The Nashville Predators gave defenseman Mattias Ekholm a six-year, $22.5 million contract extension through 2021-22 Monday. Ekholm’s $3.75 million average annual value adds to the list of bargain deals Predators general manager David Poile has managed to pull off.
Fellow defenseman and legitimate Norris Trophy contender Roman Josi is locked up through 2019-20 with a $4 million AAV. Ryan Ellis, Ekholm’s defense partner, is signed through 2018-19 with a $2.5 million AAV. To say Poile got a steal with these three players’ contracts would be an understatement. The only task yet to be completed at Nashville’s blueline is re-signing incoming restricted free agent Seth Jones.
Nashville’s defense has lived up to the hype so far this season. As of Monday, the Predators’ 16 goals allowed ranks second-least in the league. With Pekka Rinne in net and Shea Weber, Josi, Ellis, Ekholm and, likely, Jones manning the defense for the next several seasons, Nashville is going to be a tough team to play against for years to come.
There is a lot to be said for Poile. He may not be great at selecting USA’s Olympic men’s hockey team roster, but he undoubtedly knows how to construct a winning NHL team at a low cost.
The Predators are not known for having a deep pocket and spending to the cap ceiling. In fact, more often than not, the Preds are just barely over the cap floor. Poile has been given the difficult task year after year of building a winning team while not spending an excessive amount of money. That task can be rather difficult in an age when more players are overpaid than they are underpaid. Nevertheless, Poile has managed to complete the task consistently as Nashville has appeared in the playoffs in eight of the previous 11 seasons. Currently, they have the third lowest payroll in the league but sit atop the Western Conference standings.
These bargain deals are not exclusive to defensemen, however. Last season, Poile took a chance on a center Mike Ribeiro, who was on his final leg in the NHL after being bought out by the Phoenix Coyotes. Ribeiro was signed to a one-year, $1.05 million contract and ranked second on the team in scoring, potting 62 points (15 goals, 47 assists) in 82 games.
These Ekholm, Ellis, Josi and Ribeiro type deals are what makes Poile one of the best GM’s in the league. As long as he keeps making them, soon enough, the Predators will see substantial success.