So, it turns out “kicking the can down the road” isn’t just a fun game everyone played when they were kids; it's also an effective strategy for elite athletes to employ to navigate the (previously) unforgiving COVID-budget landscape.
As reported by Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman, Finnish center Mikael Granlund has signed a four-year, $20-million deal to return to the Nashville Predators, with whom he’s spent the past two-and-a-half seasons.
Granlund was originally selected ninth overall by the Minnesota Wild in the 2010 draft. He has called the Music City home since a Feb. 25, 2019, trade sent him from the Wild to Nashville in exchange for Kevin Fiala.
Despite being a top point-producer during his time with Minnesota – Granlund ranked 34th among all NHLers in scoring between 2016-17 and his 2019 trade – he struggled to find that same offensive efficacy in Nashville. He has 31 goals and 62 points in 130 games so far as a member of the Predators
Granlund was a UFA for the first time in his career last off-season. With it being the first off-season under the COVID-19 budget crunch, Granlund was one of several prominent free agents who took short-term deals in order to do it all again in a more hospitable cap environment. In December of 2020, Granlund inked a one-year deal with the Predators that would pay him $3.75 million.
His numbers from this past season – 13 goals and 27 points in 51 games – don’t immediately jump off the page. But one should remember that paced him to a fourth-place finish on the Predators in scoring. In the Predators' first-round playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Granlund tied for the team-lead in scoring, with two goals and five points in six games. He averaged nearly 24 minutes a night in the post-season (though that series did feature a lot of overtime). That was clearly indicative of the trust he’d earned from coach John Hynes. Granlund was deployed in all situations throughout the entirety of the 2020-21 campaign.
Granlund will turn 33 midway through the final season of his four-year deal. While the offensive prowess he once showed probably doesn't return to its peak level in Nashville, he's an effective player, and his signing shouldn't be a detriment to the Predators' plans. He could reclaim some of that offensive production should Nashville be able to add a weapon to its attack.