The Nashville Predators signed Matt Duchene on July 1st, finally unveiling the worst kept secret in the NHL.
We didn’t know the details of the contract, or when he would actually sign on the dotted line. But those who have been following this team knew that Matt Duchene and the Nashville Predators have been linked together for a number of years.
And it finally happened on Monday.
“We’ve had our eyes on Nashville for a long time,” Matt Duchene said earlier today, a few hours after the signing became official. “My family and I are really, really excited. It’s a place we’ve wanted to be for a long time.”
Mutual admiration has been growing between the two parties for some time. While Matt Duchene expressed interest in the city of Nashville (his comments at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville raised more than a few eyebrows), David Poile began noticing Duchene’s skills on the ice.
“Matt Duchene is a player that we have liked for a long, long time,” he said to the media Monday afternoon. “But whether it was through deals where he went to Ottawa or Columbus we just were not able to acquire him. We have today.”
Poile went on to discuss the various skills that Duchene brings to the ice and how much he will improve the Predators’ offense. Duchene’s 70 point season with Ottawa and Columbus last season added to the desire to sign the free agent center, and his career numbers speak for themselves.
“We made no secret that we were trying to get him, he made no secret that he had an affinity for the city [of Nashville.]”
The good news for David Poile and the Predators is that once the two parties actually got together, it finally happened. Each side agreed on a seven-year contract worth $56 million, with most of the money front-loaded and a team-friendly no trade clause in the final three years.
“Very similar to Ryan Ellis last summer, Matt saw that we have something special here between the franchise and the city and the community. And the good news for us is that he wanted to be part of it.”
A perfect fit on the ice
There’s a lot of reasons why the pairing of Duchene and the Predators makes sense off the ice. But the “on the ice” partnership is reason enough for these two to finally get together.
The Predators entered this offseason with at least one major objective: improve goal scoring. Last year, the Preds finished with the 19th ranked offense in the NHL, the lowest ranking in the Peter Laviolette era. Part of this was due to a terrible power play, part of this was lack of goal scoring depth, part of it was overworked forwards covering for haphazard defensive play.
Whatever the reason, David Poile knew he needed to make moves to improve the team’s offense. Matt Duchene certainly does that.
Duchene arrives in Nashville with 547 career NHL points, by far the most of any player on the Predators. He is coming off a 70 point season, which would be the highest for any Predators player since 2008. He has seven 20-goal seasons in the NHL (more than any current Predators forward) and two 30-goal seasons.
Quite an impressive resume for a 28-year-old.
The only question is: where does he play? How does Peter Laviolette utilize his new offensive talent?
Duchene: “It sounds like I’ll be at center”
On that note, an interesting discrepancy occurred at the press conference today between David Poile and Matt Duchene.
Poile’s answer to how Duchene fits into the lineup was a bit vague, but he mentioned the possibility of him playing on the wing.
“We are hoping for Duchene to be a center, he wants to be a center, but he has played a lot of left wing. Kyle [Turris] we are certainly hoping for a rebound year. There’s nothing like a competition that should get the best out of everybody. So, I’m glad where we are.”
This seems to imply that we could see Kyle Turris and Matt Duchene on the same line at some point, which would probably not be ideal. You have to think that Duchene, who has played center for most of his NHL minutes, would be the pivot in that scenario.
This would leave Kyle Turris, a $6 million center, on the wing. Not the best way for Turris to “rebound,” especially if you still envision him as a center.
But when asked about what role he feels most comfortable playing in Nashville, Matt Duchene’s answer was more straightforward than Poile’s answer.
“I think I’m gonna be at center. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not crazy about left wing. I like right wing, but it sounds like I will be at center.”
It’s safe to say Duchene will be at center. Not only because of his career experience, but also because it sounded like Duchene’s expectation came more from his conversations with Peter Laviolette than with David Poile. And since Laviolette is the coach, he obviously has more control over that sort of thing.
Speaking of which, Poile mentioned a couple of times that Duchene and Laviolette hit it off right away at their meeting this week. He explained that their meeting was only supposed to be 15 minutes long, but ended up going for “over an hour.”
On discussing hockey with Laviolette, Duchene admitted that “[Laviolette] was probably the thing that sealed it for me” which is pretty high praise.
The Nashville Predators’ future lineup
We still don’t know if David Poile is finished tinkering with next year’s roster. Though he said he was mostly done with free agency, he didn’t rule out another trade, which could shake things up.
But assuming the current roster remains the opening night roster, here’s how things could look for the 2019-20 Nashville Predators:
Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Mikael Granlund – Matt Duchene – Craig Smith
Calle Jarnkrok – Kyle Turris – Rocco Grimaldi
Austin Watson – Nick Bonino – Colton Sissons
Roman Josi – Dante Fabbro
Mattias Ekholm – Ryan Ellis
Dan Hamhuis – Steven Santini
Pekka Rinne – Juuse Saros
People will argue that the defense won’t be as good without P.K. Subban (and they would be correct) but you can’t argue that the offense won’t be better. With a top six like that, Peter Laviolette and the Nashville Predators are well on their way to moving back into the top 10 in scoring and out of the power play cellar.
— Featured image via Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports —