The Nashville Predators' low-risk, high-reward offseason

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Predators are finally taking some risks, and they are very smart risks.

With Mike Fisher sidelined up to six months with a ruptured Achilles tendon, the Nashville Predators needed to do something about their depth down the middle.

On Tuesday, they signed veteran centers Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy to one-year contracts for just a little over $1 million each.

Working on a tight budget every year, the Predators are no strangers when it comes to diving into the NHL's free agency bargain bin. But with Peter Laviolette taking over behind the bench, replacing Barry Trotz who was fired following the season after being the only coach in franchise history, there seems to be a clear emphasis on trying to make the team more dangerous offensively.

For years the Predators were a team made up of try hard, low-ceiling energy guys (including past acquisitions like Eric Nystrom, Matt Hendricks and Paul Gaustad) that were able to scratch and claw their ways to wins by sucking the offense out of games. But this offseason the Predators seem to be targeting players that not only bring more offensive upside, but in the case of Ribeiro, perhaps even a little more risk.

There is no denying his skill as playmaker and on the power play, but the only reason he was available this offseason is because the Arizona Coyotes bought out the remaining three years of his contract due almost entirely to behavior issues that general manager Don Maloney said the team "could not tolerate going forward."

Maloney also admitted that even though it didn't make the Coyotes a better team on the ice, it made them a better organization in the long run.

That's not exactly an encouraging send off, and given that Ribeiro went from signing a four-year, $22 million contract just last summer to only managing a one-year, $1 million deal this summer, it almost certainly scared some teams off. Predators general manager David Poile said in a team statement that they did their due diligence and believe that Ribeiro still has a lot to offer them.

If nothing else, there is minimal risk here for the Predators. They are getting a player that was 23rd among all centers in points per game (minimum 100 games played) over the past three seasons for next to nothing when it comes to free agent spending. In a market place that was weak to begin with and saw teams throw absurd amounts of money at lesser players for many more years, it could end up being one of the steals of the summer.

If it blows up in their faces -- and given that he is now on his fourth team in four years and is coming off a tumultuous one-year run in Arizona, it very well could -- and Ribeiro continues to be a problem off the ice, it's only a one-year deal that has no long-term commitment.

But the moves on Tuesday were only a part of the Predators' offseason overhaul. They also acquired James Neal, one of the top goal-scoring wingers in the NHL, in a draft day trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins and signed another veteran center, Olli Jokinen, to a one-year contract.

Like Ribeiro, Neal is a bit of a risk in the sense that his best and most productive offensive seasons came while playing alongside Evgeni Malkin, and that he always seems to be one shift away from taking a stupid penalty or doing something that could earn him another suspension. But like Ribeiro, there is no denying the skill, and playing alongside Malkin doesn't automatically turn people into 40-goal scorers. It certainly helps, but so does the fact that he has one of the quickest and most lethal shots in the NHL.

All four additions would have been among Nashville's leading point producers last season, were positive possession players and were not really riding any sort of unsustainable shooting luck.

Player ESP/60 CF% PDO
James Neal 2.41 55.4% 1006
Olli Jokinen 1.76 49.2% 983
Mike Ribeiro 1.61 52.2 1001
Derek Roy 1.55 52.0 993

Together, their new trio of centers -- Jokinen, Roy and Ribeiro -- will only cost the Predators $4.5 million in cap space this season. That's $1 million less than what Dave Bolland will count against Florida's cap and only $1.6 million more than what Deryk Engelland will count against Calgary's cap.

The Preds definitely took some chances this offseason, but after years of playing it safe every offseason and never really getting anywhere as a result, maybe that's what they needed. Especially when it ended up costing them very little to do it.

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