The Nashville Predators announced Wednesday they had given defenseman Victor Bartley a three-year, $2 million contract. Bartley, 25, was set to become a restricted free agent next month.
In 24 games as a rookie this past season, Bartley played as well as he could have given the circumstances. He spent most of his time alongside Kevin Klein and chipped in seven assists in an average ice time of 19:32. If Bartley plays that well next year, or slightly improves, his new cap hit of $0.667 million will be more than just a fair price.
The intriguing part of Bartley’s contract is the fact that it’s a one-way pact. Being sent down to Milwaukee would require waivers, and his salary wouldn’t fluctuate between the AHL and NHL. This has to be considered an obvious sign that Bartley is in Nashville to stay, but that doesn’t make it easier to determine who exactly will be on their blue-line on opening night.
Bartley is one of five Predators defensemen with a one-way contract and youngsters are on the verge of becoming regulars in Nashville. Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Klein are the stalwarts of the defense. When you add Bartley and Hal Gill, the other two with one-way contracts, it makes things difficult on up-and-comers Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm, as well as RFAs T.J. Brennan and Jonathon Blum.
Last week’s acquisition of Brennan likely spelled the end of Blum in Nashville. A one-way deal for Bartley all but guarantees it. But what happens now to Brennan? He’s an unsigned RFA and was solid with Florida late in the season. His shot from the blue-line could be useful for the Predators, but it seems they already have their seven defensemen in house. The organization speaks highly of Ellis and Ekholm, both of whom will get a shot at the opening night roster.
As the dominoes fall over the next three weeks, we may get a clearer picture of the Predators’ plans defensively. The good news for Bartley is that he is in the Predators’ plans for at least the next three years, which has to be relieving given his adventurous journey to the NHL.
Nashville giving a three-year contract to Bartley shows confidence that his best work is ahead of him. While it may be more ideal to have him skate on the third pairing, there’s no question Bartley can hold his own against NHL competition.