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Mattias Ekholm trade: Analyzing 3 winners and losers

Mattias Eckholm trade

The Nashville Predators have had a busy week, announcing that the only general manager in team history, David Poile, would be stepping down at the end of the season.

Then, as the team continued to fall out of playoff contention, they announced to the hockey world they were open for business by trading away players, including 12-year veteran Mattias Ekholm, to the Edmonton Oilers. Here’s a breakdown of the blockbuster trade.

  • Edmonton Oilers get: Mattias Ekholm, 6th-round pick
  • Nashville Predators get: Tyson Barrie, Reid Schaefer, 1st-round pick, 4th-round pick

The Oilers employ two of the game’s most gifted scorers, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. However, the team needs help to keep goals out of their net with a subpar defensive corps and mediocre goaltending. Despite signing Jack Campbell to a massive contract and Stuart Skinner getting voted into the All-Star Game, the duo has given up the 13th-most goals in the league.

After losing in the Western Conference Finals last year, the expectations are high in Edmonton this season. Despite a winning record at 32-21-8 and a potential wild card spot for the postseason, general manager Ken Holland needed to make a splash at the trade deadline. 

Let’s evaluate another blockbuster hockey trade with Mattias Ekholm heading to Edmonton as the NHL sprints to the deadline.

Related: Patrick Kane dealt to the New York Rangers in latest blockbuster

Winner: The Oilers bring in Mattias Ekholm to stop bleeding

mattias ekholm trade
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As the Oilers headed into the trade deadline, many wondered what kind of deals management could make because the team was up against the salary cap. Consequently, after trading away Jesse Puljujarvi to the Carolina Hurricanes, Holland found some extra money to play with, allowing the Ekholm deal to take place.

Despite being linked to Erik Karlsson and Jakob Chychrun, Holland swung a deal with the Predators for a veteran defenseman who won’t tally many points but will prevent opponents from scoring. Additionally, Ekholm comes from a Predators team with a 29-22-6 record, bringing 18 points and an even plus-minus rating, which is better than Draisaitl (minus-three), Evander Kane (minus-one), Ryan Murray (minus-four) and Evan Bouchard (minus-six). 

Moreover, Ekholm will bring much-needed grit to the lineup since the Oilers’ traded away their leading hitter (Puljujarvi) earlier in the afternoon. On top of his presence in the top four, the Swedish defenseman will slide into the top 10 in several of the team’s statistical categories, including blocks and shots on goal. 

Related: Updated NHL trade rumors

Winner: The Predators gain cap space for instant retool

According to numbers from CapFriendly.com, 10 contracts are on the books for the Predators after the 2023-24 season. Interestingly, the team cleared up $6.5 million in cap space for those upcoming years by shipping out Mattias Ekholm, who had three years left on his current deal. 

In return, they acquired defenseman Ty Barrie, with one campaign left on his contract valued at $4.5 million. Ultimately, the team saved almost $2 million with this deal, even after retaining $250,000 of Ekholm’s salary, allowing incoming general manager Barry Trotz to add new pieces and rebuild the Predators into an instant contender again. 

Outside of the two big names, Ekholm and Barrie, Nashville also acquired a first-round pick in the upcoming 2023 draft, along with Reid Schaefer, who recently won a gold medal at the World Juniors. If this is the last significant trade of Poile’s career, he helps set up the Predators for long-term success, even though he dealt away one of the longest-serving members of the franchise. 

Loser: Tyson Barrie leaves the league’s best power-play unit

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Many Oilers fans embraced the news in October 2020 when Barrie joined the team as a free agent. Conversely, he was an offensive defenseman who would help the Oilers become one of the best power-play units ever. However, he has a reputation for being a defensive liability, with a career minus-61 rating. Nevertheless, his offensive production on special teams made up for his errors on the back end. 

After the deal with the Predators, Barrie departs the league’s best power-play unit (31.9%) for the league’s 25th-ranked team (18.7%), where he won’t get the same opportunities to make passes to McDavid or Draisaitl. Instead, he’ll dish the puck off to Filip Forsberg or Matt Duchesne and split his time with Roman Josi, the leader of the Predators’ special teams. 

Even though Barrie has never been an All-Star or won any awards, he’s built up a reputation as a skilled power-play specialist. Overall, he will immediately impact the Predators’ situation; however, the success will take more work than it did in Edmonton. 

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