Just when it looked like the Nashville Predators had made themselves better this offseason by adding some scoring talent, one of the club's established forwards went down with a significant injury. In a statement released by the team Monday, general manager David Poile revealed that veteran center Mike Fisher suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during a training session.
Fisher underwent successful surgery on Thursday to repair the injury, but is expected to need four to six months to recover according to Poile. So that means he won't be available at least at the beginning of the season. Considering it's an Achilles injury, it's probably safe to wonder if his recovery might put him on track for return in the latter portion of that timeframe.
Fisher was fourth on the team with 49 points in 75 games last season. He also posted the sixth 20-goal season of his career in 2013-14.
There were plenty of reasons for optimism after the Preds swung a blockbuster deal at the NHL Draft, which landed them former 40-goal man James Neal in exchange for Nick Spaling and Patric Hornqvist. They also added Olli Jokinen as a free agent to bolster the center position.
These moves didn't turn the team into instant competitors, but they definitely help improve the club. Losing Fisher, one of the team's top remaining centers, is a significant blow to forward depth.
Fisher is 34 years old and a veteran of 887 games in the NHL. He is not easily replaced in the lineup, though there are a few veteran centers still available on the free agent market including Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy should the team choose to go that route. The club has also been linked off and on as a potential trading partner to acquire the services of Vincent Lecavalier from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Having actively looked for center help before Fisher went down, the Predators are in an uncomfortable position when it comes to adequately filling that important position with multiple holes.
When Poile swung the deal for Neal, it suggested the team was making moves to be better next season and not just sulk through another down year. Losing Fisher for at least the first part of 2014-15 is going to likely put some pressure on the Preds to hand younger players like Filip Forsberg or Austin Watson bigger roles than they had initially planned on. That is, unless they address the position in other offseason moves.
The good news is that a few months of Fisher's recovery will come over the offseason, but this is certainly a staggering blow after the team had appeared to be gaining some momentum this offseason.