The NHL trade deadline season isn’t exactly Mattias Ekholm’s favorite season.
For the last few years around this time, the Nashville Predators defenseman’s name has popped up as potential bait. This year is no different.
Ekholm, who signed a four-year, $25 million contract extension before the 2021-22 season, has made no secret his desire to stay with the Predators, though.
“That’s just outside noise to me,” Ekholm said of trade rumors surrounding the March 3 deadline. “This is about us and this group. We know we have games in hand and we’re what, four or five points out (of a playoff spot). We’re just focusing on what we’re trying to do on the ice and winning games.
“Whatever happens, it’s nothing I can control. I can control what’s in here.”
That’s not to say Ekholm and others don’t hear such “noise.” Predators coach John Hynes knows the outside chatter can affect players. He considers trade deadline season just another part of the season, one that can present “some uneasiness.”
He believes that, despite how most players downplay it, it’s a topic that should be discussed every year.
“There’s some teams, they know they’re going to add; there’s some teams, they’re not sure what they’re going to do,” Hynes said. “Whatever situation your team has, you have to address it.
“If you’re a team in the middle, for sure you have guys on your team you know are concerned. You have to address it. ‘Hey, this is what the situation is; these are the ways we can handle it.’ … We don’t control those decisions. It’s also the mental part for the players. They are people, and it’s important that you have discussions, that it’s not closed door and guys are worrying. This is part of the season, and how are we going to handle it the best way?”
The Predators, as usual of late, find themselves in the middle just past the middle of the season. Will they buy? Will they sell? Will they stand pat?
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As for selling, the Predators don’t have much to offer by way of moveable players with decent trade value. Ekholm, defenseman Dante Fabbro, who will be a restricted free agent after this season, and Nino Niederreiter, who has a year left on his deal, very well could be dangled in a selling scenario.
Should the Predators find themselves in buying mode, which general manager David Poile said Tuesday on 102.5-FM is not presently the case, the same problem arises − the lack of moveable parts with trade value.
In other words, blockbuster deadline deals don’t seem too likely to go down in Nashville, no matter which mode the Predators are in.
Which seems like good news for players such as Ekholm, who has said he’s not interested in moving his family, that he wants to remain a Predator for the rest of his career.
“I want to be here. I want to stay here,” Ekholm said before he signed his extension. “That’s the business of it.”