After a long summer of speculation about difficult contract negotiations with defenseman Cody Franson, the Nashville Predators announced that he signed a new deal today but he enters camp still needing to earn a job. The contract is a one-way, two-year deal for $1.6 million dollars.
There had been speculation as to whether the Predators had wanted a two-way contract since there is a large contingent of blueliners fighting for the probable seven slots that the Predators normally carry. Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Francis Bouillon and Kevin Klein each appear to be locked into the top four slots on the back end. Alexander Sulzer and Ryan Parent are also on one-way deals and will be competing for ice time with Franson.
The big question in the upcoming training camp will be if one or more of several top defensive prospects will move ahead of the perceived top seven and send a veteran player to Milwaukee or elsewhere via waivers or a trade. Jon Blum and Teemu Laasko are both experienced in the AHL and want to make a move to Nashville. Ryan Ellis is destined to remain in the CHL for another year if he can’t make the jump out of camp. Roman Josi is set to play his first season in North America after an outstanding international career in Europe playing in Switzerland.
Even if none of these four players stay with the Preds when camp breaks, you would expect to at least see Blum and Laasko as the first call-ups when injuries occur. A real wild card would be if Ellis played well enough in camp to force the Preds to make the tough decision to keep him in Nashville for up to nine games of the regular season after which his entry level contract would kick in.
With seven players looking to fill four slots, something will have to give. Keep an eye out at camp for the fierce competition.