld, the Predators have 14 forwards on the NHL roster and at least four more on the Milwaukee roster who could see playing time at the top level.
Predators coach Barry Trotz, who has dealt with the loss this offseason of forwards Scott Hartnell and Paul Kariya to free agency, the sidelining of Steve Sullivan until December, and the limbo of Peter Forsberg, likes the fact he has legitimate NHL choices to fill roles.
“We have some depth,” Trotz said. “Last year I felt like our depth at forward was on our hockey team. We really didn’t have a lot of call-ups of forwards who could play in the NHL except for guys likes Ramzi Abid and Rich Peverley. It was really a little bit lean there.”
Matt Ellison, Cal O’Reilly, Shane Willis, Perverley and Langfeld are five players who could be in either Nashville or Milwaukee. Langfeld signed a one-year contract that pays him $500,000 in the NHL and $100,000 on the minor league level.
“This year Cal is a step closer and Peverley is a step closer at center, but we really needed some help on the wings,” Trtiz said. “We are trying to re-stock the shelves a little bit.
“We want to put people in a position where they will get opportunities and a chance to show their stuff. There are no illusions as to who they are. I look at Ellison, Willis and Langfeld and expect them to be in the top 15 forwards.”
Langfeld has played in 144 games in parts of five seasons in the NHL. He has 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists). He has played for Ottawa, San Jose, Boston and Detroit. His best performance was with San Jose when he produced 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 39 games in 2005-2006.
“Our roster has been filled with guys like Vernon Fiddler and Jerred Smithson who have worked their way through the minors and got themselves in a position to earn regular duty on the NHL level,” Trotz said. “We are hoping that guys like Langfeld, Willis and Ellison who have played some NHL games and are maybe knocking on the door a little bit will cross that line and not only put pressure on the guys you expect to have on the NHL level or maybe unseat some of those guys.
“I think Josh is going to be a good fit. He has played with some good, deep organizations. Maybe the opportunities weren’t there as much for him as they might be in another situation. He has ability. He has size and we are trying to upgrade our size.”
Trotz will wait until training camp to determine how his lines are going to develop. One thing he wants to do is keep center David Legwand together with Martin Erat.
“We have lost some skill elements in our lineup, but at the same time we have replaced it with some size, grit and experience,” Trotz said. “We have more of a balance of offensive and defensive players. We had nine forwards last season who thought they should be on the No. 1 power play.
“What I will do is look at two players who can stay together and have some chemistry like Erat and Legwand. If you have two guys with chemistry the third guy on the line can move around a little bit.”