Among the things on the to-do list for the Nashville Predators this past offseason, two of them were to give extensions to Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm. Forsberg has yet to get a new contract, and his future in Nashville is currently up in the air, but Ekholm was just locked up to a new deal.
The veteran Swedish blueliner is staying in Music City, re-signing for four more years for a total of $25M ($6.25M AAV), and the contract does not contain a no-movement clause or a no-trade clause.
It is also worth noting that this deal does not kick in until next year, as Ekholm still has this year left on his current contract.
Yes, the Predators are in a transition phase and could have just as easily decided to trade him at the deadline for a haul. That being said, it was important that this signing was done for a few reasons.
Number one, Ekholm has been a consistent player for several years now. He has always been superb defensively, and while he is nothing special on offence, he has turned in some of his best offensive seasons recently, including last year. He is dependable and does not make mistakes, and his game and trajectory show that he can be one of the more prominent players on the team for several more seasons.
Secondly, Ekholm’s leadership is felt night in and night out by the Predators. Do you notice his reaction every time he is on the ice and sees a dirty hit, a bad call, or anything that wrongfully hurts the team? For a team like the Predators that wants to embrace an identity of being tough and not easy to push around, you need players like Ekholm who are not afraid to be the bad guy sometimes.
You must also consider the impact that this could have on the organization, especially with Forsberg. As I mentioned, Forsberg’s future with the Predators is very much undefined right now, and if they are not competitive this year, they might be all but forced to trade him at the deadline.
Playing for an organization that can compete and is in a good spot structurally is what players want, and hopefully, Ekholm re-signing can convince Forsberg to re-sign, as well as some quality free agents coming to Nashville in future seasons. Yes, every player has different preferences, and Ekholm always wanted to remain with the Predators, but would he re-sign with a team if they were highly dysfunctional? Most likely not.
Yes, the contract to Ekholm and also the one to Mikael Granlund might be odd moves for a team that is trying to rebuild, but let’s get one thing right, a full-blown rebuild has never been in David Poile’s plans, as he is showing with his moves. Even then, the Predators are building a solid foundation with the players they have.
They are in a position after this signing now in which they do not even have to address the defence for at least the next four seasons, aside from minimal depth signings to account for potential injuries. They also have their starting goaltender for the next four years, and another one to take over after.
Of course, the Predators have and will continue to have questions on offence, but they can feel good about the fact that they have the most prominent players on their back end locked up to good contracts. Yes, Roman Josi‘s is expensive, but considering the market for defensemen nowadays, you will take his contract on your team any day of the week.
The Predators’ future has a lot of promise, which you can view in these can’t miss Predators games this season, and hopefully, they can get the most out of the guys on the ice.
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