On Tuesday, the Nashville Predators defense corps consisted of seven players competing for six spots: Roman Josi, PK Subban, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Anthony Bitetto, Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber.
On Wednesday morning, they added an eighth.
General Manager David Poile has signed Dan Hamhuis to a two-year, $2.5 million contact where he’ll earn $1.5 million this season and $1 million in 2019-20.
“Nashville has a really special spot in our lives,” Hamhuis told Willy Daunic and Steve Layman on 102.5 The Game. “So many things happened for us in those nine years that I was with the organization. So many great memories from the city, the hockey side, the staff and my teammates there. We look back at Nashville at the start of our career and we have nothing but positive memories. We love playing in that building and being in that city so, when David called and expressed interest in bringing us back, we were really excited and wanted to make that work.”
The 2001 first round pick is the 12th player to leave the team only to return to the organization later in their career. While keeping in mind the franchise is just 21 years old, the other 11 are goaltenders Chris Mason and Anders Lindback, forwards Mike Santorelli, Matt Hendricks, Alexander Radulov, Vern Fiddler and Scott Hartnell as well as blueliners Francis Bouillon, Greg deVries, Ryan Parent, Cody Franson and now Hamhuis.
NOTE: I did not include players like former Milwaukee Admirals captain Scott Ford but did include Ryan Parent on this list because, while not with the Predators, Parent did play in the NHL during his career whereas Ford did not. Also, Mike Fisher retired and came back but didn’t go elsewhere in between and, therefore, was not included.
Incredibly durable, Hamhuis has played in 1,031 of a possible 1,114 games — that’s 92.5%, in case you’re keeping track at home — during his 14-year career. He’s amassed just 343 points in those 14 years but he isn’t relied on for offense. Despite that, he turns in consistent 20-point campaigns with his best of 38 coming in a Preds uniform back in 2005-06 and his lowest being 13 on a bad Vancouver Canucks team in 2015-16.
Inside the numbers of that bad Vancouver team, we find statistical support for the type of player he can be which is a reliable, steady defenseman who takes a lot of pride in shutting down the opposition. For example, on that 2015-16 club, Hamhuis registered a minus-2, which was the fifth-best rating among full-time NHL skaters on a squad that finished second to last in the entire Western Conference.
On the surface, it’s not a bad idea to add a veteran defenseman to a young (albeit experienced) group. The question, however, becomes what do the Preds think of Bitetto, Irwin and Weber if they’re bringing in an extra guy like Hamhuis? Also, one would assume — unless he becomes the 2018 version of Matt Carle — the Smithers, British Columbia native will have a permanent spot in the lineup, leaving the other three to consistently vie for the one remaining spot.
“I talked with coach Peter Laviolette and he sees me fitting in behind those top four guys,” he told 102.5. “If one of them gets a penalty, possibly move up into the penalty kill and, if one of them were to get hurt, possibly move up into a roll there.”
There are questions about how the depth chart shakes out, there are zero questions about why the 35-year old would sign in Music City.
“A lot of it was bringing me back to the city we started in,” the former first round pick said. “We kept a really good relationship over the past 10 years. We parted on really good terms. Obviously the team being very competitive and, in my opinion, one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup next year. That’s a huge draw, especially for myself. I’m toward the end of my career and I haven’t won a Stanley Cup. I’ve come very close, Game 7 of the Final and lost that. I’d love to have another crack at getting there and I think Nashville offers a great chance to get there.”
Regardless of what the roster looks like on opening night, this is Nashville’s first signing of the summer that will bring a different face into the locker room from the 2017-18 squad that was one game shy of going back to the Western Conference Final.
“The franchise has gone on a really incredible run the last 15 years,” he said. “The President’s Trophy, Stanley Cup Final, playoff runs consistently in there and consistently a pain in the butt to play against as I experienced the last eight years. It’s great to see. It’s a great hockey story.
“It’s no secret anymore. It’s a well talked about thing, about how great Predators fans are across the League.”
Hamhuis was on Darren & Daunic earlier and you can hear that conversation in its entirety below.