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O’Reilly, Schenn Signings Commence Predators Culture Shift

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Newly signed Predators center Ryan O'Reilly

As the NHL free agent market opened for business, the Nashville Predators came out swinging.

The team added center Ryan O’Reilly, defenseman Luke Schenn and forward Gustav Nyquist — all three were included in The Athletic’s top 50 unrestricted free agent rankings.

O’Reilly, 32, spent 40 games with the St. Louis Blues and 13 with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, most notably winning a Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019. Nashville is the third Central Division team O’Reilly will play for.

His brother, Cal was in the Predators organization from 2005-2011.

O’Reilly’s deal is for four year and worth $4.5 million per season. He fills the Predators’ need for a center after they bought out Matt Duchene on Friday and traded Ryan Johansen to the Colorado Avalanche.

Ryan O'Reilly

Schenn, 33, signed a three-year contract worth $2.75 million per season. He was dealt from the Vancouver Canucks to the Maple Leafs in February for a third-round pick in the 2023 draft.

The veteran defenseman won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 and 2021, and he led the NHL in hits (318) this past season while averaging 16:21 of ice time per game.

Schenn is 67 games shy of reaching the 1,000-game milestone.

Nyquist, 33, signed a two-year deal worth $3.185 million per year. Last season, he scored 27 points in 51 games between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild.

He’s scored 20 more goals four times throughout his 11-year NHL career but he hasn’t done so since the 2018-19 season.

O’Reilly, Schenn, and defenseman Ryan McDonagh, have won a combined five Stanley Cups between them. Trotz (2018) and assistant coach Dan Hinote (2001) have also won a Stanley Cup, albeit Hinote won as a player with the Avalanche.

Going to the well in free agency wasn’t expected after Trotz told reporters he didn’t expect to be very active during the signing frenzy. He admitted in June that he felt the free agent class wasn’t very deep.

“I think we’re just looking for keeping discipline our window,” Trotz said. “For the most part, we’re looking for cultural pieces, we’re looking for more short-term people who can help us win. But at the same time (we’re) leaving enough room for when our young guys are ready.”

It’s clear Trotz has a vision for his version of the Predators — one that seems to include bringing in proven winners to help establish a sustainable winning locker room culture.

“You learn to go to those dark places,” Trotz said at the end-of-season press conference. “It’s hard enough to make the playoffs — it is really hard winning a round and going deep.”

Follow Nick Kieser on Twitter: @KieserNick

(Photo of Ryan O’Reilly, left, and Dante Fabbro via John Russell/Nashville Predators)