As the Nashville Predators continue to tread water in the Western Conference standings between the buyers and sellers, the trade deadline is getting closer. Something has to give, and it may be a long-tenured player soon out of the door.
Defenseman Mattias Ekholm is “getting a good amount of attention” in recent trade talks, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported Tuesday.
LeBrun also reported that GM David Poile’s asking price is as much as two first-round picks for a trade of Ekholm and that Toronto is one of the interested teams.
Ekholm, 32, is in the first year of a 4-year, $25 million contract extension signed in Oct. 2021. He carries a $6.25 million cap hit each year through 2025-26, according to CapFriendly. He is one of six Predators veterans over the age of 30 who make at least $5 million and are signed for at least the next three seasons.
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The Swedish-born defenseman played his 717th career game on Tuesday against Vancouver, all with the Predators. It ranks fifth in team history. He also ranks 10th in career points and second in plus-minus in team history.
This season, Ekholm has five goals and 13 assists in 55 games. Many of his possession metrics continue to stand consistently across what he has done over the last three seasons and throughout his career. The one thing that has changed? Ekholm has had an increase in defensive zone starts over the past two seasons — 63.4% in 2021-22 and 59.7% in 2022-23, the two highest marks in his career by a good margin.
Nashville is seven points out of a playoff spot after Tuesday’s shootout win over Vancouver with 27 games remaining in the regular season. Backup goalie Kevin Lankinen is the only active unrestricted free agent on the roster.