By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Though it wasn’t a straight player-for-player trade, the main result of the P.K. Subban trade wasn’t the two prospects or two draft choices that the Predators received at the time. No, the principal reason for Subban’s departure was to clear cap space that would allow general manager David Poile to finally get the additional scoring center he had craved for at least the past two seasons. Last Monday that happened as Poile signed Matt Duchene to a seven-year, $56 million dollar deal. It was the first day that free agents could sign with anyone, and the vast majority of the salary cap space that Poile created through Subban’s trade has now been utilized.
“It’s a great day for hockey in Nashville, Tennessee, and for the Predators,” Poile said in a press statement. “Matt Duchene is a player we have liked for a long, long time. Whether it’s for deals he went to Ottawa or Columbus, we haven’t been able to acquire him. We have today.” The deal reportedly includes both a $28 million signing bonus and a seven-team no movement (no trade) clause for the final three years. Only one other Predator player, goalie Pekka Rinne, has one of those.
Duchene has impressive credentials. He was the third overall pick in the 2009 draft by the Colorado Avalanche. He scored 178 goals and had 250 assists over a nine-year period with them, and subsequently has played with Ottawa and Columbus. He helped Columbus win their first playoff series this year after being dealt at the trading deadline. He had five goals and five assists in 10 postseason games. Overall he has 232 goals and 315 assists in 727 regular season games. “Nashville is the place, if you asked me to put money on it before (free agency), where we’d be,” Duchene told USA Today Network. “By the way I’m talking, you’d think it was really easy. It was actually very difficult. When you have seven, eight years in front of you, you have to take a lot of things into account. You have to balance thinking between your head and your heart.”
The Predators may not be done making moves, but getting Duchene gives them a serious scoring threat on either the number two or even the number three line. He’s also an excellent scorer on the power play, an area where the Predators finished last in the NHL in the regular season and failed to score in the first round series loss to the Dallas Stars.