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Preds re-sign Bouillon, pave way for departing Hamhuis?…

According to VAT News, the Nashville Predators have re-signed defenseman Francis Bouillon to a two-year deal.

Not only does this solidify the Preds’ defense for the next two years, it may very well pave the way for General Manager David Poile to trade Dan Hamhuis‘ rights before – or at – the NHL Draft on June 25.

Hamhuis becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and negotiations haven’t been going well. The Predators would obviously love to re-sign the Smithers, British Columbia native and keep their moniker of “the leagues best defense corps” but Hamhuis stands to get a significant raise from another NHL team if he tests the free agent waters. It would behoove Poile and the Preds to at least get something for one of the best defensemen who will be on the market this summer, rather than let him leave for nothing.

If they aren’t able to work out a deal, and are unable to trade his rights, Nashville will have gambled and lost. The Predators had plenty of intriguing offers for the 27-year old blueliner at the trade deadline in March but felt it was best to keep him in order for playoff success. As it turned out, the playoffs were a failure for Nashville and their holding onto Hamhuis made no difference in their post season run. Now they’re in a position where they either have to get something – anything – for him or be forced to wave goodbye when he signs with someone else come July 1.

Speaking of getting something – anything – for him, Nashville doesn’t have a second round pick or even a fourth round pick in this years draft. That doesn’t sit well with Poile, who’s well known mantra is “give me assets.” Hamhuis could give the Preds just that. Exclusive negotiating rights for the highly coveted defenseman could fetch as high as a second round choice. If you recall, Poile was able to make a similar move just before the 2007 draft when he sent the rights of pending free agents Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell to Philadelphia for a first round pick. That pick ended up being blue chip prospect Jonathan Blum who, as fate might have it, just might be the guy replacing Hamhuis after the same type of trade this year.

Keeping Bouillon in Music City is a welcome move. “The Cube” may not have put up big numbers last year but he did other important things well instead. His stellar defensive play and his physical presence went under the radar last season as he didn’t make many mistakes and thus wasn’t noticed very often. He led all Nashville defenseman with a plus-5 rating (excluding rookie Cody Franson who split time between the minor league affiliate Milwaukee Admirals and the Predators), he was third in penalty minutes (50) and, most importantly, was the only blueliner who made Kevin Klein look serviceable.

If Nashville had let Bouillon go, their top six defense would probably consist of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Franson, Klein, Blum and maybe (and still hopefully) late season acquisition Denis Grebeshkov. That’s two all-world defensemen, a sophomore, a rookie, a veteran who only played six total games in a Preds sweater and Klein. Not exactly a formula for success.

But, with Bouillon sticking around, the top six appear to be Weber, Suter, Franson, Bouillon, Klein and either Grebeshkov or Blum. Those six would still vie for the title of best defensive corps in the National Hockey League.

While nothing official has been announced as of yet, with the signing of Bouillon, it appears Nashville is going to plan B: life without Hamhuis.

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SPECIAL THANKS: Jim Diamond of the Examiner for breaking the story.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Gross / Getty Images