On Sunday night, on the eve of NHL free agency day, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet tweeted, “It sounds like Matt Duchene will join the Preds. Expect his contract to come in with an $8M AAV.”
This news wasn’t shocking considering the Nashville Predators were high on the list of potential landing spots for arguably the top center available in unrestricted free agency.
On Monday, when free agency opened up, the deal was officially announced by the Predators organization.
Darren Dreger wrote the contract for Duchene includes $28 million in signing bonus money and the year-by-year total reads $10 million, $8 million, $10 million, $8 million, $9 million, $6 million and $5 million.
The Final Three Teams in on Duchene
On Sunday afternoon, in our windup to free agency, we wrote the following about the potential of Duchene landing with the Predators.
The Nashville Predators are the favorites here with the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets still part of the conversation.
The Preds have cleared cap room for Duchene in the expectation he’ll be going there. He’s rumored to be a huge country music fan and if he wants to win, Nashville is always a top-notch team.
The deal might be north of $9 million per season and it would be shocking if he wasn’t a Predator by the end of the day on July 1.
What we learned was that we were high on our salary estimates. That was probably, in part, due to the fact that no state tax in Tennessee played a role in how much Duchene could keep at the end of the day.
Montreal had been granted a meeting and the Blue Jackets were in it until the end, but Duchene had his heart set on the Predators and it appears they were well aware of it, making space and preparing for his arrival.
Did the Blue Jackets Have a Chance?
We may never really know, but it appears the answer was yes. That said, it was only a small chance at best.
Duchene was picked up at the NHL Trade Deadline in a trade from the Ottawa Senators where he had spent two seasons potting 107 points in 118 games. The Blue Jackets loaded up in an effort to make a playoff push — Duchene was their prized acquisition — only to crash and burn in the second round.
Columbus had essentially mortgaged their long-term future with no guarantees names like Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Artemi Panarin or Sergei Bobrovsky would be sticking around. If the Blue Jackets could convince Duchene not to leave, at least the gamble wasn’t all for not.
Duchene Goes to Nashville
Duchene will join a Predators team that is quite different from just a few weeks ago. Moving out P.K. Subban in a salary cap dump to the New Jersey Devils, Duchene will be the new big-ticket item on the team alongside Ryan Johansen. Neither often seen as a true No. 1 center, both are capable of playing limited minutes in that role and can help each other out.
Duchene will offer them a nice second option at center and if the Preds move Kyle Turris, some comfort the team will still have the offense it needs down the middle.
Most people see this deal as a good value for the Predators and based on some of the other signings that offered more money to players offering less production, Nashville did well here.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”