Nashville Predators: Contract Extension Coming Soon for Luke Kunin?

Nashville Predators center Luke Kunin (11) Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators center Luke Kunin (11) Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2020-2021 season was one of mixed emotions for the Nashville Predators, but one positive to take away was the play of Luke Kunin.

Kunin didn’t come in with huge expectations, but became one of the key contributors for the team and looks to be a piece for the future.

It was a shaky first half of the season for Kunin, but he came back with a vengeance after suffering an injury and recorded 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) in his last 21 games.  He is all but a lock to be protected in the upcoming expansion draft, and now we have to wonder if he’s going to receive a contract extension.

Should Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile aim to lock up his young forward before the end of the offseason, or should he wait until after the new season begins to put the pen to paper?

Pros and cons of finalizing extension during the summer

If Poile decides to extend Kunin within the next three months, he is banking on Kunin’s potential, and he has good reason to.

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Kunin is only 23-years-old and based on his year-to-year progression, he should continue to improve.  Not to mention that his bruising and grinding style of play perfectly fits what the Predators are trying to accomplish as a team.

And with his cheap contract that contains one more year at only $2.3M, if Poile decided to get a deal done now, it would still be at a relatively cheap cap hit.  That could be critical because if Kunin were to start next year without a new contract and play well out of the gate, the Predators could be on the hook for more money than they want or anticipate giving out.

As previously mentioned, giving Kunin an extension now is risky, because he is largely inexperienced and has yet to truly sustain the level of play he played at this past year.  Just because a player looks promising doesn’t mean he will ultimately pan out as one might expect. Just look at Kevin Fiala as evidence.

And for a team like the Predators, right now might not be the time to reward their young and unproven players with pay-raises.  This is a team that is moving in a new direction, and extending Kunin might set a precedent that potential alone is good enough for the organization’s standards.

Let’s also remember that the Predators are in a precarious situations in regards to their contracts, and the last thing they need is to add fuel to the fire.

The Verdict for Kunin and the Nashville Predators

Now is not the time to give Kunin a new contract this summer.  We need to see more than a half-season of consistent production before he cashes in on a new deal. And let’s be real, Poile has way more important things to worry about this offseason before he thinks about Kunin, including a backup goaltender search after Pekka Rinne’s announcement of retirement.

While I would not get an extension done now, it doesn’t necessarily mean wait until next offseason to get it done.  The main reason for that is if Poile waits that long, he could end up having to pay more money than he would have if he did it months earlier.

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If Kunin gets off to a really good start in the 2021-2022 season, then pull the trigger if you’re Poile.  At that point, he is continuing to prove himself and with how hard he works, there is no need to worry about him declining for several years.

Anywhere from $4-$5M per year to lock up Kunin seems fair, and if he were to continue to play well in the month of October, the Predators should expect him to demand roughly that much on his next deal.  I love everything he did this past year and certainly hope that will be the case.