The Nashville Predators have signed center Matt Duchene to a seven-year contract worth $56 million.
The Predators get: A center who will be on his fourth NHL team in the span of two calendar years. In spite of the frequent change of addresses, the 28-year-old Duchene set a career high in goals (31) and tied his career high in points (70) in a 2018-19 season split between Ottawa and Columbus. Surprisingly, more of Duchene’s regular-season production was with the last-place Senators (58 points in 50 games) than it was with the playoff-bound Blue Jackets (12 points in 23 games).
Although Duchene is more of a very good player as opposed to an elite player, he addresses a specific need as a scorer. The Predators are not traditionally one of the league’s stronger teams offensively, while their power play in particular needs help (last in NHL with a 12.9% ranking in 2018-19).
Duchene himself might be hard-pressed to equal his point total from last season. For one, the Preds have never had a player reach 35 goals in their entire history. In addition, his 31 goals were the result of a higher-than-normal 18.0 SH%, so for those reasons expect the goal total to be lower rather than higher.
The one forward line that seems to work in Nashville is the top line of Ryan Johansen centering Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. Those three were the only forwards to score more than 0.5 points per game last season. It’s always possible that Duchene bumps Johansen off the top line, but if you believe in the “golden boy” theory, Duchene will earn the same as Johansen ($8 million). So Duchene could be penciled in to boost a second-line that needs considerable improvement. That could improve the value of late-season acquisition Mikael Granlund, who scored just one goal and five points in 22 regular-season games after the trade. Someone like Craig Smith (one of three Preds to reach 20 goals last season) could be the third man on that line.
The trade probably downgrades Turris, who has already been on a downward trajectory anyway (just 7 goals and 23 points in 55 games last season). It seems like a coincidence that Duchene and Turris are now on the same team after both were involved in the major three-team deal centered around Duchene. The thinking at the time was that Duchene was not a significant upgrade from Turris for the Senators at the time of the deal. Less than two years later, Duchene is considered a major upgrade over Turris for the Predators.
Hockey fans could see this signing coming from a mile away, but at the time of the P.K. Subban trade, Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm thought to have an opportunity on the first-unit power play. That idea is has likely been ruled out with the Duchene signing, as a first-unit power play for the Preds should include forwards Johansen, Forsberg, Arvidsson, and now Duchene.
Players this helps, in order:
Arvidsson, Forsberg, Johansen, Roman Josi (power play)
Players this hurts, in order:
Fantasy owners are already discussing this signing – give your take here!
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