After several years of openly flirting with one another, Matt Duchene and the Nashville Predators finally got together when he signed a seven-year deal worth $56 million at an AAV of $8 million.
When David Poile traded P.K. Subban for less than his true value just to shed some cap space, I was very nervous. Hell, I wrote an article entitle “Don’t Do It, With One Exception.” Trading a player to sign a guy in free agency is a risky move for a number of reasons. For starters, you may not wind up signing the guy you want, in this case Duchene. Other teams will court him as well, and Montreal was apparently pushing hard to get him. The Predators didn’t have some kind of exclusive rights to throw cash at Duchene. On top of that, overpayments are quite common in free agency, and Duchene was rumored to want at least $9 million.
Luckily none of those things really came to fruition. There is an argument that $8 million, especially at seven years, is an overpayment. But it’s an easier pill to swallow than the over $9 million I was worried he was going to get. Now I can exhale and enjoy the fact that Duchene is finally a Predator and also my new best friend. I’ve mourned the loss of P.K. Subban (on the ice, of course) for a week now, but seeing Duchene net a couple of goals in his debut will wash away the remnants of that grief.
The Predators needed some help in the scoring department because the top line spent much of the regular season and the postseason dealing with shoulder issues from carrying the offense. Duchene hit a career high in goals with 31 last season, and he tied his career high in points with 70. He adds some much-needed skill in Nashville’s lineup beyond the JoFA line. I’d say he’ll play with Mikael Granlund on the second line because Duchene wants to shoot and Granlund wants to distribute, so that could be a match made in heaven and could kickstart Granlund’s time in Nashville after a rough rest of the season following the trade deadline.
Duchene might also help make the power play not completely unwatchable this year. I know the analytics suggest he’s not a huge driver of chances with the man advantage, but sweet baby Jesus it would be impossible for him to make this power play worse. Just having someone with a lethal shot who isn’t afraid to pull the trigger from somewhere below the point is an upgrade. In fact, he could also be a nice net-front presence on the power play. He found quite a bit of success there with the Blue Jackets last season, particularly in the playoffs. Watch these two sequences.
On that goal against the Bruins, Matt Duchene utterly relentless in front of Tuukka Rask for the entire shift before finishing the job. He’s not just a finesse player with some velvety smooth mitts and nice speed. He can also take some abuse in front of the net and chip in on the power play. Of course, the one caveat to those two highlights is that Columbus has a competent power play that doesn’t spend 120 seconds with its head so far up its own ass that it can eat lunch a second time. Oh, and the Jackets had Artemi Panarin too.
We didn’t bring it back for free agency because everyone and their mother had Duchene likely going to the Predators, but the Duchene DEFCON System has been permanently retired.
P.S. I am already willing to go to war for Beau Duchene, the Predators’ first-round pick in the 2037 NHL Draft.