NHL free agency is still about a month away, but a big rumor surfaced this week regarding the Nashville Predators and one of the most coveted free agent forwards on the market.

According to Elliotte Friedman (Sportsnet) and Aaron Portzline (The Athletic), Nashville is the main target for pending free agent forward Matt Duchene. Duchene is currently with the Columbus Blue Jackets but becomes a free agent on July 1st.

Here’s what Friedman had to say on his most recent 31 Thoughts podcast regarding Matt Duchene:

“I think the most likely destinations are Nashville and Montreal. Not to say that something else can’t happen here and there. But when I look at Duchene, I think those are the two. He’s always wanted to play for Nashville, we all know that.”

He added later: “Until Nashville’s out of the picture, I always assume they’re very much in the picture when it comes to him.”

Friedman is known for having an inside track on NHL free agency. He and Bob McKenzie are two of the most reliable sources when it comes to accurately predicting the NHL free agent market. Given that, I think it’s safe to say Nashville and David Poile are in the driver’s seat with Matt Duchene.

Then there’s what Aaron Portzline added on Twitter, when prompted to give his thoughts on the rumors.

Portzline covers the Blues Jackets for The Athletic so he definitely has the inside track on current Blue Jackets players. Though it’s hard to say how much of a rapport he built up with Duchene in the three months he was in Columbus, it’s safe to say Portzline would know better than most how Duchene is feeling about his pending free agent status.

And don’t forget about this odd bit of news: a few weeks ago, Duchene posted what appeared to be a “Goodbye, Columbus” post on his Instagram. Then he deleted it.

There were some thoughts that he might re-sign in Columbus, given the Blue Jackets’ deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But posting, and then deleting, a post like that gives the appearance that he’s on his way out.

So where does this leave Nashville?

How Matt Duchene could land in Nashville

It may be tricky, but it’s really just a math problem for David Poile at this point. The Predators will have to subtract a certain amount of cap in order to make room for Duchene and their pending restricted free agents (and any other free agents).

The Predators currently have about $7 million in cap room for next season, but they have to use that $7 million to add probably between four or five players for next year.

First there’s the two RFAs, Colton Sissons and Rocco Grimaldi. You probably need to set aside at least $3 to $3.5 million for these two, given their predicted value according to Evolving Hockey.

That leaves about $4 million for Matt Duchene and two or three other free agents. Duchene will command at least $7 million average annual value (AAV) and maybe closer to $8 million. Then if you add a couple value free agents (think $1 million Scott Hartnell), you probably need about $10 million more in cap room to make it all work.

The Predators will have to trade away around $6 million in cap room to land Matt Duchene. That’s not going to be easy and it will mean a pretty significant change somewhere else on the team.

For reference, here are all the current Predators with a cap hit of at least $6 million. (Note, I am not suggesting that any of these players are more or less likely to be traded, just providing a list of the relevant contracts)

  • P.K. Subban ($9 million)
  • Ryan Johansen ($8 million)
  • Ryan Ellis ($6.25 million)
  • Filip Forsberg ($6 million)
  • Kyle Turris ($6 million)

If the Nashville Predators are going to land Matt Duchene, there’s a good chance that one of those players will be playing somewhere else next season.

— Featured image via Steve Roberts/USA TODAY Sports —