The Nashville Predators saw defenseman Ryan Suter leave via free agency in the summer of 2012, and almost lost Shea Weber as well. They didn’t add many pieces back in the offseason, and one of their waiver pick-ups after the lockout ended paid off in a big way during the 2013 season. The Predators took a gamble on Rich Clune, a young winger who had spent the last four seasons in the Los Angeles Kings’ organization but had only seen 14 games of NHL action. That choice paid big dividends for them this season, as Clune provided a much-needed physical presence while also occasionally chipping in on the offensive side of things.
Clune finished the season as the team leader with 113 penalty minutes, and had 12 fighting majors. He wasn’t shy to go toe-to-toe with some respected fighters like Zenon Konopka, Mike Brown and Kyle Chipchura, which quickly earned him the respect of teammates and fans. A player like Clune is a valuable asset for a Predators team that also lost Jordin Tootoo in the offseason, as there is now someone to hold opponents accountable when they target Nashville’s star players. Weber will fight occasionally, but it’s really in the best interest of the Predators if he doesn’t have to.
In addition to his performance with his fists, Clune also scored the first four goals of his career while adding five assists. He’s under contract for next season at a bargain price, and the Predators may want to lock up his services before he hits the open market. Players like Clune are becoming more rare in the league, and picking him up was one of the best roster moves the Predators made all season.