The Nashville Predators did more than shore up their group of forwards for the future when they traded for veteran center Mike Fisher on Thursday.
They also finally moved past what was considered an early error in judgment.
“We’ve always liked him,” General Manager David Poile said. “We like everything about his game.”
That was not exactly true of everyone in the personnel department.
Craig Channell was the team’s original director of amateur scouting from its earliest days until early in the 2002-03 season, when he was reassigned. One player he openly discussed having misjudged at the time of his demotion was Fisher, who was available in Nashville’s first draft and who was coveted by the majority of those in the team’s scouting department.
Ultimately, Nashville did not miss a chance to select Fisher then. After it took David Legwand second overall, it did not pick again until the third round when it grabbed Denis Arkhipov 60th overall. Fisher went to the Ottawa Senators in the second round (44th overall).
The Predators, however, did not pass up the opportunity to acquire the 30-year-old veteran of 675 career NHL games from the struggling Senators, who at the start of play Thursday had the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference. To get him, they gave up their first-round draft pick this coming June and a conditional selection (possibly a second or third-round choice) in 2012.
The fact that Fisher, who is married to country music superstar Carrie Underwood, is signed through the 2012-13 season means they get to keep him for an extended period. He is scheduled to earn $4 million next season and $3 million the following the year. He counts slightly higher against the salary cap, but Nashville never is in danger of bumping into the ceiling of that cap.
“This is not a rental,” Poile said. “… We hope this is a deal that will help us for years to come.”
At the time of the deal — more than two weeks before the league’s Feb. 28 trade deadline — Fisher was Ottawa’s leader in goals with 14, which put him on pace to reach at least 20 for the fifth time in six years. His average ice time (18:25) exceeded that of any of Nashville’s forwards, and his 75 career postseason appearances immediately made him the Predators’ leader in playoff experience.
Beginning Saturday against Colorado (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena), he figures to fill a hole on one of the top two lines that has existed since Matthew Lombardi, the team’s top free agent acquisition of the offseason, sustained a concussion in the season’s second game.
“It’ll be a real nice upgrade for our team,” Poile said. “We’ve been dealing with a situation almost all season where we’ve been on the cusp of running out of players to call up at forward. As a result, we’ve probably had guys playing higher roles than they should.
“This is a player we feel is a top six forward, and maybe that means everybody else can fall into the role they should be in.”
Only twice previously has Nashville traded a first-round pick and attempted to make a significant upgrade to the offense. The last was when it dealt for Peter Forsberg late in 2006-07. That one cost them one future and two former first-round choices and still did not provide the desired boost in playoff performance.
The amount of compensation in this deal is directly related to how Nashville fares in the upcoming playoffs. A first-round victory means Ottawa gets the third-round choice in 2012. Victories in two or more rounds make it a second-round selection.
“[Fisher] is not a messiah,” Poile said. “He’s a good center, and we want to be better at that position and maybe have more success than we’ve ever had.
“We know there are no guarantees. All I can say is we’re very happy to have Mike Fisher, and we think he’s going to make us better.”
It’s a notion they’ve held for a long time.