Only in Nashville, apparently.
The Predators, the same organization that got Calle Jarnkrok to sign a fascinating six-year, $12 million deal in 2016, have struck a similar pact with bottom-six center Colton Sissons. The two-way pivot avoided arbitration by inking a new contract worth $20 million over the next seven years.
So what do we make of this? There are positives for both sides in this deal.
For Sissons, the obvious benefit is security. Seven years is a long time for a player who hit a career-high with 30 points this past season. The competition for “middle-class” jobs in the NHL is as fierce as it’s been since the Original Six era and with youngsters on entry-level deals being able to contribute more than ever, there’s been a squeeze on players who sit outside that range.
This was Sissons’ third NHL contract and the average annual value of $2.8 million is a big upgrade from his previous salary of $625,000 per year. So good for him, setting himself up for the future at a time where roster spots are precious.
What does Nashville get out of the deal? Certainty. Seven years of comfort, knowing Sissons is locked in at a reasonable deal, seven years of knowing the dogged center will be patrolling the penalty-kill. Sissons was one of Nashville’s leaders on the PK unit this past season and the Predators had one of the most successful kills in the NHL, ranking sixth overall. No Predators forward averaged more shorthanded time on ice than Sissons did in 2018-19, at basically two minutes per game. The 25-year-old was also just behind top center Ryan Johansen in faceoff prowess, winning 53.1 percent of his draws (Johansen won 53.5 percent).
Is there room for offensive growth in Sissons? Maybe a little bit, but pencilling him in for 35 points a season seems like a fair assessment. Nashville just boosted its forward corps by bringing in Matt Duchene and with Filip Forsberg already in the fold, Sissons can worry about keeping pucks out of his own net instead of depositing them in the enemy’s goal.
In terms of a comparison, a lot of folks pointed to J.T. Compher’s recent re-signing in Colorado. Compher, who plays wing instead of center, just got a new four-year deal from the Avalanche with an average annual value of $3.5 million. Slightly younger than Sissons, Compher had two more points this past season, though in nine fewer games. Of course, as a winger, he also had less responsibility than Sissons did as a center.
Here’s where we get a little behind-the-scenes: Nashville GM David Poile is a tough negotiator. The Predators recognize that they’ve built a great program in a city that players really enjoy living in and they can use that as leverage. Sissons was scheduled to meet the Predators in arbitration on July 26 and with that date nearing, it’s obvious things got more pressing between the two sides. Just to make sure the folks in the back of the room can hear me: Arbitration is a teeth-pulling ordeal for both the player and the team and that’s why it is avoided in most cases. Teams basically have to downplay the player’s contributions because they’re trying to save money on his contract and it can often lead to hurt feelings, which impacts whether or not a player sticks with the team long-term. Yeah, it’s business – but you still have to work together after the battle.
Would Sissons have preferred more money? I’m sure he would have, but at least he gets term here. The only fear is that such a digestible contract would look really nice to Seattle when GM Ron Francis and his crew begin to think about the expansion draft. On the other hand, Jarnkrok was in the same position with the Vegas draft, but the Predators protected him (the Golden Knights took James Neal). Only one member of the Preds has a no-move clause and that’s star goalie Pekka Rinne.
Will Sissons be in Nashville for the duration of this interesting contract? Jarnkrok is still in town, so that’s a good signal.