Monday, June 18, 2007

Preds lighten their payroll, Flyers fatten their roster

The Nashville Predators, who are in the middle of a potential sale to Jim Balsillie, took a step back from the free agency sweepstakes on Monday by trading two would be free agents away to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Preds parted ways with Kimmo Timonen and unrestricted free agent left winger Scott Hartnell. Both of whom immediately signed long term contracts with the Flyers.

In return the Preds reacquired the first round pick in the draft, number 23 overall in that round, which they surrendered when they grabbed rent a player Peter Forsberg earlier in the spring.

With their retreat from the free agency derby, the Predators appear to settling in for the rebuilding phase of the teams lifespan, perhaps sealing the teams fate in the Nashville market complete, by seeking out the draft pick they gave up for Forsberg they look to the future as a team with young and generally unproven talent. What this means for their chances to re-sign Forsberg remains to be seen, but he could be deemed expendable, as well as they formulate their plans to eventually relocate.

Clearly with no set management direction in place at the moment, the Preds will be keeping a low profile during draft week. There most likely won’t be any block buster trades passing by their table and any pick they make will probably never get to see the Opry or hang out around Music Row. They’ll be selecting picks with an eye to the future and a few years down the road, all with an eye as to where the new boss wants to take them.

For the Flyers, they pick up a couple of solid assets in Timonen and Hartnell. They will be two instant impact players, with Timonen in particular helping to strengthen the Flyers Defence. He instantly steps into the number one spot on the Flyer depth chart at that position and should prove to be an effective puck mover from the Flyers end of the rink next season.

Neither came cheap however, as both signed six year deals, Timonen for 38.5 million and Harntell at 25.2. And with the large salaries that have been doled out in the last 12 hours, the Flyers will be keeping an eye on their cap room for future improvements on draft day.

While Philadelphia can look to the moves as an indication of progress, it’s not quite as clear as to what it means for the Nashville fans. By removing the popular Preds in the midst of a “save the Preds” drive for tickets in Nashville, it may very well be the final signal that the Preds time in the Music capital is at an end.

Or as they like to say at the country bars when Barbara Mandrell pops up on the juke box with “after closing time”.

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