Both of these players will immediately improve the team in all areas. Let’s talk about each move individually, and why I think Nashville is off to a great start here.
The Predators signed Ryan O’Reilly to a four-year, $4.5 AAV deal, confirmed by Pierre LeBrun here:
O’Reilly will bring a veteran presence down the middle for Nashville. He definitely isn’t the offensive player and point producer he was when he won the Stanley Cup with the Blues, but what he still possesses is a very high hockey IQ and a strong 200-foot game.
The Nashville Predators made two moves just after free agency opened.
O’Reilly’s numbers at the beginning of last season with St Louis were down across the board. He only put up 19 points through 40 games with the team, but once he was traded to Toronto, he was much better, putting up 11 points in 13 games.
This signing by Nashville signals that they are still trying to be competitive now, even with losing one of their top scorers in Matt Duchene going to the Dallas Stars.
The Predators got their second ex-Maple Leaf on Saturday, by signing defenseman Luke Schenn to a three-year contract worth $2.75 million AAV. The contract might seem like a lot, as Schenn has profiled as a third-pairing to fringe second-pairing defenseman.
I like this signing for Nashville however, as Schenn brings a lot of physicality to the table. It’s going to help star defenseman Roman Josi feel a lot more comfortable when he’s on the ice knowing he’s got Schenn to back him up.
What does this mean for Nashville?
Nashville is definitely in a little bit of a transitioning phase with their franchise, but these two moves signify that they still want to be competitive and believe in their team.
I believe Nashville was able to get these two players away from the Maple Leafs for the simple reason that the salary cap will be taking a massive increase after next season. This fact gave the Predators the idea that they can sign the players they want to richer contracts.
What did Toronto miss on here?
Most Toronto fans didn’t expect Schenn to be back, as I think most perception around the team was that he was going to be gone. I think if I had to take a guess, Toronto fans were more upset about losing O’Reilly.
But with the other problems the Maple Leafs are facing right now, it’s understandable that they didn’t bring either of these guys back. Luckily, they got some production back by bringing in Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi.