What a difference a year makes for the Nashville Predators.
This time last year, the Predators were trying to find a way to sign both Ryan Suter and Shea Weber to long-term contracts to give their defense corps a stable foundation for years to come. One year later, they have that stable foundation, but it comes in the form of Roman Josi and Weber instead of Suter and Weber.
By locking up Josi long-term with a seven-year, $28 million contract, the Predators have done with Josi what they could not with Suter. The young 23-year-old defenseman was eventually willing to make a long-term commitment to the Predators after a lengthy negotiation, and it will allow the Predators to build around him and Weber on defense.
“It was a long negotiation,” said Predators General Manager David Poile in an interview with 102.5 The Game on Tuesday afternoon. “Both sides throwing out lots of different ideas, and we talked certainly about a shorter contract because from their side, they’re showing full confidence in their player and his ability to grow and to get better, thus to earn more dollars. We just went through various and different stages, and this lasted a long time.”
“I really like it in Nashville and enjoyed my time the last two years playing for Nashville,” Josi said in a conference call with the media on Tuesday afternoon. “It gives you a lot of security, of course. I’ve had some injuries in the past, and you never know what’s going to happen and a long-term deal gives me a lot of security.”
Josi seems to be taking his new contract in stride and seems to know the bar will be raised for him with the new contract. New expectations also come with the new security he’s received in his long-term deal.
“I want to take more responsibility,” Josi said.
That’s not something you normally hear from a 23-year-old, but that’s got to be an encouraging sign for the Predators. That sort of attitude really sets hockey apart from the other major sports in the United States. A lot of times, athletes will get their long-term deal and their performance and attitude shifts from being driven and focused to being complacent and losing that drive. That doesn’t seem to happen as much in hockey, and Josi appears to be no exception to that.
“I started working out again, and I’m doing the same thing as last year, working out with Mark Streit from the Islanders and Yannick Weber from Montreal. It worked out pretty well last year, and I’m focusing on putting on some more muscles this year and keeping my nutrition habits,” Josi said.
Nashville is coming off a disaster of a season on the ice, but they sit in pretty good position off the ice this off-season. With Josi and Patric Hornqvist locked up, the Predators have checked their first two priorities of the off-season off of the to-do list and can now focus on the draft and free agency. They’ll be looking to make a quick turnaround in 2013-14 and get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“Nashville is a great organization,” Josi said. “We had a bad season last year, but I think the year before we had a pretty good season and got pretty close to making it far. I know Nashville is going to do everything to get back on that track, and that’s why I signed a long-term deal.”
The potential is there for Josi to be a great defenseman for the Predators and for Nashville’s top defensive pairing to be among the best in the NHL. Josi’s commitment locks down the foundation of a solid defense corps. Now, the Predators have to go add the pieces offensively to become a Stanley Cup contending hockey team.