David Poile was determined not to overpay.
No one can say he did.
The Nashville Predators general manager waited until the third day of the current NHL free agency period, Sunday, before he signed a player. When he did, he spent barely more than the league minimum when he agreed to a one-year, $575,000 deal with 24-year-old forward Niclas Bergfors.
“With all due respect to what happened on July 1 [the start of free agency], I thought the contracts — in almost every case — the players got overpaid,” Poile said. “I’m not sure I really missed too much on July 1, to be honest, in terms of what we’re looking for.
“I’m sure we’re going to have some opportunities when presented with the right player.”
More than 60 players signed Friday at more than $260 million in total salary commitments. Among them were former Predators Joel Ward (four years, $12 million with Washington), Marcel Goc (three years, $5.1 million with Florida) and Steve Sullivan (one year, $1.5 million with Pittsburgh). Ward and Goc both doubled — at least — their annual salary over last season.
Only four deals around the league that preceded Bergfors’ were smaller. Three players signed for one year at $525,000 and one other for $550,000 on Friday and Saturday.
Bergfors was the 23rd overall selection in the 2005 NHL draft by New Jersey. He made his NHL debut in 2007-08 with that franchise and since has played a total of 162 NHL games with New Jersey, Atlanta and Florida.
He had a career-high 44 points (21 goals, 23 assists) in 2009-10, when he played 54 games for the Devils and 27 for the Thrashers. He had 12 goals and 18 assists last season, which included 52 games with Atlanta and 20 with Florida. He had nine points in his first 12 games after being traded to Florida.
Poile said he has “several irons in the fire” and would like to add more players. It is clear though that he plans to do so only at his own speed and price.
“I don’t just want to sign somebody for the sake of signing somebody,” he said. “I want to sign the right player at the right time … whether it’s this week, this free agency period or during the season.”