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Ekholm signs four-year, $25 million contract with Predators

Defenseman could have become unrestricted free agent after this season

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Mattias Ekholm signed a four-year, $25 million contract with the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. It has an average annual value of $6.25 million and begins next season.

The 31-year-old defenseman is in the final season of a six-year, $22.5 million contract (average annual value $3.75 million) he signed Oct. 26, 2015. He could have become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Ekholm said he was happy to sign the contract before it could become a distraction during the season. Nashville opens its season at home against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, BSSO, ROOT-NW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).

"I know it's a lot with being a dad of two kids and having a family and trying to help run that, and then try to focus on the ice and have this. It's a lot," Ekholm said. "So it was good that we were able to get it done ... because even if we wouldn't have and wouldn't talk and focus too much on it, it was always going to be there in the back of your head. It was a relief to get it done for sure, and we're really excited with the way it turned out."

He also said he was gratified to solidify his future with Nashville after hearing his name in trade rumors last season.

"Obviously, it's hard to see your name out there in those conversations when you have a family," Ekholm said. "It's one thing if it's me. I can pack up and leave anytime. Obviously it would be tough to leave the city you've played for for a long time, but when you have more roots in the ground here so to speak, it's a little bit harder. 

"I feel like that's what we've enjoyed a lot about this organization too. They've always been open and honest with me. I feel like I can go in [general manager David Poile's] office and it's not a big deal to ask the hard questions. I'll get as straight of an answer as he can give me. That was something I felt comfortable with last year even when the rumors were really flying. Obviously now looking at getting a contract and knowing I'm going to be here, it feels really good. Maybe even more so with what happened last spring."

Ekholm scored 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) and averaged 22:52 of ice time in 48 regular-season games last season. He had three assists and averaged 26:27 of ice time in six Stanley Cup Playoff games.

"I love this part of the job," Poile said. "I remember when Mattias first came over here and we had lunch across the street, a young kid and new to North America and a lot of growing to do on and off the ice, and here we sit 12 years later. Here his family sits 12 years later. Everybody has grown and changed, so I think it's fabulous.

"Part of what happened in negotiations, which there is never a perfect negotiation and this was hard, but Ekholm got involved in the situation. I think, and he can speak for it too, I think it really helped him understand the process. ... I think that really played out well and that's why it feels really good today. It just feels like it's the right fit."

Selected by Nashville in the fourth round (No. 102) of the 2009 NHL Draft, Ekholm has scored 219 points (51 goals, 168 assists) in 586 regular-season games and 33 points (six goals, 27 assists) in 71 playoff games, all with the Predators.

Among defensemen, Ekholm ranks second in Predators history in rating (plus-90), fourth in games played, fifth in goals and sixth in points and assists.

Poile said during the offseason that two of his priorities were signing Ekholm and forward Filip Forsberg, who also is in the last season of his contract and can become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

NHL.com independent correspondent Robby Stanley contributed to this report

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