In a meeting of Nashville Predators coaches a day after their team was eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference semifinals, goalie coach Mitch Korn offered a little perspective.
According to head coach Barry Trotz, Korn reminded everyone in the room that if winning the Stanley Cup were the only measure of a team’s success, then 29 organizations would have no choice but to consider the 2010-11 season a failure.
The truth is that there are degrees of success and failure. A team can find victory even in defeat. It’s no different for individual players. None of the Predators will have his name etched on the Stanley Cup this year, but — with the offseason now officially at hand — some figure to come out on top in their business dealings based upon their postseason performances.
• Joel Ward, RW: He is 30 years old, headed for unrestricted free agency, and he undoubtedly piqued the interest of some teams by averaging better than a point per game in the playoffs. His seven goals and six assists both were team-highs.
Ward made headlines across Canada throughout the postseason because he took an unconventional path to the NHL. Now is his opportunity to cash in.
• Pekka Rinne, G: He has one year remaining on his current contract and will make $4 million next season, which is a bargain given the value of a top-flight goaltender. Either the Predators will give him a long-term deal sometime next season, or he’ll end up a free agent, where teams will line up to throw money his way.
On top of that, three years away from the next Olympics, Rinne has established himself as a leading contender to play for Finland, a country loaded with goaltending talent.
• David Legwand, C: The guy who has been around almost as long as the franchise itself whet the appetite of management, coaches, teammates and fans yet again, this time with his playoff performance. He won faceoffs, scored goals — including two shorthanded and one on the power play — and at 30 years old showed he still has the ability to skate, which was part of his original appeal.
• Sergei Kostitsyn, LW: There probably was not a more cost-effective player in the league during the regular season, when he scored 23 goals on a one-year, $550,000 deal. That set him up to earn a handsome raise for 2011-12.
Then he flushed a lot of his gains when he didn’t have a goal in any of Nashville’s 12 playoff games. In fact, he had just 10 shots on goal (fewer than one per game) as his timidity showed after getting hit hard a few times in the first game with Anaheim.
• Steve Sullivan, LW: Chances are that the Predators already were prepared to move on after Sullivan, at 36, endured another injury-plagued season. If he wanted to stay in the league, though, his experience, speed and offensive ability likely would’ve earned him a deal somewhere, but another injury in the postseason has made him a “buyer beware” poster man.
• J-P Dumont, RW: He was benched regularly late in the season and called upon to fill in during the Anaheim series. Twice in the final three games of the series with Vancouver, Colin Wilson was inserted ahead of him.
At 33, Dumont still has one year left on his current contract. If he wants to play during that time, he likely will have to waive his no-trade clause and allow the Predators to ship him elsewhere.
Shea Weber’s contract
It is the first domino that determines how everything else will fall.
Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said his primary order of business at the start of this offseason is to sign captain Shea Weber to a new contract, a multiyear deal that guarantees the Norris Trophy finalist will remain with the team through the prime of his career.
To do so will require a significant financial investment, though, and with two other key players — defenseman Ryan Suter and goalie Pekka Rinne — scheduled for unrestricted free agency a year from now, there’s no guarantee there will be enough to go around.
“We’re trying to build a championship team that can compete for the [Stanley] Cup every year — that’s my desire,” Poile said. “We now have parts that we believe we can do that.”
Weber is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, so there is the possibility that a long-term deal can be delayed in favor of a one- or two-year package.
Weber earned $4.5 million this season. As a means of comparison, the other two Norris finalists, Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, earned $7.5 million and $6.2 million, respectively.
“Players don’t necessarily like to hear this, but whatever I do for one player, that’s how much money is left for everyone else,” Poile said. “You can’t just deal in isolation when you’re putting your team together.”
Weber is the one at the table now, which means he’ll either set the market or break the bank.
“Obviously, I want to get something done,” Weber said. “I want to stay here, and it’s got to be right for everyone. You don’t want to take away from others staying here. … You want to make sure everyone can stay here so you can have a good team.”
— David Boclair