Predators sign Arnott to five-year, $22.5M deal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Free-agent center Jason Arnott, who scored a career-high 76 points for Dallas last season, signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Nashville Predators on Sunday.

Arnott, 31, also had a career-high 44 assists for the Stars last season. Entering his 14th NHL season, Arnott has played in 91 career Stanley Cup games and has been to the Stanley Cup finals twice, capturing the title as a member of the New Jersey Devils in 2000.

Arnott will receive $4.5 million in each year of the deal with the Predators.

"Nashville was where I wanted to be," he said. "It is the time in my career to move on. I want to be the go-to guy. I want to be the horse on the ice. I am going to try to do everything I can to help bring a Stanley Cup to Nashville."

The only person who might have been happier than Arnott about the signing was Predators coach Barry Trotz. General manager David Poile called him Sunday morning to tell him he had a new No. 1 center.

"I was surprised and thrilled," Trotz said. "What a great way to wake up. It put a lot of jump in our steps. It is a high-energy time in Nashville."

The Predators elected not to re-sign three centers from last season -- Greg Johnson, Mike Sillinger and Yanic Perreault. David Legwand is the only returning center who's played regularly on one of the top two lines.

Arnott will add experience to a young team that has been eliminated in the first round of the only two Stanley Cup playoffs appearances the franchise has made in its seven-season history.

Arnott was one of the two top offensive centers available on the market with Atlanta's Marc Savard, who totaled 97 points in 82 games last season. Savard signed with Boston on Saturday.

Poile, who said he was somewhat surprised Arnott was interested in Nashville, thinks the role Arnott was offered by the Predators was as important as the five-year contract.

"I think it is time to be a No. 1 center," Poile said. "He has been a top player on top clubs, but he has not been the No. 1 center. Regardless of how good Jason Arnott was, he was always going to be the No. 2 center in Dallas."

Arnott said he talked with former and current Nashville players and didn't hear anything negative about their experiences.

Trotz said the addition of Arnott is the missing piece of the puzzle to the Predators, who made noise in the free-agent market last year by signing Paul Kariya.

"Having a center like this is something new to us," Trotz said. "Jason addresses so many needs. He is a proven top player in this league. He is a strong faceoff guy. He distributes the puck extremely well. He is a very dangerous goal scorer."