David Poile says he will continue to look for ways to make the Nashville Predators better, particularly at forward.
As it stands now, though, the general manager figures there are worse things than sticking with a familiar formula.
Nearly two weeks into the free agency period Poile has signed only one player, Niclas Bergfors, to an NHL-only contract, Two others, Zack Stortini and Kyle Wilson were signed to two-way deals. All told, their additions could cost the team fewer than $800,000 in salary this season.
With Bergfors, though, Poile sees a potential payoff similar to what the team experienced a year ago with Sergei Kostitsyn.
“He was on his way to being a very good prospect with New Jersey,” Poile said. “He was part of the [Ilya] Kovalchuk deal — and an important part of it — and for whatever reason things haven’t gone as well the last two years in Atlanta and Florida.
“It could be like the Kostitsyn situation was for us. Sometimes a different opportunity or a different perspective on a player can make a big difference.”
Kostitsyn led the Predators with 23 goals and tied for the team lead with 50 points last season. Those numbers represented a significant increase over his first three NHL seasons when he had 24 goals and 68 points total.
Kostitsyn agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract on Friday, a salary nearly five times what he earned in 2010-11. That capped a two-day period in which the Predators signed five of their restricted free agents and increased to 20 the number of NHL players under contrct for the coming season.
Bergfors, 24, was a first-round pick (23rd overall) by the New Jersey Devils in 2005. He immediately came to North America and spent virtually four full seasons in the minors before he had 21 goals and 23 assists in 2009-10, when he was traded in mid-season from New Jersey to Atlanta. He had 12 goals and 24 assists with two teams last season, which were more points than all but seven Nashville players had.
Bergfors' one-year, $575,000 deal currently is virtually identical to the one Kostitsyn signed (one year, $550,000) last year after he was acquired in a trade with Montreal.
“There will be a time and a place when we have the opportunity to make a move to help us, most likely at forward,” Poile said. “I don’t know when that time and place will be — it might be through a trade, it might be later in the year, after training camp or it could be a situation like the Mike Fisher trade.
“Right now, I like where we are.”