Yesterday, Predators defenseman Hal Gill signed a two-year, $4 million deal to stay in Nashville. It’s a deal that comes with tremendous value just days before he could have tested the free agent waters. Here’s why:
– What Gill lacks in speed he makes up in range, and that range is especially effective on the penalty kill. When the Predators acquired the 6-foot-7 veteran in February, the team’s penalty kill was ranked 16th and clicking at a 81.8% rate. Gill’s presence immediately improved the PK, which ended the season ranked 10th in the NHL. In fact, the unit had an efficiency rate of 89.3% with Gill in the lineup.
Not only did Gill improve the PK with his range, shot blocking and awareness, but his presence took away some hard minutes from Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. The effective PK tandem of Gill and Kevin Klein allowed Weber and Suter to log less time. No matter who is on the top defense pair, Gill will be able to provide them some relief for the next two years.
– You cannot underestimate the importance of Gill’s experience to the locker room. He was the only player on the 2012 playoff roster with a Stanley Cup ring. He has 110 playoff games under his belt and has seen just about everything this league has to offer.
You also cannot underestimate what Gill means to the youngsters on the blue line. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis both made their NHL debuts last season, and both felt more comfortable late in the year due in part to Gill’s arrival.
“He always talks on the ice and always talks off the ice about what we can do better. It helps me a lot,” Josi said of Gill in February.
Another thing to keep in mind is the unknown surrounding Ryan Suter. If he signs elsewhere and Josi or Ellis absorb a bigger role, the Predators need experience on the back end to offset that youth. Gill obviously provides that.
– You’ll be hard-pressed to look at the free agent market and find a defenseman that can do the things Gill can do/possesses. If Gill signed elsewhere and the Predators wanted to fill the PK/experience role, there really isn’t much out there – not for $2 million, at least.
– The one “complaint” – for lack of a better term – amongst people who follow the team has been the term of Gill’s contract, for two reasons: His age (37) and the prospects coming up in the system. However, the Predators may not have been able to sign Gill before July 1st if they hadn’t gone the extra year. If the team decides Mattias Ekholm and/or Jonathon Blum are ready for full-time duty by the 2013-14 season, it’s not like Gill’s contract is an albatross and couldn’t be dealt. It’s a good deal for both sides.
– The veteran defenseman has played in Boston, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Montreal – all hockey-crazed cities, three of which a part of the Original Six – during his career. In less than three months in Nashville, Gill was sold on the city and expressed a sincere desire to stay. That speaks to just how much hockey players feel comfortable playing in Music City. You can live a relaxing life away from the rink, yet play in front of some of the more rabid fans in the NHL.
It’s further proof that when most NHLers come to the organization, they don’t really want to leave Nashville. Numerous former Predators, including Steve Sullivan and Chris Mason, have stated that their home after hockey will be Nashville.