Three days after the conclusion of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 National Hockey League’s regular season, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile addressed one of his previously stated goals for this offseason Tuesday when he announced that the team had signed Patric Hornqvist to a new five-year, $21.25 million contract.
Hornqvist would have become a restricted free agent in July had he not re-signed with the Predators.
“We absolutely missed his play this year with the injuries that he had,” Poile said Tuesday. “He is a unique player. He is one of the fiercest competitors in the National Hockey League. He has that net presence like nobody else. He’s a courageous player. He can score goals. He brings a lot of energy to our team.”
A deal of this length for a player like Hornqvist comes with a bit of a risk due to many of the factors Poile listed when they are combined with the fact that Hornqvist is not the biggest of stature and routinely takes a beating in front of the other team’s goal shift in and shift out every single night.
In addition to the physical abuse he takes from the opposition, Hornqvist often finds himself inadvertently in the crosshairs of his own teammates’ shots, especially Shea Weber’s 100+ MPH slap shots from the point.
Listed at 5’11” and 189 pounds, Hornqvist is not big by NHL standards. He doesn’t possess blazing speed, spectacular hands, or the ability to stickhandle in a phone booth. For those reasons, the Predators were able to grab Hornqvist with the 230th and final pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
But since he has come to the NHL, Hornqvist has been anything but Mr. Irrelevant.
Hornqvist plays with a tremendous amount of heart, and he is a prime example of where that heart, determination, and hard work can take a player.
Hornqvist thinks that his injury-plagued 2013 was just misfortune. He played in only 24 of 48 games this season.
“I think it was just bad luck,” he said. “I have been playing almost 250 games in this league almost straight and never get hurt, and then all of a sudden I get hurt three times in one year in a short season. I’m strong enough and all that, nothing has changed.”
Two of those injuries were to the same shoulder, with the second a result of him trying to get back into the lineup before he had sufficiently healed.
“I only got hurt twice because I reinjured my shoulder because I went out there too early,” Hornqvist said. “I wanted to help the team for the playoff push there. Then I was not strong enough, and then I re-hurt it.”
On a team that struggled to score goals this season, Poile was happy to keep a former 30-goal scorer in the fold. And he hopes that Hornqvist can find that scoring touch early and often in the 2013-14 season.
“If he can score like he has scored and play like he played, I think it is going to be a fair deal for both sides,” Poile said. “Again, the wild card always is for any player if you get hurt, it is not going to work out. It was time to make a decision and that was the decision that we made. I’m hoping a lot of things were a little bit of an aberration, hopefully a little bit of a fluke last year, including some of the injuries that we had. I hope he plays well, and I hope he is healthy.”