Archive for August, 2011
More tragedy to come out of the hockey world as former Nashville Predator Wade Belak was found dead Wednesday afternoon. Belak was in Toronto preparing for CBC’s Battle of the Blades.
While the police did not identify the body of the man found in the condominium/hotel Belak was staying at, the Predators organization released the following statement: “The entire Nashville Predators organization and family is shocked and saddened by the sudden and untimely passing of Wade Belak. Wade was a beloved member of the organization, a terrific teammate and wonderful father and husband who will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Jennifer and children Andie and Alex. We offer our full support to them at this very difficult time.”
Belak was popular with the fans, friendly as well as funny. He had undergone training to be a volunteer firefighter in Tennessee.
This past season, Belak was put on and cleared waivers in February. Instead of reporting to the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, Belak retired from the League but remained with the team in a broadcasting on the radio. Belak was set to have his own radio show on 102.5 The Game.
He is the third NHL enforcer to be found dead this summer. In May, New York Ranger Derek Boogaard was found dead in his apartment. Cause of death was ruled the result of mixing alcohol with a prescription drug. Winnipeg Jets center Rick Rypien was found dead earlier this month. The cause of death was also ruled to not be suspicious.
The National Post in Canada reports that the cause of death was not immediately known but is not considered suspicious. Belak was 35 and leaves behind a wife and two daughters.
The former NHL tough guy will be missed.
Hey Predators fans, Smashville needs your help!
A memory card with wedding photos was found in Las Vegas at the Manadalay Bay. The individual who found the card believes that the couple are Nashville Predators fans as they attended a playoff game against the Canucks. Do you know these people? If you do, please contact Inside Smashville at firstname.lastname@example.org or Section 303 at email@example.com as soon as you can. Arrangements to return the memory card to the couple will be made as soon as they are properly identified.
In another depth move on Monday afternoon, the Nashville Predators announced the signing of defenseman Jack Hillen to a one-year, two-way contract worth $650 000 at the NHL level and $105 000 at the AHL level.
Hillen spent the first three seasons of his professional career with the New York Islanders. The 25 year old has 175 NHL games under his belt as well as 50 points, including 8 goals and 42 assists.
While speculation grows that the Predators will start the season with three rookies on the blue line, including Jon Blum who retains his rookie status, the addition of defensemen with a little NHL experience is needed insurance in case the youth movement falters or there are injuries sustained on defense.
The Predators also recently signed former Capital Tyler Sloan, while Brett Lebda just cleared waivers. There has been no official word yet as to whether or not Lebda is being bought out of his contract or sent to play for the Admirals.
With just over a month until the Predators rookie training camp gets underway, defense has now become a bigger story than Nashville’s perpetual scoring woes.
The 2011 off season has meant a transformtion of Nashville blueline, and it is a transformation that leaves open the very real possibility that Ryan Ellis could break the Predators lineup when the boys hit the ice on October 7th in Columbus.
First it was annonced that Shane O’ Brien would not be re-signed. Then the Predators traded Cody Franson to Toronto. In return came Brett Lebda. Not a real threat to make the roster anyway, the Predators put the Standley Cup winner on unconditional waivers over the weekend.
Furthermore, recent reports suggest that Francis Bouillon will not likely be ready for training camp as the 36-year old suffered a setback in recovering from a concussion sustained mid-season.
While Nashville has also signed former Capital Tyler Sloan to a one-year two-way contract, these latest developments on the Predators blueline leaves Nashville with only four returning defensemen for opening night–including rookie Jon Blum.
On Wednesday afternoon, Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber was awarded the largest arbitration award in NHL history. The one year, $7.5 million deal keeps Weber as a restricted free agent at the end of next season.
“Shea certainly got recognized as one of the top, if the the best, defenseman in the National Hockey League,” General Manager David Poile said, adding that his value has been known for the last several years in Nashville.
“He is all about competing and competing for the Stanley Cup.” Poile said, acknowledging that the Predators have a better shot of winning the Cup with Weber in the lineup.
Poile told reporters that the two sides negotiated “long and hard,” had many meetings about the contract and discussed both one-year as well as longer term deals.
At the end of the day, however, nothing could come together as term, length and structure of deal were all problems.
Shea Weber has been awarded a 1-year deal worth $7.5 million by a neutral arbitrator. Tim Wharnsby of the CBC broke the news over Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
The Predators organization elected arbitration with their star captain to make sure that no other team could sign the defenseman to an offer sheet that Nashville could not match.
General Manager David Poile wanted to lock up Weber long-term, avoiding the arbitration hearing, but a deal was never reached before the August 2nd hearing.
The Weber camp had the option of asking for a one year or two year deal. Going with a one year settlement means that Weber will again be a restricted free agent when his contract expires July 1, 2012.
Weber remains an RFA at the end of next season because will not be 27 until August and he has not played enough full seasons in the NHL to qualify for an under-27 unrestricted free agent.
The Nashville Predators look to avoid arbitration by coming to an agreement on a new contract for captain Shea Weber, but have less than 24 hours remaining before the arbitration hearing is scheduled.
The hearing is set for Tuesday morning in Toronto.
Last season, the 6’4 Sicamous, B.C. native scored 16 goals, adding 32 assists for 48 points. Getting Weber signed long term is the ultimate goal for general manager David Poile who also needs to deal with Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne re-signing. Both are set to become unrestricted free agents in July 2012.
If Weber and the team go to arbitration, Poile will likely have a more difficult time signing the other two stars. Worst case scenario is all three leave Music City. If Weber and the team do go to arbitration, and Weber elects a one-year award, the captain would still be a restricted free agent at the end of next season.
Weber, the face of the franchise, is an All-Star, Norris Trophy nominated Canadian Olympian.
*More to come as news breaks
Photo credit: Getty Images