Avidusen is rewarded by the “predator” and worked hard

Viktor Arvidsson
Viktor Arvidsson is commonly known as The Woodpecker from Kusmark in his native Sweden.

A nickname given to him by Skelleftea general manager Lasse Johansson, perhaps it in part refers to the Nashville Predators forward’s level of energy and persistency when jumping in on the forecheck. But it’s also for his notorious habit of pecking his stick on the ice, demanding the puck.

His hard work, energy and persistence, as well as his ability with the puck, have allowed him emerge as a fan favorite in Nashville, which came within two victories of winning the Stanley Cup last season.

Passed up in the NHL Draft three consecutive years, he was selected by the Predators in the fourth round (No. 112) in 2014 at the age of 21. After playing 62 games for Nashville the previous two seasons, Arvidsson tied for the Predators lead with 31 goals and 61 points in 80 games last season. He had 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 22 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help them reach the Final for the first time.

Arvidsson signed a seven-year, $29.75 million contract with the Predators on Saturday. It runs through the 2023-24 season and has an average annual value of $4.25 million.

He said playing seven more seasons in front of Predators fans is a bonus.

“It’s been so much fun, especially early on when I got to realize how much they appreciate what I do,” Arvidsson said Monday. “That stuff never gets old. It’s always great to read all those positive comments.

“I love how they salute my effort and the fact that they apparently want me to keep playing there. For sure, they’ve really proved that they can be counted on as well.”

Arvidsson had an arbitration hearing in Toronto on Saturday, but the sides agreed to the contract before the arbitrator’s ruling.

“It felt really good when it was put on the table and I realized they wanted me there long-term,” he said. “It’s security, of course, but you can’t lean back just because you signed a long contract. I’m really happy with this deal. We’ve got something great going on right now in Nashville.

“Our defense is great. So is our offense. Of course I wanted to stay and be better and make the team better.”

Arvidsson also factored in the opportunity to play with a group of players from his home country, including forwards Filip Forsberg, Pontus Aberg and Calle Jarnkrok, and defenseman Mattias Ekholm. Swedish forward prospects Victor Ejdsell and Emil Pettersson will be looking to make the NHL roster in training camp.

“My girlfriend and I actually talked about that,” he said. “We have a lot of Swedes now in Nashville, and it’s a good social situation for us, which makes it easier and more fun overall, not just for the guys on the team.”

Center Mike Fisher is unsure whether he will play next season, and forward James Neal was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft, but that could allow for larger roles for forwards Aberg, Colton Sissons and Kevin Fiala, who each impressed during the playoffs.

“Now those guys will have a chance to step up,” Arvidsson said. “They’ve all been great when they’ve been called up, and I think Pontus and Sissons were big factors for us in the playoffs when other guys got hurt.

“And you know, Kevin had a bad injury, but he was good for us all year.”

Fiala had two goals in five playoff games before breaking his leg in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round against the St. Louis Blues. He began skating June 22.

Few had expected the Predators to sweep the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round or defeat the Anaheim Ducks to reach the Cup Final, but most experts will put them at or near the top of their Western Conference predictions this season. Arvidsson said he’s ready to meet those expectations.

“I think it’s just great,” he said. “If people believe in us, they put some pressure on us. I have no problem being on a top-ranked team. It keeps you focused.

“If you want to win you have to compete every single day to help make the guy next to you better for when it really matters. It’s that consistency I was talking about.”

As for last season’s Cup Final, which ended in a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6, Arvidsson has moved on.

“I think I’m over it now,” he said. “Now I just want to get back at trying to win it.”

Golden Knights signed three rounds of choice

 

Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday signed their three first-round picks from the 2017 NHL Draft.

Center Cody Glass (No. 6), center Nick Suzuki (No. 13) and defenseman Erik Brannstrom (No. 15) each received a three-year, entry-level contract.

“This is an exciting announcement for the Golden Knights organization as we signed three of our top prospects,” general manager George McPhee said. “Cody, Nick and Erik have demonstrated exceptional skill and hockey sense playing at their current levels. We will look for these players to continue to exhibit the hard work necessary to further their development and continue their positive career trajectories.”

Glass was selected with the pick assigned to Vegas in the NHL Draft Lottery. He led Portland of the Western Hockey League with 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) in 69 games last season.

“I think there’s a lot of pressure to it, but then again, I know what I can do on the ice,” Glass said of being the first NHL Draft pick made by Vegas. “They believe in me. I’m just going to prove them right.”

Suzuki was selected with a pick acquired in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets. He was second on Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League with 96 points (45 goals, 51 assists) in 65 games and led them with 23 playoff points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 17 games.

