Original Pred gets $27M reward

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

The last of the original Nashville Predators ensured yesterday he won't be going anywhere for some time.

David Legwand, the Predators' first NHL draft pick when he was selected second overall after Vincent Lecavalier in 1998, signed a six-year, $27-million US contract.

Legwand, the only player on the current Predators roster who wore Nashville's sweater in 1998-99 (he played one game) has developed into a fine two-way player in his NHL career. A top-end scorer with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League for two seasons before he became an NHL regular, Legwand, a Detroit native, had no choice but to become a better defensive player during his early days in Tennessee.

Coach Barry Trotz insisted on it, and now Legwand's name comes up when talk annually turns to Selke Trophy nominees.

"He really stressed it at the start," Legwand said when the Predators were in Toronto on Monday. "We didn't have much offensive power, so I worked on the defensive part and I had to grow from there."

Legwand has become the Predators' career leader in games played and points. The 27-year-old centre said he was glad the team is staying in Nashville, but was impressed with Jim Balsillie, whose attempt to buy the club failed.

"He raised a lot of eyebrows with his offer," Legwand said. "He has thrown a lot of money out there to get a franchise, and pretty soon I think he will have one. That will be good for hockey."

Just stay out of Canada.

FANS NIX FLORIDA HOCKEY

The NHL loves to report that attendance is up overall. In the hockey hotbed that is Florida, it's not.

Attendance for Panthers games in Sunrise has taken a dip of approximately 2,000 a game, averaging 13,835 for the first 14 home games. The BankAtlantic Center has been nearly half-empty for some games.

"Whoever comes to the game, we have to be satisfied," Panthers captain Olli Jokinen said. "We have to do our job better to find a way for people to support us."

In Tampa, the Lightning could be one of the few teams that favours the future schedule that will have fewer divisional games. The Lightning's two smallest crowds this season have been for matches against alleged Southest Division rivals Florida and Carolina.

"We don't have the same kind of rivalry with Southeast Division teams that we have with others," Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said. "I think it's kind of stale, and we are the one division where that is the anomaly."

Is anyone else looking forward to NHL hockey in Las Vegas and Kansas City?

ICE CHIPS

Indications are the St. Louis Blues will not loan forward David Perron to Canada for the world junior tournament, while Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe is making it sound like forward Sam Gagner will not be available either ... Could the end be near for Trevor Linden? The Vancouver Canucks' leader in games played has been in and out of the lineup. Said coach Alain Vigneault: "If we want to be an in-your-face team on the fourth line, Trevor does not fit there." ... The Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators were the only clubs which have not allowed a short-handed goal this season.


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