Predators add tough guy, offensive prospect at forward

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 4:51pm

Barry Trotz routinely has had a tough time finding room in his lineup for tough guys.

The Nashville Predators coach gets another chance this season with the addition of 25-year-old forward Zack Stortini, one of two low-priced free agents the team signed Tuesday.

Stortini agreed to a one-year, two-way deal that will pay him an NHL salary of $550,000. Nashville also signed 26-year-old Kyle Wilson, a high-scoring forward in the minor leagues who has not yet transferred that production to the NHL level. Wilson agreed to a two-year deal, the second of which guarantees him an NHL salary of $550,000.

In his last full NHL season, 2009-10, Stortini, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound right wing, fought 17 times, which put him among the league’s top 15. He had eight fights in 32 NHL games last season.

As a team, the Predators had 23 fighting majors in 2009-10 season and 18 last season.

Stortini has fought 23 times or more — by himself — twice. He has averaged just less than one fight every three games in 256 career games with Edmonton, which drafted him in the third round (94th overall) in 2003.

In recent years, the job of enforcer belonged to Wade Belak, who appeared in just 39 games in 2009-10 and 15 more last season before injuries forced him to retire before the end of the season.

The last true heavyweight tough guy to play a significant role for Nashville was Jim McKenzie, who appeared in 61 games in 2003-04, the season prior to the lockout and the rules changes designed to open up play.

McKenzie had four points and 88 penalty minutes, which included 14 fighting majors, in 61 games during his only season with the team. Then, the Predators led the league with a franchise-record 79 fights.

Jordin Tootoo (5-9, 197) is the franchise’s all-time fights leader with 46 followed by Darcy Hordichuk (6-1, 212) with 33.

Wilson has just 34 games of NHL experience, 32 of them for Columbus last season, during which he produced four goals and nine assists. He averaged a point per game in 54 AHL appearances in his first professional season, 2006-07, and had more than 50 in each of the last three AHL campaigns.

The Minnesota Wild drafted him in the ninth round (272nd overall) in 2004, midway through a four-year college career at Colgate University, where he had 101 points (46 goals, 55 assists) in 139 career games.

Briefly

• Defenseman Aaron Johnson, who spent all of last season at Milwaukee, agreed to a contract with Columbus.

Johnson, 28, signed a one-year deal with Nashville shortly before the start of last year’s training camp, rejoins the franchise that drafted him 85th overall in 2001 and for which he made his NHL debut in 2003-04.

He also spent time with the New York Islanders, Chicago, Calgary and Edmonton as well as Nashville — all within the past four seasons. He had 35 points (nine goals, 26 assists) in 72 games for the Admirals last season.

1 Comment on this post:

By: 4gold on 7/7/11 at 3:50

Stocking up on players from Edmonton and Columbus? Two of the weakest teams in the league? Guess we will see how that goes.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!