NASHVILLE -- Matt Duchene signed a seven-year, $56 million contract with the Nashville Predators on Monday. It has an annual average value of $8 million.
The Predators were rumored to have had interest in acquiring Duchene in a trade the past few seasons. They were finally able to add his speed and scoring ability to their top-six forward group in free agency.
"It was talked about in the media for the last three years," Nashville general manager David Poile said. "We made no secret, I think, that we were trying to get him. He made no secret that he had an affinity for the city. Having said that, just to put everything on balance here, he did have other offers and he did visit other cities. I would think probably when you talk to him that he'd tell you this was the only place he wanted to play. Maybe that's me wanting to think that, but it's still part of a negotiation."
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The 28-year-old center had 70 points (31 goals, 39 assists) in 73 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators last season, including 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 23 games after he was traded to Columbus on Feb. 22.
Duchene had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Blue Jackets sweep the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round to win a playoff series for the first time.
The Predators traded defenseman P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils on June 22 to make sure they had enough NHL salary cap space to pursue Duchene. Subban has a $9 million cap charge.
"I think when you know teams are interested and they make things happen to get you, it adds a little bit for sure," Duchene said. "You know that you're going to be taken care of and you know that you're valued. I think at the end of the day, we put so much into this game as pros. And I know I do. I eat, sleep and breathe it. For that to be valued and get what I put into it back, it means a lot."
Video: Duchene chats about new Predators contract
Duchene visited Nashville last week and met with Predators coach Peter Laviolette to talk about how he would fit into the system. That conversation had a big impact on his decision to sign, Duchene said.
"When we started talking, what was supposed to be probably a 10-minute conversation when I was down there on my visit turned into a 40 or 45 because we just got so into the hockey talk," Duchene said. "That's the way I am. I love to hot stove and debate ideas and talk about things, and we couldn't have been more on the same page. He's a guy who wants to score more goals. As an offensive guy, that makes you drool a little bit when you hear your coach say that."
The Predators believe they are deeper at center than they've ever been with Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino and Colton Sissons. With the contracts for Duchene and Johansen each carrying an annual average value of $8 million and Turris' $6 million, the Predators have heavily invested in improving the center position during the past four seasons.
"We're right at the [salary cap]," Poile said. "That's the way we're operating now, and we've got to be very careful with our dollars and where we spend. It is what it is. We've had a really good team for the last four or five years, and we've signed a lot of players to longer-term contracts than they've previously had. It feels like we're in a good position. We're under the cap, and we're ready to go."
Video: Impact of the Predators adding Matt Duchene
Duchene visited other teams and considered re-signing with the Blue Jackets.
"My family and I are really, really excited," Duchene said. "It's been a place that we've wanted to be for a long time, and to see it come to fruition is really exciting. We love the city, the fans are unbelievable and the most important part, which is the hockey part, it's a [heck] of a team to be joining. I can't wait to play with those guys and get out there and get started.
"At the end of the day, it was where we wanted to be for a long time, and we wanted to do whatever it took to make it happen."
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