The Nashville Predators re-signed restricted free agent Mattias Ekholm to a two-year contract on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old defenseman had a breakthrough season in 2013-2014, playing in 62 games and adding nine points. Ekholm had suited up for three NHL games across two years before solidifying his position in the Predators defensive corps last season.
The Swedish blueliner avoided salary arbitration by inking the deal that will pay him $1,037,500 in both years. Ekholm added an offensive element to Nashville’s bottom defense pairing last season, and that’s likely what he’ll be asked to do again in the upcoming campaign.
Look for defenseman Ryan Ellis to not only be paired with Ekholm in 2014-2015, but for both players to take on larger roles–especially on the power play. After a slow start last season, Ekholm successfully adjusted to the North American style of play and made himself a reliable NHL defenseman.
Here’s the club’s official release on the signing:
Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that restricted free agent defenseman Mattias Ekholm has signed a two-year, $2.075 million contract that will pay him $1,037,500 in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Ekholm, 24 (5/24/90), ranked 12th among NHL rookie blueliners in both games played (62) and minutes played (1,042:38) in 2013-14, posting nine points (1g-8a). He was one of just six NHL defensemen to play at least 50 games and be assessed 10 or fewer penalty minutes during his first full campaign with the Predators, after appearing in one game in 2012-13, and a pair in 2011-12. The Borlange, Sweden native tied for ninth among AHL rookie defensemen in goals, and ranked ninth among rookie blueliners in points (10g-22a-32pts) with Milwaukee in 2012-13, and was a winner of both the Borje Salming Award as the top defenseman in the Swedish Hockey League, and the Le Mat Trophy as SHL champions with Brynas in 2012. He also earned SHL Rookie of the Year honors with the club in 2010-11.
Nashville’s seventh choice, 102nd overall (fourth round), in the 2009 Entry Draft, the 6-4, 202-pound blueliner helped Sweden to a bronze medal at the 2014 World Championship, being named one of the nation’s three best players after tying for second (with Predators teammate Roman Josi) among tournament defensemen in points (2g-5a-7pts), while leading all Swedish skaters in average ice time (21:56). He also earned a bronze medal at the 2010 World Junior Championship, tying for the tournament lead with a +10 rating, and helped the Tre Kronor win the 2008 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
You can follow Ekholm on Twitter @MatEkh14.