The ‘best’ center in the free agent pool has found a new home. Matthew Lombardi has signed with the Nashville Predators for three years, $10.5 million. Lombardi registered a career-high 53 points in Phoenix last year, and picked a good time to become the top center available (by default) during the frenzy.
Lombardi, 28, is a great fit for Nashville. He is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL, is reliable at both ends of the ice, and can play in all situations. Kind of sounds like a Nashville Predator, huh?
With Jason Arnott being traded away just two weeks ago, the Preds have replaced him with a cheaper, younger, faster, and better two-way center in Lombardi.
Some may say $3.5 million a season is too much for him; but considering he was asking for more than $4 million just yesterday, the Predators certainly got themselves a good deal. Matt Cullen received the exact same deal with the Wild. Of the two, I’ll take Lombardi in a heartbeat.
Let’s not get sucked into saying Lombardi doesn’t deserve this kind of money. Sure, he’s only tallied 50-plus points once in his career… but he’s 28 years old and is just entering his prime. He also didn’t get significant minutes earlier in his career while in Calgary. Lombardi’s speed and two-way capabilities are a perfect match for Barry Trotz’s system, and he should help his new teammates — namely Erat and Dumont — create more scoring opportunities. Can you put a price tag on that?
Kudos to GM David Poile for opening up his checkbook at a time when he’s usually conservative. This is an affordable signing for the Predators, and it is money well spent. With this signing, the Predators are more well-rounded up front and should once again compete for a solid playoff position in the rugged Western Conference.