Nashville finally dips into free agent pool, inks Lombardi…

According to former Phoenix Coyotes broadcaster Darren Pang, the Nashville Predators have signed former Phoenix Coyotes center Matthew Lombardi. Pang tweeted that the three year deal is worth $3.5 million a year.

A few minutes after Pang announced the news, Predators winger Steve Sullivan publicly welcomed Lombardi to Music City.

Lombardi, 28, had his best offensive season in the NHL last year when he posted 53 points with the Coyotes. He figures, at this point, to center either the first or second line, which bumps the under-achieving David Legwand down to the third line. And let’s face it, given Legwand’s production with his $4.5 million a year contract, Lombardi’s $3.5 million seems like a steal.

The $3.5 million per year salary, by the way, is quite a raise for the Montreal native as he made $2.35 million last year.

The question now becomes who’s the odd man out at the center position? The Preds are now carrying (a projected) seven centers on their opening night roster. In no particular order, the seven pivots are Colin Wilson, Lombardi, Legwand, Jerred Smithson, Cal O’Reilly, Nick Spaling and Marcel Goc. If you throw in Mike Santorelli just for the fun of it, that’s two teams worth of centermen, yet, obviously, Nashville only needs one teams worth. So who becomes the perma-scratch?

Wilson, Lombardi and Legwand are no-brainers. And out of the other four (because we’re not counting Santorelli anymore) Smithson is a true Predators-way player. The guy busts his tail on every shift, works hard in both zones and is probably the best face-off guy on the club. So he’s in. Spaling is young and can be sent down to Milwuakee still without having to clear waivers so he might be an odd-man out but, man, that’s too bad. Spaling is a ferocious penalty killer and another hard worker. It’ll be very difficult to send him to the AHL given his work ethic. O’Reilly, despite his obvious playmaking abilities, was the perma-scratch last year which makes one think he’ll be that again this season. But, unlike last year, he’s on a one-way contract during this campaign and would have to clear waivers to go back to the Admirals. He does have talent but is the victim of a numbers game in Music City and may fall victim to that again without a tremendous training camp that forces the coaches hands. Then that leaves Goc. And, let’s be honest, he was arguably Nashville’s best player on some nights, not to mention he was unbelievable in the postseason. Goc will be in the lineup come hell or high water.

Could a trade be coming to help allieviate the logjam at the center position? It’s going to need to, if you ask me. But what could you get value wise for an O’Reilly or a Spaling? And would the Preds really want to get rid of either of those players as they both bring something completely different to the table?

When training camp starts in September, all these questions will be answered.

Lombardi was not only the first NHL-player free agent signing by Nashville but it was the first one in the Central Division, sans the Chicago Blackhawks.

15 Comments

  1. R.J. O'Connell

    July 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Sullivan/Wilson/Hornqvist
    Dumont/Lombardi/Erat
    Ward/Legwand/Kostitsyn*
    Tootoo/O’Reilly/Smithson

    I’m already liking how our forward lines look.

  2. lethargic

    July 2, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I love how ANYTHING can be turned into a Legwand bash-fest.

    Legwand has averaged 16 goals a season.
    Lombardi has averaged 14.

    Legwand has had 2 20+ goals seasons.
    Lombardi has had 1 20 goal season.

    All we did was sign ANOTHER Legwand to ANOTHER overpaid contract.

  3. Capt4Chris

    July 2, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    We need a winger more than a center though, right?

  4. Ryan

    July 2, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    RJ, you left out Goc; who’s stellar performance last year helped us to the playoffs. He won’t be sitting…

  5. R.J. O'Connell

    July 2, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Yep. I knew I’d forget someone while I was making those lines.

    Sorry Marcel. Don’t check me into the boards if you see me walking down Broadway.

  6. Jason Myers

    July 2, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    I’m ready for the season to start. I agree we could trade a center for another winger.

  7. atty123

    July 2, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    A Sullivan-Lombardi-Erat line would have to be one of the fastest in the NHL, even if Sully has lost a step. We could balance that speed with a Ward-Wilson-Dumont line.

  8. Capt4Chris

    July 2, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Smithson is the best face-off guy? I’ve hardly ever seen Goc lose a face-off.

  9. Wendy

    July 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Could any of these “extra” centers play on the wing instead? Perhaps this could open up the career of any of these guys.

  10. Mark

    July 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I agree with wendy. i know that Spaling and Wilson both played some wing this past season. I know Wilson is prime to take his position at center but i think a couple of those guys would be decent wingers. Smithson also played some wing when he was on a line with Ward and Legwand.

  11. Amanda

    July 3, 2010 at 8:20 am

    I’m excited about this. Here are my dream lines as it stands now with no trading Dumont.

    1. Erat-Lombardi-Sullivan
    2. Hornqvist-Wilson-Kostitsyn (he can play the right)
    3. Andersson-Legwand-Ward
    4. Tootoo-Goc-Dumont

  12. travis

    July 3, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    sully – o’reilly – erat
    hornquist – wilson – dumont
    legwandx – lombardi – ward
    smithson – goc – tootoo

  13. Bryan

    July 3, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Lombardi-Wilson-Erat (Lombardi plays setup guy, and helps Wilson transition to center)
    Sully-O’Reilly-Hornqvist
    Ward-Legwand-Dumont (2-way line)
    Tootoo-Goc-Smithson (shutdown line)

    *Kostitsyn (probably for lack of Defensive effort)
    *Spaling (In Milwaukee waiting for an injury)

  14. FearTheFangs

    July 6, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    No way Goc will be sitting, he was an amazing player last year. A sometimes unsung hero with the propensity to have a great night when no one else was.

    Also not sure you want to put all your speed on the same line, depending on the team you’re playing, it might make more sense to break it up. That said, Erat, Sullivan, Lombardi does make ya grin, doesn’t it?

  15. Brian

    July 8, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Either way it is nice to know how it feels to sign a free agent rather than lose another one. I love our farm system don’t get me wrong but I still like seeing some proven guys get signed to help so that we don’t have to hope that someone’s AHL number will translate at the next level.