NHL contract grades: Predators take more big swings on Jonathan Marchessault, Brady Skjei


The contracts

Nashville Predators sign forward Jonathan Marchessault to a five-year deal with a $5.5 million AAV and defenseman Brady Skjei to a seven-year deal with a $7 million AAV.


Talk about a busy free agency for the Predators. 

As surprising as it is to see the Vegas Golden Knights move on from Marchessault, one of their original “misfits,: it really isn’t. This is just par for the course in Vegas. At this point, anyone is fair game.

But that certainly benefits Nashville, considering how valuable Marchessault is. 

A year ago, he hoisted the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup on the heels of one of his best seasons yet. This season, he eclipsed his prior high in goals with 42. Plus, he impressively put up 69 points across an 82-game season.

Marchessault should help the Predators build more of a one-two punch up front, after they had a rather top-heavy approach with Filip Forsberg’s line leading the way this past season. He should be able to contribute to the Predators’ rush game, which is lacking outside of their top players, and give this team a spark. 

The big question is whether Marchessault, at 33 years old, can keep it up, with aging curves in mind. That’s why it helps that Marchessault comes in under Evolving-Hockey’s $7.7 million AAV for a five-year deal. A $5.5 million cap hit is a lot more cost-effective and should help in those later years if his game declines. 

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Marchessault signed a contract that was below his market value by about $1 million per year on average, but Nashville did not get that same discount with Skjei. 

The Predators needed a Ryan McDonagh replacement who could be leaned on in any situation, at both ends of the ice. There’s a little irony that Skjei is going to be that guy, after that was the plan in New York years ago. 

Skjei showed that he can shoulder a tough workload with the Hurricanes, but Carolina has had a knack for maximizing defensemen in their system. Can that growth and progress transfer to Nashville? Can he drive a second pair in Nashville in matchup minutes? Can he step up to the top pair and play with fellow lefty Roman Josi when tasked to do so, as McDonagh did down the stretch? That’s what the Predators are betting on, at a pretty high price, with the maximum term attached to it. 

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It’s not the worst bet to make by any means, with Skjei’s two-way abilities in mind. It’s just a hefty one when the team is in an intriguing position.  

It’s a really interesting time for Nashville because after Barry Trotz took over last year, it seemed like the team was gearing up for the long term. But balancing that was always going to be tricky because a team should want to maximize Josi and Forsberg when they’re operating at such a high level. The Juuse Saros contract extension changes things as well, and maybe puts a bit more pressure on the right now. 

And that helps explain why the Predators are going for right-now players such as like Steven Stamkos, Marchessault and Skjei. All of them fit legitimate needs in Nashville, if the team is going to build on its impressive progress from the second half of the season. 

By adding via free agency, Nashville only has to dedicate cap and roster space to players, instead of spending future assets to bring them in. So if (or when) these players decline in the later years of their deals, they should have up-and-coming options,  maybe on ELC contracts, to balance out some of the costs around them.  

Skjei contract grade: B
Marchessault contract grade: A-minus
Fits grade: B-plus

(Photo of Jonathan Marchessault: Sam Hodde / Getty Images)



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