By Ron Wynn
The Nashville Predators latest acquisition was Monday, when the team announced it had signed restricted free-agent forward Mikka Salomaki to a two-year, $1.5 million contract.
The 25-year-old forward played in 58 games for the Predators last season, with eight points and 34 penalty minutes. However his value increases when other areas are factored into the results, most notably his career high 35 shots blocked and 114 hits, fourth highest on the team. At his price range ($750,000 per season) he ranks as a bargain.
That follows last Wednesday’s return of defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who signed a two-year, $2.5 million contract. The deal was structured for Hamhuis to make $1.5 million in the 2018-19 season, then $1 million during 2019-20.
At 35, Hamhhuis is back on the team where he previously played 438 games from 2003-10. Over that time he scored 32 goals and had 129 assists for 161 points. He was a Predator during their first five trips to the playoffs, and was originally a first-round draft choice in 2001.
Still, both those signings were overshadowed by developments in the Austin Watson case. Last week the Predators’ forward pleaded no contest to domestic assault. He must serve three months of probation and complete both an in-patient treatment program and a batterer’s intervention program to have the misdemeanor charge dismissed.
The team now awaits results of a forthcoming NHL investigation and ruling. The league last Tuesday said it notified both the Predators and NHL Players Association it was “initiating a full investigation into the matter” to determine the extent to which league discipline may be warranted. The league added the Predators “understand and agrees fully with the league’s view as to the extremely serious nature of the situation and has pledged its full cooperation in the process.”
The Predators said in a statement they would cooperate with the NHL and wouldn’t have any further comment until the conclusion of the league investigation.
“Our priority right now is surrounding Austin, (his girlfriend) Jen and their family with the care and resources they need to heal and move forward,” the Predators said in their statement.