Brady Skjei will upgrade Nashville Predators, but the contract is questionable

It was obvious that the Predators would need to upgrade their blue line in free agency, and they did that by grabbing Brady Skjei from the Hurricanes.
Columbus Blue Jackets v Carolina Hurricanes
Columbus Blue Jackets v Carolina Hurricanes / Jaylynn Nash/GettyImages

Well let's get one thing right, the Nashville Predators were not sitting on their laurels on the first day of 2024 NHL Free Agency. Barry Trotz made several moves on Monday, and one of those was signing veteran defenseman Brady Skjei to a seven-year contract worth $7M per year.

Skjei has played eight full years in the NHL and for all but the first one, has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game, and over 21 in each of the last three. He brings a lot to the table, as he is very solid defensively, can play physical, and has been very offensively productive and instinctive in the last three years.

It had been known that the Predators were going to make upgrades to their defense this offseason, and that was especially important after losing Ryan McDonagh earlier. Bringing in a quality player like Skjei fills a huge hole, and with Alexandre Carrier also being re-signed, it looks like Trotz has all but figured out his blue line for 2024-25.

Brady Skjei signing does leave Nashville Predators with some questions

While Skjei is a very good player and should make a big impact on the Predators' back end, the signing is head-scratching in some aspects. Number one and most obviously, the money combined with the term on that contract are eye openers.

If it were a four or five year deal, it would hardly be an issue, but signing a guy for $7M per season until he is 37 is always a bit scary. Yes, it is the nature of free agency especially in a league where the salary cap is rising, but it is still a risk and the Predators will certainly be relying on his game to age well over the years.

Second of all, the fact that Skjei is a left-handed defenseman with little to no right-side versatility is a not exactly ideal. The Predators came into the day weak on the right side of their defense, and to essentially have done nothing about it is slightly disappointing.

It almost makes you wonder if they should have just kept McDonagh, who is also a really good left-handed defenseman and was such a huge part of the team, and had less money and term. Of course, it is not quite that simple, as McDonagh's trade request was a big part of why he was traded, and there are areas where Skjei is a decisive upgrade.

Skjei is a full five years younger than McDonagh, and can provide way more offense, at least in the scoring department. Of course though, Skjei will never replace McDonagh's impact as a leader and in the locker room, although signing Steven Stamkos effectively replaces that.

Skjei's role with the Preds should put him at the top with Josi

Nevertheless, Skjei will have a huge role carved out for him on the Predators, but the big question is where will he fit. My guess is that he will be on the top pairing with Roman Josi, as Josi has shown he can play on the right side, and that could turn into one of the more lethal defensive pairings in hockey.

With Carrier back in the fold, Head Coach Andrew Brunette will probably keep him paired with Jeremy Lauzon, and it is highly doubtful that Spencer Stastney and Luke Schenn see top pairing minutes. But all of this could change depending on what the Predators want to do with Dante Fabbro, who has usually played on the top pairing with Josi.

There is a very good chance that Fabbro ends up getting traded, because there is going to be an odd man out, and it is hard to see him having a future on the team. His future in Nashville has been in limbo for the longest time, he was frequently held out of the lineup when healthy in 2023-24, and is going to be a UFA at the end of the coming year anyway.

And for those of us who watched Fabbro play last year, it is easy to wonder why he was scratched so often despite seemingly playing well. But let's face it, when he is held out as often as he was last year, there is something the coaches obviously do not like, and the decision to play Stastney in the playoffs over Fabbro last year spoke volumes.

I cannot just sit here in this case and say that the coaches do not know what they are doing, and given the defensive logjam, it makes sense that he could be on the way out of town sooner rather than later.

The team will absolutely toy with different combinations in training camp, and I am sure that there will be some mixing and matching throughout the actual season. But as for right now, adding a talented player like Skjei, one of the top defensemen on the UFA market, is super exciting and shows how serious Trotz was about adding talent at premium positions.