(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)
The Milwaukee Admirals missed the post-season in 2014-15, but that could be in large part thanks to playing in what was arguably the toughest division in the AHL. No team in the Midwest Division finished with fewer than 80 points, and Milwaukee’s 81 — which put them six points out of the post-season — were fifth in the Midwest.
Divisional realignment for 2015-16 won’t make the Admirals’ post-season goal any easier to achieve, either. While bringing in the Iowa Wild, Charlotte Checkers and Manitoba Moose (2014-15’s St. John’s Ice Caps) should give the division some lesser teams, all five Midwest teams will be in the newfound Central Division.
Gone are three of their top-10 scorers in Brendan Leipsic, Triston Grant and longtime Admiral Mark Van Guilder, but the Predators signed Cody Bass and Conor Allen this off-season, and that should trickle down to help the Admirals.
Colton Sissons and Austin Watson continue to grow in the minors and could have big years for the Admirals, while AHL rookie sensation Viktor Arvidsson is preparing to attempt to better his 22-goal, 55-point freshman season. They could have another top rookie on their hands in Vladislav Kamenev who spent last season playing against men in the KHL.
Goaltender Jusse Saros is coming over this season and should battle for the backup spot while Marek Mazanec will try to build off of a subpar sophomore season in 2014-15. Read more
Welcome back to the Futures mailbag. We’re only one week away from real, regular season hockey being played in the Quebec League and other junior circuits will follow after that. In the meantime, here are more prospect and draft questions from you, the readers. If you have a query for me, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and attach the hashtag #thnfutures to make sure I see it. Let’s get to the questions!
While the Nashville Predators matched a 14-year, $110-million offer sheet for captain Shea Weber from the Philadelphia Flyers in July 2012, he’s remained the subject of annual off-season trade speculation.
Weber’s value to the Predators and the expense of his contract are usually cited as reasons why he won’t be dealt, but Yahoo Sports’ Josh Cooper believes the time could be right to trade him within the next year. Among the factors justifying this move includes the potential for a strong return, the expense of re-signing Filip Forsberg and Seth Jones next year and the possibility the 29-year-old defenseman’s performance could be about to decline.
Unlike most stars of Weber’s caliber, he lacks a no-trade clause in his contract. The Predators can entertain offers from around the league and ship him anywhere without his consent.
Cross out another arbitration case as the Nashville Predators and restricted free agent Colin Wilson have come to terms on a four-year, $15.75 million contract.
The Predators announced the signing of Wilson on Monday morning and unveiled the terms of the contract via a release on the team’s website. Wilson’s new deal, which carries a $3.9375 million cap hit, will pay him $3.75 million in the first season of the contract, with each of the following three years paying out $4 million per campaign. Overall, it’s a brilliant deal for Nashville.
The raise for Wilson is a significant one, as he nearly doubles his salary from the past three seasons, but it doesn’t come even close to breaking the bank for the Predators. Following his entry-level deal, Wilson inked a three-year, $6 million deal that expired at the end of this past season.
Wilson, 25, was a first-round selection, seventh overall, of the Predators in the 2008 draft. Over his six seasons in the NHL, Wilson had shown steady growth, but it wasn’t until this past season that he really broke out. Read more
If you were wondering what has taken so long for defenseman Cody Franson to sign a new contract, you’re not alone. Franson himself seems to be getting impatient.
In an interview with TSN 1040 in Vancouver, Franson opened an interview with questions about his contract and when hosts Matt Sekeres and Jeff Paterson remark that they thought Franson would have a contract by now, the unrestricted free agent blueliner said they weren’t the only ones.
“You and me both,” remarked Franson. Read more
Barring a last minute signing, the first arbitration case of the summer will be heard Monday, and Craig Smith and the Nashville Predators might be farther apart than expected.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Smith’s current ask is $4.75 million per season, with the Predators looking for a $3 million settlement with their 25-year-old right winger. Smith, a restricted free agent, is coming off of a two-year, $4 million contract.
While he’s flown largely under the radar on a club whose faces are all defensive stars, such as Shea Weber, Seth Jones and goaltender Pekka Rinne, Smith has been a steady second-line scorer for the Predators over the past two seasons. Smith scored 47 goals and 96 points over the past two seasons while averaging between 13 to 15 minutes of ice time per game on his last deal. That’s not including his rookie campaign in 2011-12, in which he scored 14 goals and 36 points. Read more
Nearly three weeks into the NHL’s free-agency period, former Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson remains unsigned. In a free-agent market decidedly thin on quality talent, the 27-year-old blueliner was considered among the top players available.
It was expected Franson would be among the players signed with the first 24 hours of free agency. That he’s still without a contract entering late-July is drawing headlines as free-agent activity slows down.
CBS Sports’ Adam Gretz suggests Franson’s high asking price could be a factor, speculating the blueliner seeks a deal comparable to the annual cap hit ($5.75 million) of Washington’s Matt Niskanen. Gretz also thinks the decline in Franson’s performance following his February trade from Toronto to Nashville hurts his free-agent value.
The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples cites TSN’s Craig Button forewarning Franson’s lack of speed could be an issue. While acknowledging the rearguard’s lumbering style, Staples points out he’s an excellent passer with a strong snapshot from the point. He believes Franson is best suited as a second-pairing defenseman. Read more
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto has a new two-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers that will pay him an average of $3.8 million per campaign. It’s a nice raise for a player the Flyers took a chance on this season and a bit of security for a still-young D-man who believes he found himself in the City of Brotherly Love.