“I don’t think it’s daunting,” Suzuki said of joining an expansion team. “I think it’s really exciting. If the three of us can do something special there, it’s going to be amazing.”

Brannstrom was selected with a pick acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders. He had six points (one goal, five assists) in 35 games with HV71 in Sweden.

The Golden Knights open their first NHL season Oct. 6 at the Dallas Stars.

“We’re not going to fast-track anyone,” McPhee said at the draft in Chicago in June. “It never hurts a kid to play an extra year in junior, two years in junior. It’s better to overcook them than throw them in there raw.

“It’s like having a kid in eighth grade suddenly go to 11th or 12th grade. It’s too much, not only on the ice but socially for some of these kids. So we’ll be open-minded about if someone’s ready to play (in the NHL), but there’s a good chance all these kids are going back to amateur.”

The Golden Knights on Saturday also signed restricted free agent defenseman Griffin Reinhart (two years, $800,000 average annual value) and forward Brendan Leipsic (two years, $650,000 AAV).

Reinhart (Edmonton Oilers) and Leipsic (Toronto Maple Leafs) were selected in the NHL Expansion Draft.

Tom Brady, Stanley Cup and Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle

Ron Burkle had two special guests at his house Sunday; the Stanley Cup and Tom Brady.

The Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner welcomed the trophy, and Brady, one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time, to hang out by the pool at his Southern California residence, where he he hosted family and friends.

Burkle just watched the Penguins win their third championship since he purchased the team with Mario Lemieux in 1999.

But Brady, who was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2000, is one of the few pro athletes with more championships than the Penguins in that span. Brady just won his fifth Super Bowl title, and fourth game MVP award, for New England in February.

Star label Alexandr Radhovov 5 years, $ 31.25 million deal

The Dallas Stars signed former Montreal Canadiens forward Alexander Radulov to a five-year, $31.25 million contract on Monday. It’s the biggest contract given to an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Radulov, 30, said during a conference call that the Canadiens matched the Stars’ offer, but only after he had accepted the Dallas deal, and he would not go back on his word.

“I said I already agreed with Dallas,” Radulov said. “I said it wouldn’t be fair, it wouldn’t be right. If you take it you take it, there’s no way back, right?”

 

Alexander Radulov had a big season for the Canadiens
His deal is worth almost $5 million more than Kevin Shattenkirk’s with the New York Rangers and ties Karl Alzner’s with Montreal for the longest signed by an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

“I really want five years at least on my deal,” said Radulov, who will count $6.25 million against the salary cap through 2021-22. “I wanted to play and not worry about it, just play hard and not worry about it. … I got a long-term deal and I am happy.”

After a disappointing season, the Stars and new coach Ken Hitchcock have been busy. Among their moves, they have traded for goalie Ben Bishop, signed center Martin Hanzal and traded for defenseman Marc Methot.

“Alexander is a dynamic playmaker with top-end speed and skill,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said in a statement. “To add a forward of this stature to our lineup makes our top-six as deep and talented as any group in this league.”

In a series of tweets, Radulov thanked Montreal.

Radulov’s departure makes it possible that veteran defenseman Andrei Markov re-signs with Montreal, which has $15 million in cap space and must still work out a new contract for restricted free-agent forward Alex Galchenyuk.

Radulov and Ales Hemsky traded places on day three of free agency as the 33-year-old winger signed a $1 million, one-year deal with Montreal.

Hemsky could be a bargain move for the Canadiens as they attempt to replace Radulov’s production of 18 goals and 36 assists. Hemsky missed a majority of last season after injuring his hip at the World Cup of Hockey and undergoing surgery, something that contributed to the Stars missing the playoffs.

“We’re going to miss Ales, but unfortunately you have to make decisions in this game,” Nill said. “Montreal’s getting a very good player and getting a very good person. He’s going to be a very good player for Montreal. He’s going to add a lot of speed to the lineup.”

Radulov has had a controversial NHL career. After being selected in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Predators, he played the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons in Nashville, scoring 37 and 58 points, respectively.

But at the end of his second season, Radulov told the Predators that he wanted to return to his native Russia to play. The Predators demanded that he fulfill the final year of his contract, but Radulov signed a three-year deal with a KHL team. Nashville suspended him for the 2008-09 season.

In March 2012, he returned to the Predators, had his suspension lifted and finished out the season. However, before Game 2 of their second-round playoff series, Radulov and a teammate were spotted at a nightclub at 5 a.m. The players were suspended, and the Predators elected not to renew Radulov’s contract.

Radulov left to play in Russia, but this past offseason he returned to the NHL, signing a one-year, $5.75 million contract with the Canadiens. His previous baggage was a source of discussion around the league, but Radulov was lauded as a great teammate. He helped the Habs win the Atlantic Division with 103 points.