The Nashville Predators have opted against a wait-and-see approach with 2013 first-round draft pick Seth Jones.
Instead, they have decided to clear a path for the 18-year-old defenseman directly to the NHL roster.
General manager David Poile said Tuesday that the Predators placed veteran defenseman Hal Gill on waivers. He also reaffirmed that Jonathon Blum would not receive a qualifying offer and, therefore, would become an unrestricted free agent.
“With the drafting of Seth Jones and our desire to, in all likelihood, put him on the team it’s probably not going to be a good fit for Hal,” Poile said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen there, whether [Gill] is going to be taken there or not.”
The NHL’s other 29 teams have 24 hours to claim Gill, who is 38 years old and has one year remaining (at $2 million) on his current contract. If he goes unclaimed, the Predators will explore other options.
One possibility is an amnesty buyout, which is available to teams this year as a means to become salary cap-compliant. Teams can buy out a player from his contract with no impact on the salary cap.
Gill, acquired prior to the 2011 trade deadline, appeared in 32 of 48 games for Nashville last season but averaged just 13:23 of ice time, lowest among the nine defensemen who appeared for the Predators. He also had been to the postseason each of the previous five years, with three teams.
“As a proud player and a very good player in the league he wants to play more,” Poile said. "I thought we had the situation resolved to our mutual benefit before he left [for the offseason].
“For us, honestly, our planning was 90 percent geared toward us getting a forward in the draft. But we’re ecstatic about getting Seth Jones. This guy is the real deal.”
Thus they are not willing to wait for him to climb the ranks.
“I’ve been asked whether I feel [Jones] can play for our team this year,” Poile said. “Our scouts feel he can. The hockey world feels he can. … Most of these kids that are 18 get eliminated right away on a physical basis — they’re not big or strong enough to handle it. That’s not going to be the case with Seth Jones. … He’s going to be a huge man when it’s all said and done.
“I already thought we had a good defense but I think the potential with the established players … and the young guys … and now Jones, this is fabulous for us.”
It’s not so good for Gill, though.
• One the priorities for free agency will be a veteran goalie to replace Chris Mason as Pekka Rinne’s backup.
“We have a list of a few guys, not a lot of guys … we would like to possibly give that position to,” Poile said.
Teams can begin negotiations with free agents on Wednesday but cannot sign players until Friday.
• Poile said the Predators intended to draft Ryan Fitzgerald, the son of their first captain, Tom Fitzgerald, with the first of their two fifth-round picks (125th overall). They lost out when the Boston Bruins selected him with the next-to-last choice of the fourth round (120th overall).
“We thought that would have been a nice touch,” Poile said. “Plus we think he’s a real good young player. Wish we could have done that.”
• Sergei Kostitsyn continues to negotiate a possible deal with the Kontinental Hockey League. Poile said there had been no resolution, however, to where the 26-year-old left wing would play next season.