The 2016-17 season did not get off to a good start for Austin Watson, who was cut from training camp and placed on waivers in October. However, the Preds soon recalled him from the minors, and the 26-year-old went on to play in 77 of the next 79 games, recording a career-high 17 points as part of the Preds' fourth line. Perhaps more impressively, Watson provided valuable scoring depth during the playoffs, contributing nine points in 22 games. That prompted the Preds to lock him up for the next three years with a new $3.3 million contract. Watson is expected to play a similar checking-line role for the Preds this season, but he could be given the occasional look in a scoring role, as he's been a decent producer at AHL Milwaukee in recent years (90 points in 152 games from 2013 to 2015). He's proven to be an asset in fantasy formats that count hits and PIM --- collecting 143 and 99, respectively, last season -- and the 26-year-old's upside to improve offensively makes him an attractive sleeper in deep leagues
Watson inked a three-year, $3.3 million deal with Nashville on Monday. With the two sides separated by $700,000 -- Watson was seeking $1.4 million per season -- they seem to have split the difference. The winger is coming off a sophomore campaign in which he registered career highs in goals (5), assists (12) and shots on goal (90). Given the talent he showed with AHL Milwaukee -- 44 points in 76 games during the 2014-15 campaign -- fantasy owners shouldn't be shocked to see the 26-year-old reach the 25-point mark this season.
Watson -- who ended up filling for salary arbitration -- is seeking $1.4 million, whereas the Predators have proposed an offer of $700,000, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports. We suspect an arbitrator will ultimately grant Watson a salary that comes in less than his $1.4 million ask, but higher than the $700,000 the Preds wish to provide. The Michigan native largely avoided the AHL this past season and proceeded to put up five goals, 12 assists and 99 PIM in 77 games for the parent club during the regular season. Watson also held his own during the postseason, as he averaged 13:40 of ice time and skated to a plus-3 rating with nine points over 22 grueling contests.
Watson has filed for salary arbitration, Adam Vingan of the Tennessean reports. Watson played in career-high 77 games with the Predators during the 2016-17 campaign, compiling five goals and 12 assists, both of which were also new highs. Instead of agreeing to his current qualifying offer, Watson will instead file for arbitration with the hope of securing a better salary at the hands of a third-party arbiter. That hearing should be set for late July, although the two sides can continue to negotiate a deal in the meantime.
Watson recorded an assist Monday in Game 4 against the Penguins. Watson has been a serious contributor lately, as this was his third assist of the Stanley Cup Finals. The 26-year-old winger made himself useful in other ways, too -- he dished out six hits, blocked a shot, and recorded a plus-1 rating in 16:49 of ice time. He's been helping out on offense since the Western Conference finals, having accumulated four goals and three assists over the past 10 games. Although he's stuck on the third line, he's still recording enough playing time to be fantasy relevant.
Watson scored two goals on three shots and blocked six shots during Monday's Game 6 win over Anaheim. With Nashville dealing with multiple injuries, Watson climbed the depth chart and now has three goals, seven shots and eight blocked shots through his past two games. He was a solid scorer in the OHL, but Watson's offense hasn't translated to the professional ranks, and he registered just 17 points -- five goals -- through 77 regular-season games this season. Keeping expectations in check for the 2010 first-round selection is advised moving forward.
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