Fisher signed a professional tryout contract in order to begin working out with the team, and he expects to sign a contract for the rest of the season ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline, when postseason rosters must be set. He practiced in full Predators gear on Wednesday morning at Bridgestone Arena.
“Bear with me, I’m still a little out of breath from the skate this morning,” Fisher joked. “It’s great to be back.”
Fisher, 37, said he considered this decision for weeks.
“It always kind of bugged me when guys came out of retirement. I didn’t really think it was a possibility,” he said. “I just thought about the opportunity. How good this team is. About the run last year, and what could be. I got a blessing from family and my wife.”
Fisher said his wife, country music star Carrie Underwood, encouraged his return to the NHL.
“Carrie asked me every few days if I was going to do it. She wanted me to do it. And she’s usually right,” said Fisher, the fifth-leading goal scorer in Predators history (109).
This is happening! Fish is back! So proud of you, baby! We want the cup!!! https://t.co/ohP7zPtT1s
— Carrie Underwood (@carrieunderwood) January 31, 2018
Predators general manager David Poile said Fisher will not return to being team captain, an honor that was given to defenseman Roman Josi. Poile said the team debated internally if Fisher would want to return to the NHL. Coach Peter Laviolette had discussions with Fisher, and a meeting with Josi clinched the deal. Laviolette said the team leaders are excited for Fisher’s return.
“[We’re] getting a terrific person back in our locker room, and a terrific player,” Laviolette said.
Fisher said he has worked out “a little bit” in retirement, but that it will take some time to get into game shape.
Fisher announced the end of his 17-year NHL career on Aug. 3, both at a news conference and via a letter to fans. “Knowing we were so close to winning it all in June only makes it more difficult to leave it behind, but I do so with hope. Endings are always tough, but I believe when something ends, there are new beginnings, new opportunities and new things to be excited for, too,” he wrote.
Fisher said at the start of the season that he was still navigating through a post-NHL life. “I want to take some time away to figure out what it’s like not to play, just figure out what daily life’s going to be like,” he told The Tennessean.
Poile said there’s no timetable for Fisher playing in games.
“He made the decision. He has the fire and the will to come back. Every time he sets a challenge for himself, he gets it done,” Poile said.
The return of Fisher bolsters the Predators’ already strong group of centers — including Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino, who was signed to replace Fisher in the offseason. Fisher also will help address issues the Predators (29-12-7) are having at even strength among their bottom six forwards, as Bonino (minus-92), Austin Watson (minus-82) and Calle Jarnkrok (minus-73) are among the worst Predators in shot attempt differential.
Fisher had 18 goals and 24 assists in 72 games for the Predators last season, skating 16:37 per game. He had four assists in 20 playoff games. Fisher said the team’s potential to win the Stanley Cup, having lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games last June, was one factor in returning to the NHL.
“I believe this team is built to win, and has a very good chance. So that’s part of the reason I want to come back,” Fisher said. “But we didn’t win last year, and that was the best part of my career.”