NBA Free Agency Nets Basketball

FILE - In this April 21, 2019, file photo, Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots over Indiana Pacers guard Darren Collison (2) during the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in Indianapolis. Just three seasons ago, the Brooklyn Nets were the worst team in the NBA. On Sunday, June 30, 2019, they were the story of the league. They agreed to deals with superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as part of a sensational start to free agency, giving the longtime No. 2 team in New York top billing in the Big Apple. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

NASHVILLE (AP) — The Nashville Predators took a big step toward boosting their offense Monday by signing Matt Duchene away from the Columbus Blue Jackets, paying a big price to land a forward they had long targeted.

Duchene, 28, received a seven-year contract worth $56 million and he will expected to spark the Predators’ scoring attack after a 2018-19 season in which they had the NHL’s worst power play and made a first-round playoff exit.

“Our objective this offseason was to bolster our offense, and signing Matt Duchene gives us another dynamic goal-scoring, playmaking center,” general manager David Poile said. “We are excited to add his skill and experience to our top-six forwards and look forward to the next seven years of Matt and his family in Smashville. Matt’s love of country music and passion for the city of Nashville make this partnership a perfect fit.”

The signing comes just over a week after the Predators traded six-time All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban to New Jersey for defensemen Steven Santi and Jeremy Davies as well as two draft picks. Subban was set to make $9 million each of the next three seasons.

Poile said after that trade that the move was necessary to create salary-cap space to strengthen the team at the forward spot.

Duchene certainly should help in that regard.

He had a combined 31 goals and 39 assists this season with the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets, who obtained him at the trade deadline.

He also had five goals and five assists in 10 playoff games for Columbus as the Blue Jackets produced a stunning first-round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning before losing to Boston in the second round.

Nashville lacked scoring punch this year beyond its top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. That became particularly evident in the postseason, as the Predators failed to score on any of their 16 power-play attempts while losing to the Dallas Stars in six games.

This marked the second straight season that Nashville has lost early in the playoffs to a lower-seeded team since its surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. The Predators posted the league’s best regular-season record in 2018 but fell to the Winnipeg Jets in the second round.

The Predators had tried to acquire Duchene from Colorado in 2017 before he was traded to Ottawa as part of a three-way deal in which Nashville added forward Kyle Turris.

Turris signed a six-year, $36 million contract after joining the Predators but had a frustrating 2018-19 season in which he accumulated 23 points in just 55 games. Turris’ struggles underscored Nashville’s need for more offense, which caused the Predators to step up their pursuit of Duchene.

Nashville also signed forward Daniel Carr to a one-year contract worth $700,000. The 27-year-old Carr was named the American Hockey League’s most valuable player this season, as he collected 30 goals and 41 assists for the Chicago Wolves. Carr has appeared in 100 career NHL games with the Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens. He has 15 career goals and 20 assists in the NHL.

Load comments