NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)The Nashville Predators offered forward Nino Niederreiter the perfect combination of a competitive team stocked with friends and former teammates along with a physical playing style. His new two-year contract also gives him the flexibility to either hit free agency again or stick around if everything works out as he hopes.
Niederreiter signed a two-year, $8 million deal on Thursday to join a team he helped Carolina beat in the first round of the playoffs in 2021. He said the Hurricanes had a really hard time beating the Predators.
”They’re such a competitive team,” Niederreiter said via Zoom from Switzerland. ”They skate really hard. They’re very physical and hard to compete. And I think we had a really tough time. And I think this team is not very far from having such a great run.”
Nashville also reportedly is a team that Calgary forward Matthew Tkachuk would consider as a trade destination. Niederreiter called Tkachuk a terrific player who scored a lot of points last year.
”Obviously, players like that don’t come around very often, and he would be definitely a great addition. But at the end of the day, it’s not in my power to say it,” Niederreiter said. ”But I mean, obviously, he’d be great on the team.”
Signing Niederreiter was the Predators’ biggest free agency move since keeping forward Filip Forsberg off the market just before it opened. General manager David Poile also picked up defenseman Ryan McDonough from Tampa Bay via trade.
”He’s such a terrific defenseman,” Niederreiter said of McDonough. ”He knows how to win, and he won with Tampa Bay.”
The 29-year-old Niederreiter had 44 points in 75 games with Carolina last season and ranked third on the Hurricanes with 24 goals. He has scored at least 25 points in nine of his 12 NHL seasons. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound forward also has played for the New York Islanders and Minnesota Wild, with 181 goals and 187 assists in 732 games.
Also helping lure Niederreiter to Nashville was a trio of former teammates.
The native of Switzerland won silver medals with Predators captain Roman Josi at the 2013 and 2018 world championships. Niederreiter played with Nashville center Ryan Johansen with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL. Niederreiter’s best scoring season came in 2016-17, when he had 57 points and 25 goals, one off Mikael Granlund, a new teammate in Nashville.
”Obviously, knowing Josi for quite a lot of time made it very easy to come, but knowing that I have a chance to play potentially with Johansen or Granlund made things a lot easier,” Niederreiter said. ”I played with Johansen for quite some time in the minors and obviously was with Granny in Minny.”
Niederreiter was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft. He made his debut with the Islanders during the 2010-11 season and wound up playing 64 games over two seasons with New York. He played six seasons with Minnesota, where he scored 228 points in 434 games.
Niederreiter has played in each NHL postseason since 2014 and has 15 goals and 15 assists in 82 playoff games. He finished second with four goals in 14 games for Carolina this last postseason, playing alongside Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal and Jesper Fast and bringing size and his physical style to their top defensive line.
Nashville’s physical play was yet another attraction for Niederreiter, who thinks it will be a good fit.
”I thought back then they play a great style of hockey, and now I have a chance to play for them,” he said. ”So hopefully it works out perfect.”
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