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RFA Bitetto back in the fold, re-signs with Preds organization

The Nashville Predators took Anthony Bitetto in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Last year, he emerged as one of the most promising defensemen in the system. Today, the restricted free agent re-signed for one more year.

After splitting time between the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones and the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals during his first professional season, Bitetto emerged as one of the best defensemen in the system last year. He tallied 36 points in 73 games last season, good enough to lead all Admirals blueliners in scoring. His 11 goals were also tops on the team among rearguards.

“I had a great start to the year,” Bitetto said. “I had to get back to my basics, what got me here. I had a great summer conditioning-wise. That definitely pushed and led me to where I’m at now.”

We spoke with the Island Park, New York native this past March and asked if his growth was due to any one thing in particular.

“I think it was a combination of a lot of things,” he said. “[Mike] Liambas helped me with my diet and I think it’s just about the hard work. It pays off and the quicker you learn that, the better off you’ll be.”

It does indeed. Bitteto’s new deal pays him $605,000 at the NHL level and $60,000 at the AHL level.

“I don’t see any of our guys [in Milwaukee] who can unseat somebody here in Nashville but Bitetto is pushing to get some time,” Predators Assistant General Manager and Admirals GM Paul Fenton told us in May. “Our young defense corps, we think, is as good as anybody’s in the league and we just have to let them grow.”

Bitetto was a restricted free agent and, with five new faces slated for the Admiral blueline this upcoming season, his re-signing was imperative to the development of first-year pro’s Jonathan DiabyGarrett NoonanMikko Vainonen and Jaynen Rissling (not to mention Johan Alm who will be playing his first season in North America).

The official press release is below.

Nashville, Tenn. (July 8, 2014) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that restricted free agent defenseman Anthony Bitetto has accepted his qualifying offer and signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $605,000 at the NHL level and $60,000 at the AHL level.

Bitetto, 23 (7/15/90), tied for sixth among American Hockey League defensemen in goals (11), and for ninth in power-play goals (6) during his first full season with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2013-14. The Island Park, New York native also led the Admirals and ranked 16th among blueliners in points (36) in 2013-14, in addition to ranking second among AHL defenders in shooting percentage (11.6). The 6-0, 215-pounder split his first professional season between Milwaukee and Cincinnati (ECHL) in 2012-13.

Nashville’s fourth choice, 168th overall (sixth round), in the 2010 Entry Draft, Bitetto did not miss a game during a two-year collegiate career at Northeastern University (Hockey East) from 2010-12, compiling 35 points (7g-28a) in 72 games, and helped the Indiana Ice win the 2009 Clark Cup as United States Hockey League champions. He is on Twitter @ABitetto7.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Fuqua (used with permission)