Seven months ago, Mattias Ekholm’s future with the Nashville Predators was anything but certain.
Now, the 31-year-old defenseman is tied to the Predators for the next five seasons after agreeing to a four-year, $25 million contract extension ($6.25 million average annual value) with the team on Wednesday morning.
The deal came together in the final hours after Ekholm and his family set a firm deadline of before the start of the regular season on Thursday to get the extension done.
“There’s never perfect negotiations,” Predators General Manager David Poile said. "This was hard."
“It’s nice to know that I’ll be here for the foreseeable future, and hopefully my career,” Ekholm added. “This is the only team I’ve been with, and I’m really honored to be a part of this team and to have been a part of it for a number more years. Me and my family made this decision yesterday and it was not a hard one. We love it here … It’s just a family kind of feeling here.”
Ekholm’s name had been mentioned by several national media outlets as being on the trade block in March, and reporters from TSN, Sportsnet and The Athletic all but had Ekholm playing in a different city up until the trade deadline in mid-April.
Not wanting to become a distraction, the 6-foot-4 blueliner went directly to Poile to get to the bottom of things.
“That was a tough time,” Ekholm said. “I was going to have an interview about it last year and I just went up to David and asked, ‘Are you actually trading me or what’s going on?’ And he’s always been very honest with me, and he said he wasn’t and it was all the media. Obviously, it’s hard to see your name in those conversations. When you have a family … it’s one thing if it’s me, I can leave anytime, but when you have more roots in the ground it’s a little harder. … I feel I can always go into David’s office and ask the hard questions and he’ll give me a straight answer.”
A fourth-round pick of the Predators in 2009, Ekholm has spent his entire 10-year NHL career in Nashville. He has 51 goals and 219 points in 586 career games and ranks second all-time in franchise history with a plus/minus rating of 90.
He’s reached 30 points in four of his past six seasons, including his career-high 44-point season in 2018-19. Ekholm also ranks fourth in franchise history in games played, fifth in goals, sixth in points and assists and seventh among franchise defensemen in average ice time (21:36).
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_