Bad deal for Viktor Arvidsson, great deal for Predators

After the Nashville Predators lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a few things gained clarity.

Like the fact that Nashville was the envy of other hockey towns, with an ever-expanding fan base of catfish-chucking party people (and it’s a great place to live!). But mostly, that their Western Conference championship could be a warning shot across the bow of the NHL, because with a core of players entering — or on the cusp of — their prime years, the Predators are theoretically going to be in the mix with teams like the Edmonton Oilers for several years of Stanley Cup contention.

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The challenge for GM David Poile was making shrewd financial moves to ensure that core remained together, not only for another run or two with Pekka Rinne in goal but for the future.

To that end: He now has Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis signed for a combined $20.5 million cap hit through 2019. Which is rather incredible.

He got Josi (2013) and Ellis (2014) inked before the Predators actualized as Stanley Cup contenders. He signed Forsberg to a six-year, $36 million contract in June 2016 – post-Ryan Johansen trade, but two days before the P.K. Subban trade.

Arvidsson is the first key signing since the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and Poile nailed it, from a cap perspective: Seven years and $29.75 million for a paltry $4.25 million cap hit on a 24-year-old player. He made $650,000 against the cap for the last three years.

He’s coming off a 31-goal, 30-assist breakout season over 80 games last year, having gained just 16 points in his previous 62 NHL games. It’s no secret how that explosion happened: He clicked with Forsberg and Johansen, creating a dominant top line for the Predators. He scored 12 of his 19 even-strength goals last season with Johansen as his center.

Which is why this contract is a huge win for Nashville, and potentially a blown chance for Arvidsson.

His ask in the arbitration hearing with the Predators, that preceded the contract settlement, was one year at $4.5 million, according to Elliotte Friedman. Nashville was asking for two years at $2.75 million each.

There’s every reason to believe that he’ll be back on that line next season, and there’s every reason to believe they’ll be great again. Locking into a $4.25 million cap hit for seven years, from a player standpoint, would seem to cost him millions, considering what Arvidsson does and considering his current status in the lineup.

A bridge deal of some sort boosts his baseline price, gives him more time to build a stats case he might not be able to make over just one productive season, and extends out into (more) UFA years the Predators would have to buy up to keep him. All of that adds up to more than $4.25 million annually, a.k.a. “Craig Smith money,” for a guy that just popped 31 goals.

But I guess there’s something laudable about Arvidsson giving away money and taking term with a team that could contend – health and goaltending willing – for the next seven years. And again, give Poile this: He’s got everyone under contract for next season and $14 million in space to get Ryan Johansen and Austin Watson under contract and, maybe, figure out how to replace those James Neal goals.

The only thing that gives you pause if you’re Nashville with this contract is the way Arvidsson has played away from Johansen, but at $4.25 million and term that’s a problem you can correct via trade if it turns out he’s only a product of that line.

(Although it should be noted that Arvidsson had a better Final, post-Johansen, than did Forsberg.)

Hey, maybe if you’re Arvidsson, you take the chance to snag term while the numbers are high, rather than take the gamble that another year with RyJo increases your price tag. But wouldn’t that be an indictment of your own potential?

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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