Most of the headlines coming out of Nashville on Monday included Matt Duchene’s name, but the deal to sign the star centerman wasn’t the only transaction the Predators made as free agency opened.
There was another forward by the name of Daniel Carr, who signed on the dotted line – a one-year, one-way deal worth $700,000 – to become a member of the Preds.
“I’m so excited – I think that’s the only way to put it,” Carr said via phone two days after his contract was announced. “I can’t get over how much of a family the organization feels like and how welcoming everyone’s been. I’m just excited to be a part of it, and hopefully I can come into camp and make the team and try to help as best as I can.”
You may not have heard Carr’s name before, but if he has anything to do with it, you’ll get used to it in the months to come. You’ll notice the contract is one-way, meaning the Predators believe he’s capable of landing a roster spot for Opening Night.
Preds General Manager David Poile confirmed that line of thinking when he stated: “We think Daniel is ready to become a full-time NHL player and have an impact on our offense next season.”
So, why are the Preds so high on an undrafted 27-year-old winger from Sherwood Park, Alberta?
For one, Carr is the reigning MVP of the American Hockey League. He posted 30 goals and 71 points in just 52 games with the Chicago Wolves in 2018-19, a point total tied for the third-most in the league.
An NCAA champion with Union College in 2014, Carr has also appeared in 100 NHL contests over the past four seasons, most of them coming with the Montreal Canadiens and the rest with Vegas last season. He’s well aware of what it takes to play in the top league in the world, and he intends on doing so again.
Don’t get him wrong – he enjoyed the past campaign with the Wolves, a season that saw him post his highest point totals since he was playing Bantam AAA for the Leduc Oil Kings as a teenager – but he has no desire for another prolonged stay in the AHL.
“The American League is an interesting place because nobody wants to be there,” Carr said. “It’s the best way to put it… but you can’t really feel sorry for yourself ever in life, and I learned that the hard way… It was mixed emotions throughout the year, but if I think about the hockey part of it, it was a ton of fun.”
Las Vegas, NV – December 4: Daniel Carr #23 of the Vegas Golden Knights warms up prior to a game against the Washington Capitals at T-Mobile Arena on December 4, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images)
Las Vegas, NV – December 4: Daniel Carr #23 of the Vegas Golden Knights warms up prior to a game against the Washington Capitals at T-Mobile Arena on December 4, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images) Getty Images
After having the type of season he did, Carr was hoping for another NHL shot. Luckily for him, that’s exactly what the Predators had in mind when they reached out to his camp prior to July 1.
“You have to sort through the fluff of that period, and I think when we spoke about Nashville, I just realized that there’s just no fluff in what we were talking about,” Carr said. “I talked to other people about the people in the Predators organization, and everybody just comes back and says it’s just first class and the people are first class. For me, that’s what I wanted to do.”
Carr spoke fondly of his time with the Canadiens from 2015-18, especially that final season that saw him skate in 38 games and record 16 points. He’s always had to scratch and claw for his opportunities, and the chance that now lies ahead in Nashville may be the best he’s ever had in his five years as a professional.
“That’s why I’m coming to Nashville,” Carr said of the belief in him shown by the Preds. “You look at the team and how good the players are that you have the opportunity to play with, I think that was a big selling point. I realize it’s only a one-year contract, but it’s an opportunity for me to prove myself… And as a guy coming in, how could you not be excited about the opportunity to earn a chance to play with these guys?”
He has played against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena a couple of times before, including Shea Weber’s first game back in Nashville after being traded to Montreal in the summer of 2016. It was that night, Carr says, when he realized Nashville is a true hockey town.
“Just the standing ovation he got, you could tell they care about their players,” Carr said. “It was really cool to see that, and I’ve obviously been in other games where it was just like, ‘Wow, this place is rocking.’ I’m really excited to experience that.”
It’ll be a busy summer for Carr before he arrives in Music City later in August – on top of a grueling training regimen, he’s tying the knot in less than two weeks. Hearing his name called in the building on Oct. 3 when the Preds open their season might be the only thing that can come close to topping the wedding.
If he has any say in the matter, it might just happen.