The Nashville Predators added a little championship mettle to their lineup as they got off to a fast start Friday, the first day of the NHL’s free agent signing period.
Left wing Viktor Stalberg, who played for the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in 2012-13, signed a four-year, $12 million deal and immediately established himself as the highest-profile addition of five that had been made by early afternoon. He will earn $2.5 million in each of the first two seasons of the contract and $3.5 million in the last two seasons.
Also signed was left wing Matt Handricks, a fifth-round Predators' draft choice in 2000 who never got a contract from them. The 32-year-old has appeared in 263 career NHL games with Colorado and Washington. A third or fourth-line specialist, he has 58 career points (27 goals, 31 assists) and never has had more than 25 points in an NHL season.
He agreed to a four-year, $7.4 million contract ($1.85 million for each season).
Furthermore, Nashville added center Matt Cullen, a 15-year NHL veteran who spent the last three seasons with Minnesota, forward Eric Nystrom, one of the league leaders in hits last season while with Dallas, and goalie Carter Hutton, who was the most valuable player for Chicago's AHL affiliate in 2011-12 and who played one game for the Blackhawks last season.
"We've never been this active in free agency, and for sure the first day -- signing five players," general manager David Poile said. "Free agency can be a whirlwind where people go a little crazy. I'll let you judge that. I think we had a clear and definite plan going into this.
"... I think all of the players we signed re going to make us better next year."
Cullen also has played for Ottawa, Carolina (twice), the New York Rangers, Florida and Anaheim. In 1,073 career NHL contests he has 562 career points (202 goals, 360 assists). The 36-year-old agreed to a two-year, $7 million pact ($3 million in 2013-14, $4 million in 2014-15).
Nystom, 30, signd for four years and $10 million ($2 million each of the first two seasons, $3 million each of the last two seasons).
Hutton, 27, came to terms on a one-year, two-way deal that will pay him an NHL salary of $550,000.
The 27-year-old Stalberg has 104 points (52 goals, 52 assists) in 243 career NHL games with Chicago and Toronto. He originally was a sixth-round draft pick of the Maple Leafs in 2006 and played three years of college hockey at the University of Vermont, where he earned first-team All-American honors.
He set career-highs with 22 goals and 43 points in 2011-12, when he appeared in 79 games (also a career-high) for the Blackhawks. He had nine goals, 14 assists and the plus-16 rating in 47 games last season but had no goals, three assists and a minus-1 rating in 19 playoff contests.
"I think we were very specific in terms of the types of players we wanted," coach Barry Trotz said. "We were very specific in the guys we wanted. And we went out and got them."