On the opening day of NHL free agency, the Nashville Predators announced two signings that will help shore up their AHL depth in Milwaukee. The organization signed forward Matt Luff to a one-year, two-way contract and defender Matt Tennyson to a two-year, two-way contract.
By The Numbers
Undrafted out of the OHL, Matt Luff earned an entry-level contract with Los Angeles in 2016 and joined the organization in the AHL for the 2017-18 season. Since then, he’s spent all three seasons bouncing between the AHL and NHL with his best minor-league season coming in 2018-19: 11 goals and 31 points in 36 games.
Last year, Luff scored four points in four games for the Ontario Reign and added one goal in 13 games for the Kings. In those 13 games, Luff struggled with a 44.58% Corsi and a 44.41% expected goals-for rate at even strength (although he was the victim of an awful 1.67% team shooting rate will on the ice).
At 31-years old, Tennyson is a league veteran who joined the San Jose Sharks in 2021 as a college free agent from Western Michigan University. Since then, he’s moved from the Sharks organization to the Hurricanes, Sabres, and Devils, but his best AHL season came in 2012-13 where he posted five goals and 27 points in 60 games.
Tennyson has played over 30 NHL games in a season just once (2016-17) and joined New Jersey for 21 contests last season, scoring three points. In that NHL time, Tennyson posted a 41.12% Corsi at even strength and an expected goals-for rate of 43.30%. Tennyson also joined the United States at the World Championship where he finished third among team defenders in scoring with four points in 10 games.
The Scouting Tape
When reviewing game tape, we have to keep in mind that both of these players will (likely) be playing mostly against AHL competition this season. Tennyson (#8, white), for instance, isn’t the best or quickest skater compared to NHL peers:
His crossover steps are clumsy and lack acceleration, but he can maintain decent gap control with an active stick and, if he times his pivots well, he can use his body effectively to force turnovers in the offensive zone.
In the defensive zone, Tennyson (#7, red) is more reactive than proactive at reading cycles against NHL talent. With his lack of a good accelerating step, he can be caught out of position when defending more skilled forwards, but I don’t anticipate that will be as much of an issue in Milwaukee.
I don’t expect Tennyson to be a huge points producer for the Admirals this season, but he is fairly capable of getting low, forceful shots on-net quickly from the point.
When it comes to Matt Luff (#23, grey), I think he’ll be an excellent, big-bodied addition to the Admirals’ forward group. He’s better suited on the wing and can slip behind defenders into back-door high-danger areas for scoring chances. He can also excel in puck protection using his upper body and legs to serve as a barrier against defenders’ sticks.
Luff (#64, black) is a decent skater for his size and can pick up okay speed, but there are some inconsistencies in his stride recovery at top speed. Regardless, he has displayed the ability to leverage his size against defenders at the NHL level and produce high-danger scoring chances as shown above.
Luff’s best asset is his surprisingly deceptive wrist shot. He can launch the puck from most shooting positions and areas in the offensive zone and loves to use his wrist strength to beat goalies from a distance as he did above against Bakersfield.
Both contracts carry a cap hit of $750,000 per year at the NHL level. Tennyson’s salary in the AHL will be $325,000 for both years, and neither player received any signing or performance bonuses.
Upon expiry, Matt Luff will be a restricted free agent in 2022, and Matt Tennyson will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023.