Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations and General Manager David Poile announced Saturday that the team has traded team captain Jason Arnott to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Matt Halischuk and a second round draft pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
The team not only traded its captain, but also the center of the team’s top line. In a press conference announcing the trade, Poile said that he was looking to young centerman Colin Wilson to step up into a higher role with the team, possibly as the top center this upcoming season.
“After sitting down with Jason after last year, we talked about the highs and lows of the season and talked about the future,” Poile said. “We both agreed that maybe it was best for both our team and his career that it was time to move on.”
Poile thinks that the trade could be a signal to some of the younger players on the team.
“Individually, our players will be saying, ‘It’s too bad that Arny’s gone,’ but I also think they selfishly realize that it puts them in a better position than it did yesterday,” Poile said.
Arnott has served as the Nashville team captain since the start of the 2007-08 season. Moving Arnott means that the team also moves his $4.5 million dollar salary for next season. Up front, the team still has to re-sign restricted free agent Patric Hornqvist, but there should be some money available for a free agent acquisition or to add another player via a trade.
Relying on Wilson to make the jump to centering the team’s top line may be a lot to ask of a player entering just his second NHL season, but Poile is very high on the Boston University product.
“We all know that we have a really good young centerman in Colin Wilson who ended up playing on the wing last season,” Poile said. “Eventually, and maybe now for sure not he will come back to center. I’m pretty confident that he’s going to be a number one or two center, hopefully a number one center in the league for a long long time. The best thing you can do for any player is to give him ice time and put him in a position, and that’s what we are going to do.”
According to Poile, the decision on the team’s next captain may be made soon, even before the team starts training camp in September.
“We want to sit down and talk with the coaches a little bit, but it shouldn’t be too long,” Poile said. “I’d probably think we would do that before training camp. We have a lot of young guys that have good leadership skills and abilities. I’m really looking forward to that change, I think that’s a real positive.”
Defenseman Shea Weber appears to be the leading candidate to have the captain’s “C” sewn onto his jersey, but fellow defenseman Ryan Suter could also be a consideration.
Halischuk, 22, played in 20 NHL games with the Devils last season, picking up a goal and an assist. In 21 career NHL games, he has one goal and two assists. He was a teammate of forward Nick Spaling with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.
“Halischuk is a Predators=type forward,” Poile said. “He is a two-way forward and works hard at both ends of the ice. He was a linemate in junior hockey of Nick Spaling on arguably one of, if not the best lines in junior hockey that year. He also played in the World Junior Championships and scored the winning goal for Canada in that.”