In one camp, those in favor of the addition of a record-setting sniper to an already potent Predators offense. In the other camp, those who remain vigilant of playing Tolvanen in too many games for fear of exposing him to a potential 2020 Seattle expansion draft.
“If he plays 10 games, effectively the year counts or we use the expression, ‘it burns off a year.’’ Predators general manager David Poile told the Midday 180 on Thursday. “That would mean next year he starts with two years remaining. If he plays less than 10 games – playoffs and regular season – then he would start next year with three years on his contract.”
Should the NHL implement the same expansion draft rules used for Vegas, when the first year of Tolvanen’s contract expires will determine whether or not the team will need to protect him. Per the guidelines from the Vegas expansion, all first- and second-year professionals are exempt from being selected.
The Preds have six more games – including the playoffs – to let Tolvanen play before burning a year off his three-year, entry-level contract. However, Poile, who is in win-now mode, has stated Tolvanen’s contract situation hasn’t even crossed his mind.
“I’m not really thinking about that,” Poile said. “I think he will play when he deserves to play, when we need him to play. If that happens to exceed nine games, we’re comfortable with that. If it doesn’t, that’s fine. That’s not going to be a factor in terms of us making any kind of lineup decisions going forward.”
“If he deserves to play and the coach wants to play him in the lineup, he’ll play him. We’re not concerning ourselves whether we burn a year or not, we’re going to play the best players in the situations that are dictated and that’s the coach’s decision.”
So far, the 18-year-old 2017 first round pick has played in three games with the Predators, averaging 11:26 of ice time per game and playing 2:17 on the power play. After registering zero shots on goal in his first two games, Tolvanen had three in his last outing against the Florida Panthers.
Having played two seasons with Sioux City in the USHL, Tolvanen admitted to AP’s Stephen Whyno that adjusting to the smaller ice of the NHL has been tough and “is going to take a while.”
Although he is not putting up the eye-popping numbers he did in the KHL or at the Olympics, Poile presumably knew there would be an adjustment period, and he’s okay with that.
“Initially, I think expectations were very high and my most important thing was to get him signed and this is a long-run signing in terms of what he’s going to do and mean to our organization,” Poile said.
“A lot has happened in this young man’s life in the last six or seven months and he’s going to be a real good player. Right now, I’m sure his head is just spinning with all that’s happened in the three games he’s already played for the Predators.
After losing Kevin Fiala and Ryan Johansen during the playoffs last season, Poile understands the importance roster depth plays in an extended playoff run. Regardless of how many games Tolvanen plays this season, Poile has made it perfectly clear that the Finnish winger will figure into the Preds playoff plans.
“He’s going to become part of our depth as we enter into the playoffs,” Poile said.
“There was no plan other than just trying to get him here and see where our team is with our health and how we’re playing. Where he was with his game, it’s just lined up. We clearly wanted to get him into the lineup to see what he can do. He’s played in three games and we’ll just see where we go from here.”