Last season, his first full campaign in the NHL, Viktor Arvidsson scored 31 goals, 61 points, skated on one of the best lines in the league. He played in all situations, led the league with five shorthanded goals and proceeded to have a three-goal, 13-point post-season as the Nashville Predators won the Western Conference and finished two wins short of the Stanley Cup.
So, what does that make Arvidsson worth on his new contract? Apparently, $4.25 million per season for the next seven years, because that’s exactly the deal the Predators locked Arvidsson up to over the weekend.
Arvidsson, 23, was slated to have an arbitration hearing Saturday to work out a new deal with Nashville, with the winger seeking $4.5 million on a one-year deal and the Predators after a two-year pact at a total of $5.5 million. However, before the contract was handed out via arbitration, the two sides came to terms on the seven-year, $29.75-million deal. And getting that kind of deal for Arvidsson, with that term and that cap hit as he’s coming off of a career year, is yet another absolute stroke of genius by Predators GM David Poile.
While Arvidsson may only be one year into his breakout as a top-line winger in Nashville, there’s a fair chance that what he produced this past season was the start of what could be several dangerous prime years, and the Predators will have Arvidsson under contract for all of them. The chemistry he found playing alongside Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg was impressive, and if Arvidsson continues his current trajectory, he could be a consistent 60-point scorer in short order.
That’s not to say there are no concerns, and that Arvidsson has only had the one standout season is undoubtedly the reason his contract didn’t eclipse $5 million on a long-term deal. One has to wonder if his shooting percentage, which was 12.6 percent in 2016-17, won’t regress. The mark was double his 5.8 percent success rate in 2015-16, and Arvidsson saw sizeable increases in all of his production rates. From his rookie to sophomore campaign, his goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 increased from .54 to 1.07, assists from .36 to .68 and he doubled his point production from 1.18 points per 60 minutes to 2.37 this past season. But even if Arvidsson lands somewhere between the two marks next season, his cap hit is still outstanding and the deal still has all the makings of a steal for the Predators.
That the contract is such a brilliant deal for Nashville might be the least surprising thing of all, however.
Over the past few seasons, Poile has had a knack for getting young, talented players locked up to excellent contracts just as they’re breaking out, and that has put the Predators in an excellent financial position for this coming season and beyond. In fact, each off-season for the past five years, Poile has pulled off a signing that has given Nashville a sweetheart of a deal. And it starts with top-pairing defenseman and potential future captain Roman Josi.
During the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, Josi impressed in a big way, flying up the depth chart as a sophomore and averaging 23:32 per night as a top-two defender in Nashville. Offensively, Josi had his breakout, too. It wasn’t a Norris Trophy winning point total, but his five goals and 18 points were enough to set new career bests. So, with Josi’s contract up at season’s end, Poile handed the rearguard a seven-year, $28-million contract, under which the Swiss defender has played the past four campaigns while being one of the more underrated rearguards in the league. He finished top-five in Norris voting twice in the past three seasons and had an 11th-place finish in voting this past season, all while earning a scant $4-million per season.
During the following off-season, Poile managed to pull off a similarly impressive contract, this one with defenseman Ryan Ellis. After two years splitting time between the minors and the big club, Ellis finally became a full-time NHLer in 2013-14, skating on the third pairing and managing some power play time. He put up stellar numbers, too. In 80 games, he scored six goals and 27 points. On his new deal, though, Ellis signed for five years and $12.5 million. The $2.5 million cap hit is a song for Ellis now, as he’s coming off a campaign in which he set career bests with 16 goals and 38 points. That’s not to mention 24 minutes of ice time per night.
Poile’s 2015 masterwork was another contract for a rearguard and came less than a month into the 2015-16 campaign. At the time, Mattias Ekholm was coming off of his first full-time campaign in the NHL where he earned second-pairing minutes and scoring seven goals and 18 points for the Predators. Thus, as the season begun, Ekholm was rewarded with a long-term extension — seven years at $3.75 million per season. In the seasons since, the contract has looked better and better. Ekholm earned more responsibility in 2015-16 while putting up a career-best eight goals and 35 points and he became a legitimate top-pairing, stay-at-home defender in Nashville this past season, skating 23-plus minutes each night.
Maybe the greatest signing Poile has made over the past five summers, though, is his unthinkably team-friendly contract with center Calle Jarnkrok. In 2015-16, Jarnkrok, playing on a one-year deal as a restricted free agent, set career-highs with 16 goals and 30 points in 81 games, but instead of cashing in or earning a huge raise, Jarnkrok instead signed a six-year contract worth $12-million, and the $2 million cap hit is incredibly modest for a center who could conceivably man the second line this coming campaign.
None of this is to mention Poile’s other contracts, either. Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin, secondary pieces of the league’s best D-corps, signed new deals for little more than $600,000 for the upcoming season. Pontus Aberg, who had some impressive games during the post-season, is back under contract for $650,000 for the next two seasons. Frederick Gaudreau, who had a remarkable run in the Stanley Cup final, re-signed this summer for three years at $667,000 per season. Only the final year of that deal is a one-way contract. And after scoring four goals and nine points in 22 playoff games and earning a full-time roster spot as a sophomore, Austin Watson has signed a three-year, $3.3-million deal on Monday.
The best thing about all of these contracts, though, from Josi to Arvidsson, is that it’s hard to see where there will be any cap-space land mines for Nashville. The most pressing concern in the near future is a new contract for Ellis, but by 2019-20, the Predators will have more than enough cap space to keep him around. The same goes for Josi, whose deal will come up in 2020-21, and there needs to be no concern surrounding Forsberg, Jarnkrok, Ekholm or others until at least 2022-23.
Poile, the reigning GM of the Year, has been able to construct one the best teams in the league through drafting, development and a few savvy trades — we’re little more than a year removed from the P.K. Subban-for-Shea Weber dandy. Building the team is one thing, though. Keeping it together is another. And with the way Poile has managed his team’s cap space in recent years, it looks as though Nashville is going to be able to keep the cornerstones of this group in tact well into the future.
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