The Nashville Predators’ season begins Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena, but David Poile is apparently already hard at work.

After much speculation, a report this morning from Elliotte Friedman is that the Preds and Mattias Ekholm have reached an agreement on a four year deal worth $6.25 million per year.

The Predators announced a “major hockey announcement” later today at 1 p.m., which is more than likely an announcement of this contract extension.

Ekholm extend their 2nd best defender

Ekholm, who is 31 years old, has played in Nashville for 10 years, amassing 219 points over 586 games. In his early years, Ekholm struggled for playing time under then head coach Barry Trotz. But with the arrival of Peter Laviolette in 2014, Ekholm thrived. He had four seasons with 30 or more points during Laviolette’s six seasons in Nashville.

Under John Hynes, Ekholm has seen very little dropoff in his game, at least offensively. His career points per sixty minutes played has been very steady over the last four years:

  • 2014-15: 0.7
  • 2015-16: 1.3
  • 2016-17: 0.7
  • 2017-18: 1.1
  • 2018-19: 1.4
  • 2019-20: 1.2
  • 2020-21: 1.3

But keep in mind that Ekholm is a more defensively sound blueliner for Nashville. He uses his size well in the defensive zone and reads attacking plays better than most. Under Hynes, Ekholm has seen a decline in his defensive zone impact, as seen by his isolated expected goals from Hockey Viz (positive numbers on the bottom row, the defensive zone, are bad for Ekholm).

Mattias Ekholm Nashville Predators

So while his offensive skill has never been better, his defensive play has suffered. The most likely reason for this is partnering with Dante Fabbro as opposed to P.K. Subban. With Subban, Ekholm was a more defensively focused blueliner, allowing Subban to do whatever he wanted in the offensive zone.

But Fabbro is not Subban. Ekholm has been saddled with helping Fabbro develop on the fly in the NHL. There have been some growing pains.

Having said that, I think it’s clear Mattias Ekholm is the 2nd best defenseman on the Nashville Predators, behind Roman Josi. David Poile made the right decision by re-signing him and a four year deal is not so long a contract to get worried about the back half of Ekholm’s career.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —