Carl Soderberg. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Nashville's re-signing of Mike Fisher was to be expected, but Colorado's big deal with Carl Soderberg carries some risk.
Two signings, two centers, two Central Division teams, two very different meanings.
Unrestricted free agent to-be Mike Fisher, 35, will return to the Nashville Predators. Fisher signed a two-year, $8.8-million deal. Is $4.4 million per year a bit much for a 35-year-old veteran who has never topped 25 goals or 53 points? Maybe, but it was a matter of Nashville's needs. General manager David Poile couldn't risk losing one of his top two centers, especially with UFA Mike Ribeiro's status up in the air. Fisher loves Nashville, Nashville loves Fisher, and his country star wife Carrie Underwood is based there. The two-year term makes the meaty cap hit palatable, too.
Colorado's signing of Carl Soderberg, who turns 30 Oct. 12, is much more eyebrow-raising. The Avalanche acquired the 6-foot-3, 216-pound pivot's rights from the Boston Bruins Thursday and locked him up to a five-year, $23.75-million contract. So whereas the Preds will play $4.4 million for a sure thing, if an unexciting one, the Avs bet big on the unproven Soderberg for $4.75 million a year.
Soderberg's allure is understandable. He was a dynamite Swedish League player, leading the circuit with 31 goals in 54 games in 2012-13. He topped the 40-point mark in each of his full seasons with Boston despite averaging a modest 14:14 in 2013-14 and 16:49 in 2014-15, bouncing around the top nine forwards on the depth chart. He provided well-rounded play at both ends of the ice, which is something the possession-challenged Avs desperately need. He can take faceoffs, albeit he isn't dominant in the dot. And, most importantly, Soderberg has that size every Western Conference team covets at center.
Still, this is a risky signing by GM Joe Sakic. Five years at almost $5 million for a player who may never be better than an adequate No. 2 pivot. It also essentially stamps Ryan O'Reilly's ticket out of town. Soderberg is cheaper than O'Reilly, who carries a $6-million cap hit and hopes to make even more when his contract expires a year from now. The question is whether Soderberg plus whatever else Sakic can do with the extra $1 million and change will trump what the much younger, more dynamic Reilly brings to the table.
Sakic's phone should ring off the hook with calls on O'Reilly today.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin