The Nashville Predators got the player they’ve always coveted in Matt Duchene. General manager David Poile executed a game plan of clearing out salary cap space by trading P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils. Nashville now has another scorer to compliment the “JoFA” line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson.
The Predators currently sit as a top contender for a Central Division and Western Conference title. It was a big risk to clear out cap space before knowing if Duchene was going to sign with the club. Poile’s big gamble could have come up snake eyes if Duchene went to the Montreal Canadiens or another club.
Predators Had to Go All-In for Matt Duchene
The Predators have been a contender ever since acquiring Subban in 2016. Nashville’s big gamble netted them a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2016-17 and a President’s Trophy in 2017-18. Things were going great until they lost to the Winnipeg Jets in the second round of the playoffs.
Some thought it was a 50-50 series that could go either way. However, the Predators lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Dallas Stars. The goaltending of Pekka Rinne helped the team stay in the mix in that series, but the lack of scoring ultimately cost the club.
Roman Josi led the team in points, but Rocco Grimaldi was the Predators leading goal-scorer with three. The ballyhooed JoFA line only got two goals in the playoffs and the team got little scoring elsewhere.
Nashville’s run to the final was accentuated by timely goals from a multitude of sources. Trade deadline acquisitions such as Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds didn’t really add much in the way of goals.
Rolling the Dice
Poile had gone after Duchene a couple of times but lost out on those occasions to the Ottawa Senators and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team got another chance to land the Haliburton, Ontario native in free agency.
Montreal proved to be the main contender with Nashville to land Duchene as his whole family are big Habs fans. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has proven to be aggressive this season, including handing out the first offer sheet in six years.
There were some nervous moments, but Poile finally got his man at seven years and $56 million. It was a move that put the Predators back in the contender conversation.
Nashville likely had contingency plans if Duchene went elsewhere. However, it would have been a big blow as the Predators would have traded a superstar like Subban and had nothing to show for it. The main aim was to deal Subban for offence and Nashville came away with their target, but there were probably a few nervous moments.
What it Means for the Future With Matt Duchene
Duchene gives the Predators depth and options up the middle with six players that can play the pivot position. Duchene joins Johansen, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, Calle Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons as forwards that play the centre position.
Poile may deal one of the latter three to add some scoring wingers or get more pieces, but now the Predators have flexibility to mix and match combinations. Nashville’s bottom-six is good at playing defence, but shouldn’t be expected to score a ton of goals in the post-season when opponents focus on the top line.
The addition of Duchene means Nashville can now spread the wealth around in its scoring. It could be a move that nets the Predators another deep run.
OTTAWA, ON – FEBRUARY 22: Columbus Blue Jackets Center Matt Duchene (95) prepares for a face-off during first period National Hockey League action between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators on February 22, 2019, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)