NHL Rumor Mill – April 22, 2021
THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan believes Matt Duchene must prove his worth as the Nashville Predators jockey to hang onto the final playoff spot in the Discover Central Division. Recently returned to the lineup after missing 22 games with a lower-body injury, the 30-year-old winger has not held up his end of his $8 million per season deal.
Vingan believes Duchene must earn his keep or risk emboldening critics who feel he’s more of a hindrance than a help to the Predators. Trying to move the winger’s hefty contract this summer could prove difficult. He suggested leaving Duchene exposed in this summer’s expansion draft but admitted convincing the Seattle Kraken to select him will take some work.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duchene’s been a big disappointment for the Predators. He managed 42 points in 66 games last season but only nine points in 26 games this season.
It could take tempting the Kraken with a high draft pick or a top prospect. Even then, the idea of carrying an overpaid 30-something underachiever for five seasons probably won’t be appealing to Seattle general manager Ron Francis.
THE TENNESSEAN: Gentry Estes reports Mattias Ekholm is happy to still be with the Nashville Predators following weeks of speculation leading up to the recent NHL trade deadline. The 30-year-old defenseman was at one point atop TSN’s trade-bait list until the Predators surged in the standings.
No one knows how close Predators GM David Poile came to moving Ekholm. Reports claimed the asking price was a first-round pick, a top prospect and another asset. Poile has suggested Ekholm, who has a year remaining on his contract, isn’t going anywhere, indicating a desire to re-sign the blueliner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekholm’s strong play was a key factor behind the Predators’ rise over the past month into playoff contention. Depending on how much he wants and for how long, a contract extension could be worked out during the offseason. If he’s not resigned, don’t be surprised if his name pops up in next season’s rumor mill.
STLTODAY.COM: Jim Thomas recently reported Tyler Bozak would like to re-sign with the St. Louis Blues. The 35-year-old center is due to become an unrestricted free agent this season. He’s completing a three-year, $15 million contract and was sidelined 21 games this season by concussion issues.
Bozak’s played well centering the Blues’ third line since returning from injury. Whether they can afford to keep him with the salary cap remaining flat is another matter. If they do re-sign him it’ll be a short-term deal for less than his current $5 million annual cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bozak will have to accept a significant pay cut to stay in St. Louis for another season. Cap Friendly indicates the Blues have over $63.3 million invested in 15 players next season. Jaden Schwartz and Mike Hoffman are also pending UFAs while Vince Dunn, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford are restricted free agents.