Numbers Game: Arnott Back to New Jersey

Scott Cullen
6/19/2010 7:19:07 PM
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The Devils turn back the clock and bring back an old friend, while the Predators save some money and keep stocking the cupboards.

Numbers Game looks at the deal that brings Jason Arnott back to New Jersey.

The Devils Get: C Jason Arnott.

Arnott, 35, has played fewer than 70 games in three of the last four seasons, but remains a productive player when he's in the lineup. 

He scored 46-points in 2009-2010, his lowest total since 2001-2002 (his last year in New Jersey, incidentally), so it's tough to count on him as a premier point producer at this stage of his career, but with Travis Zajac manning the other scoring centre position in New Jersey, Arnott merely needs to be a factor as a complementary scorer and he's capable of fulfilling that role.

Re-united with Patrik Elias (and, who knows, maybe the Devils have a call in to Petr Sykora), Arnott isn't going to be what he was when the A-line was one of the league's best, but can definitely give the Devils a solid second line.

Arnott should also help the Devils' power play, as the veteran has tallied 51 power play goals in the last five seasons and still has a heavy shot.

The decision to take on Arnott's $4.5-million salary, ahead of free agency, is curious.  Adding Arnott gives the Devils eight forwards making at least $2.5-million next season, which makes it difficult to add more salary up front, say, by re-signing Ilya Kovalchuk, without clearing out other pieces.

While the Devils hope that the Hot Tub Time Machine works for Arnott, the plus side to this deal is that Arnott is going into the last year of his contract, so if it doesn't work out, there won't be long-term repercussions.

The Predators Get: RW Matt Halischuk and a second-round pick.

22-year-old Matt Halischuk got into 20 games (two points, minus-4) with the Devils last season, but didn't play much and while he could become a decent checking winger, he still needs to get stronger in order to handle that responsibility.

In 32 games with Lowell in the AHL, Halischuk tallied 11 goals, 22 points and a plus-6 rating.

Going to Nashville, Halischuk is re-united with former Kitchener Rangers junior teammate Nick Spaling, though both young forwards will be battling for checking roles.

The second-round pick isn't to be ignored either.  Typically, about 30% of those taken in the second half of the second round end up playing at least 100 NHL games and Nashville has had some success with second-round picks.

Shea Weber, Kevin Klein and Nick Spaling, as well as 2010 Hobey Baker winner Blake Geoffrion were all second-round picks of the Predators between 2003 and 2007.

Arnott's departure figures to give second-year Predators forward Colin Wilson the opportunity to move into the number on centre slot. 

With David Legwand and Marcel Goc the top returning scorers down the middle, the Predators either need a quantum leap in Wilson's production, from 15 points in 35 games as a rookie, or will need to seek a better solution for the top line.

For a fiscally-restrained team like the Predators, finding a taker for Arnott's deal improves their flexibility going into the summer, which will likely help in their efforts to re-sign restricted free agents like Patric Hornqvist and Cody Franson; possibly even Denis Grebeshkov, though he may still be trade bait.

In the short term, the Predators lose on this deal because their roster isn't as good today as it was yesterday, even though the Predators finished 2009-2010 with a better record when Arnott wasn't in the lineup.

But, the challenge of keeping the Predators competitive on a budget means re-generating and re-stocking the roster with young talent and GM David Poile is among the very best in that regard. 

If dealing team captain Arnott makes the rest of the summer moves more palatable for the Predators then, in the grand scheme of things, it's a small price to pay. 

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at

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