The Predators acquired James Neal, above, in a Friday trade that sent forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In a conference call Monday with local media, Neal said he savored the expectations that accompany his arrival in Nashville. (Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)
Nashville Predators forward James Neal is eager to deliver offensive firepower for a franchise traditionally known for its defense.
The Predators acquired Neal in a Friday trade that sent forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In a conference call Monday with local media, Neal said he savored the expectations that accompany his arrival in Nashville.
“That’s something I’m looking forward to,” Neal said. “I need to step up and be a top guy on the team, be a leader. I’m excited for that challenge.”
Neal’s addition reflects how the Predators are attempting to add scoring punch under new coach Peter Laviolette after having a reputation as a defense-oriented team throughout the franchise’s history.
The Predators ranked 19th in the league with 2.61 goals per game last season and missed the playoffs for a second straight year.
Throughout the offseason, the Predators have discussed the need to improve their offense. They believe the addition of Neal also should help in that regard.
The 26-year-old Neal had 27 goals and 34 assists in 59 games this past season, which marked the sixth straight year he scored at least 20 goals. Neal scored 40 goals in 2011-12 and had 21 goals in only 40 games during the 2012-13 season.
“These top-six forwards, they don’t just grow on trees,” Predators general manager David Poile said. “They’re not that easy to come by. The fact we were able to get James Neal, I think, is a big move in the right direction.”
Neal noted that the Predators only missed the playoffs by three points in 2013-14 despite playing much of the season without star goaltender Pekka Rinne, who appeared in just 24 games because of an E. coli infection in his surgically repaired left hip.
Briere sent to Avalanche
Montreal traded veteran forward Daniel Briere to Colorado Monday in exchange for forward Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and a fifth-round pick in 2015 draft.
The 36-year-old Briere, who is heading into the final year of his contract, had 13 goals and 12 assists in 69 games with the Canadiens last season.
Parenteau, selected 264th overall in 2001 by Anaheim, had 14 goals and 19 assists with the Avalanche. Prior to joining the Avalanche, Parenteau suited up for the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and New York Islanders.
Briere, who also has played for Phoenix, Buffalo, and Philadelphia, joined the Canadiens as a free agent on July 4, 2013.
The Minnesota Wild have made qualifying offers to five restricted free agents: defenseman Jonathon Blum, right wing Justin Fontaine, goalie Darcy Kuemper, right wing Nino Niederreiter and left wing Jason Zucker.
The Wild announced the decision Monday, the day before NHL unrestricted free agency beings. The Wild declined to make qualifying offers to three restricted free agents: defenseman Josh Caron, defenseman Tyler Cuma and left wing Kris Foucault. Cuma was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2008.
Fontaine, Kuemper and Niederreiter all held key roles for the Wild in the playoffs. Zucker had four goals in 21 games, but he spent much of the season in the AHL and missed the last several weeks following surgery to fix a tendon in his left quadriceps. Blum played sparingly.
... The San Jose Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free-agent defenseman Jason Demers, forwards Tommy Wingels and James Sheppard, defensemen Matt Tennyson and Taylor Doherty and goalie Harri Sateri.
Defensemen Sena Acolatse, Adam Comrie and Nick Petricki; and forwards Brodie Reid, Sebastian Stalberg and Marek Viedensky are unrestricted free agents after not getting qualifying offers.
Defenseman Scott Hannan and forward Bracken Kearns will be unrestricted free agents on Tuesday and the Sharks have also bought out forward Marty Havlat’s contract to make him an unrestricted free agent.
... The Panthers announced that they completed a compliance buyout of defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who was the team’s No. 1 overall draft pick 20 years ago. The buyout saves the Panthers about $4 million in salary-cap space heading into free agency. Jovanovski has been in the NHL for 18 seasons, parts of seven of those with Florida, where he has long been a fan favorite.
Jovanovski was on the Florida team that went to the Stanley Cup finals in 1996.
Also, the team extended qualifying offers to defensemen Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov and Dylan Olsen, along with forwards Jimmy Hayes, Ryan Martindale, Brandon Pirri and Garrett Wilson.