NASHVILLE — After getting traded by the Blackhawks nine months ago, Ryan Hartman will finally get a crack at his former team when the Nashville Predators welcome Chicago to town on Saturday night. It's one he's been looking forward to for quite some time now.
"I was telling some of the guys that this game has been circled for a while on my calendar," said Hartman, who was traded for Victor Ejdsell and a first-round pick in 2018 that turned out to be defenseman Nicolas Beaudin. "I'm excited to get started. Two teams that have lost two in a row now that are looking to play harder, so should be a good game."
Hartman appeared in 21 regular-season games for the Predators last season and nine postseason contests, where he scored two goals and added an assist. While his ice time is similar to what he was getting in Chicago, he's contributing more on the scoresheet in his first full season with Nashville.
He has seven goals, which ranks third on the team, and has been promoted to a top-six role with Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve. And that's good news for Hartman, who bet on himself by signing a one-year, $875,000 contract with the Predators in hopes of earning a longer-term deal this upcoming summer as a restricted free agent.
"My game is the same," Hartman said. "Playing hard, our team's doing well, top of the standings. Each and every night competing, it's fun hockey. I got to play 20 games last year in a playoff push and got to come here throughout a training camp and to start the season off here has been good."
Despite being in Nashville, it's hard not to notice the changes happening in Chicago as a former player.
His close friend Vinnie Hinostroza was dealt to Arizona in the offseason as part of a package to clear Marian Hossa's contract from the books. The Blackhawks fired Joel Quenneville and hired 33-year-old Jeremy Colliton to be their next head coach. Nick Schmaltz was traded for two former first-round picks in Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome. Henri Jokiharju has emerged as a top-pairing defenseman.
The turnover is evident since Hartman's days with the Blackhawks. But none bigger than Quenneville.
"Growing up a fan of the Hawks and watching Quenneville as a kid who coached the team, you obviously see it," Hartman said. "My family let me know when it first happened. You see those things, but so does everyone else around the league."
Now, Hartman's focus has shifted to doing whatever he can to help the Predators win a Stanley Cup after they came up short a season ago. Having the opportunity to be with the team from Day 1 at training camp also helps because going through the ups and the downs as a group is part of what makes the journey of working towards a championship memorable.
That's what Hartman is hoping to accomplish with the Predators.
"We got a good team here," he said. "We've been atop the standings for most of the season, we got everyone's best efforts for the most part, but playing here it's great. The home ice advantage here is awesome, the fans are loud, they really get this place rocking. It's a good atmosphere."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.