David Freeman, the leader of the Predators new ownership group, just did a little Q&A with the official Preds website (which i have to say has been coming along nicely in terms of content and quality). Not too much there that was amazing, but a few quotes and observations to point out:
First and foremost i'm loving the implications in this quote:
NP.com: Have you starting planning the budget for next season?Did you catch that? "we will spend more on payroll next year than at any time in the history of the club". Wow. That's saying something!
DF: Sure. Yes. Strategically it's probably not good for us to talk about that publicly for competitive reasons. Our budget will be significantly higher than it was this year. In fact, I'm quite certain we will spend more on payroll next year than at any time in the history of the club. We're that committed to building this team right back up.
I just got through saying on a HockeyBuzz discussion about Shea Weber's chances of resigning with the Preds, that i was nervous about our ability to sign Shea. If projects are correct that he could command $7mil a year, then i assumed that meant he would be gone. The largest contract (that i know of) that the Preds have ever signed anyone to was Vokoun's contract when we resigned him in the middle of last year to a 4-year, $22.8mil deal that will max-out and pay him $6.3mil in the final year... and we traded him and that contract away at the end of the year when Leipold put the team on the salary floor*. With that in mind, signing a d-man to a $7mil per year contract seems pretty out of character, and possibly out of reach. I think we could count on a small amount of home-town discount from Shea, so that together with this comment from Freeman makes me a lot more hopeful about our chances of keeping him, Erat, and other restricted free agents at the end of this year.
*Side comment about Craig Leipold: I think Leipold clearly had the pockets to keep the Preds above the salary floor, and he was clearly intent on buying the Wild before he'd even sold the Predators. Since he was about to move to another Western Conference team, why not do massive damage to the franchise you're about to turn around and face 4 times a year. It would be the equivalent of a player who had just been traded setting fire to the equipment truck on your way to the airport. -- I'm glad Leipold brought hockey to Nashville, but i think what he did to the franchise in the last year borders on unethical business practice. Not a fan personally.
Other thoughts on the interview...
Freeman talks quite a bit about his personal relationship to the team and hockey, etc. While talking about his experience on Trade Deadline Day and how his kids are with the team, etc...you get a real sense that this is still a project for the city, and a logical business decision. He is not passionate about hockey and is still fresh into becoming a fan, but is getting there.
Specifically, when asked about Nashville as a hockey market, the owner of the franchise replied:
I don't know that I'm in a position to answer that question. Time will tell. But I think that there's obviously a much greater awareness of the team and what the team means to the city. Even for those who might not have been hockey fans in the past – and maybe they're still not – but I think there's a huge awareness of the team and what it means to the city. Sometimes you don't know what you've got until you almost lost it. I think that definitely applies in this situation.He also said that he doesn't talk about the team much with his kids, but that his kids get most of the news about the team from their friends. He said that they are enjoying going to games and "have become big fans very quickly, just like I have." While i certainly appreciate the honesty, i would love for him to have gushed about how much he loves the game and doesn't know how he missed how great it was for so long, and that once more people in Nashville are exposed to hockey that 'the most passionate fans in sports' (as 104.5 calls Nashville) will turn to hockey with the same zeal they give to football. But i guess that's me.
All in all it's a good interview and worth checking out. I think Freeman is just an understated, shy guy. He's still getting used to giving interviews and isn't much of a marketer himself. Good news is that he's hiring people who do, and the marketing and sponsorships are getting much much better.
Reminder to come watch the game with us tonight at Beyond the Edge (assuming you aren't snowed in). Game starts at 8:30pm, and there will be giveaways (i am pretty sure tickets for an upcoming game will be one of the prizes) and much fun had by all. They guys at Beyond the Edge are big Preds supporters, so come out and support a business that supports that Preds!
And of course my birthday party LAN party is tomorrow...invitation is still out there for any interested in coming. Just need a PC and...well, that's really it. You'll need a copy of Half-Life 2, but we may even have an extra we can spot you if needed.