With the protection lists for the Seattle expansion draft in, the Nashville Predators have made the bold move of leaving not one but both of their $8M AAV centers unprotected. Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene will be available to the league’s 32nd team, which guarantees that at least one of them won’t be selected but makes no promises about the other.
Exposing Duchene in particular is striking. The coveted free agent signed a seven-year deal, including an eventual modified NTC, in the summer of 2019, and has played only two seasons—amounting to a total of just 100 games, thanks to the COVID-19 shutdown and delayed reopening—with the Predators. While Duchene’s NTC, amounting to a seven-team no-trade list, will not go into effect until the summer of 2023, David Poile is not known for handing out trade protection in contracts at all, and its presence suggests that Duchene strongly wanted job security in Nashville. Exposing him to Seattle, like trading him, does potentially risk the Predators’ hard-won status as a desirable free agency destination.
On the other hand, the Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Ellis trades do suggest that the team is entering a rebuild, and with Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm’s current contracts expiring after this upcoming season—leaving them as unrestricted free agents—even bigger changes could be afoot.
According to Hockey Night in Canada’s Chris Johnston, the Predators have opted to protect five defenders, including the newly-acquired Phil Myers. He joins Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro, and Alexandre Carrier on the protected list, as well as Filip Forsberg, Luke Kunin, and Tanner Jeannot, with Juuse Saros in goal. This leaves Calle Jarnkrok, Rocco Grimaldi, Nick Cousins, Colton Sissons, Yakov Trenin, and Rem Pitlick available, as well as Connor Ingram. The Seattle Kraken might opt to draft Frederic Allard, but the Predators are much more likely to lose a forward or goalie.