Viktor Arvidsson was one of the breakout stars for the Nashville Predators on their way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016-17.
He emerged as one of their go-to guys offensively, finishing with 31 goals and 61 total points and tying for the team lead in both categories. Even after a promising run as an AHL prospect in Milwaukee, it was still a surprising level of production considering he tallied just eight goals and 16 total points in 62 games over two previous seasons with the Predators.
But his monster season means he is in line for a big payday this summer as a restricted free agent, one of two core players the Predators still have to re-sign along with center Ryan Johansen (tied with Arvidsson for the team lead in points). Cap space will not be a problem as the Predators are still more than $20 million under the cap, while none of their other restricted free agents should require major raises.
Only Johansen and Arvidsson should be looking at a major jump in salary, and they certainly won’t take up all that money on their own.
Given that Johansen has four consecutive years of first-line production on his resume, it’s obvious that his next contract is going to be a whopper of a deal, probably climbing past $7 million to $8 million per year over several years. But Arvidsson’s deal might be more of a mystery just because his track record isn’t as substantial as Johansen’s. At this point, it’s basically just one year of top-line production.
But the important thing is that one year doesn’t appear to be a fluke, from his ability to generate shots on goal (more than three per game) to his ability to help drive possession (better than a 55 percent Corsi player) to the fact that he didn’t really have an overly high shooting percentage. He wasn’t riding a wave of good shooting luck, he consistently did the most important thing when it came to scoring goals (getting shots on goal) and he played a strong, all-around 200-foot game.
At the very least, Arvidsson’s contract will likely be around the $4 million per year given his production this past season. But how long will the Predators want to go on a contract?
Do they offer the shorter-term, bridge deal that could end up costing them more money in the long run if Arvidsson continues to develop and improve?
Or do they go all in with a long-term deal now, locking him in on a contract that could be a steal?
The latter contract definitely carries some risk if he doesn’t continue on the path he started down in 2016-17. If Arvidsson’s early success wasn’t a fluke, though, that deal is likely a steal before the ink dries.
There’s another factor to consider regarding what direction the Predators will take. General manager David Poile has shown a knack for locking up his young players to long-term deals. Some have signed short-term bridge deals before getting long-term contracts (Craig Smith, Calle Jarnkrok, Mattias Ekholm), while others (Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis) received long-term pacts right away.
That strategy resulted in a team not only turning into a Stanley Cup contender in the Western Conference but also one with most of its core players locked in for many years with contracts likely to be bargains against the salary cap.
Their top-four defensemen, for example, are signed for another two years at a combined cap hit of less than $19 million. That includes the $9 million salary cap hit for P.K. Subban. And that is probably the best t0p-four in the league. Josi, Ekholm and Subban are signed for at least another three years.
Heading into this offseason, they had the flexibility to not only add free agents Nick Bonino and Scott Hartnell, and trade for Alexei Emelin as an expensive third-pairing defenseman, but also re-sign two of their core forwards with plenty of salary cap space to spare.
And if they do it right — as they usually have done — the Predators could see Arvidsson turn into another bargain who pays off handsomely on the ice.