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How Failed Kuznetsov Trade Influenced Predators In Free Agency

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The Predators tried to trade for Evgeny Kuznetzov

In his brief tenure as Nashville Predators general manager, Barry Trotz has proven he’s not afraid to be aggressive.

Which explains why before he bought out 32-year-old forward Matt Duchene one day before the start of free agency, Trotz reportedly tried trading the former 40-goal scorer, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

“Before Nashville signed Ryan O’Reilly — and they might have done it anyway, I don’t know — they were talking to Washington about (Evgeny) Kuznetzov,” Friedman said on his “32 Thoughts” podcast.

“To be honest, I wonder if it was a Kuznetsov-for-Duchene deal because I heard it happened before Duchene was bought out. So, I kind of wonder if that was what they were talking about. Now, this trade fell apart. It makes a lot of sense; Barry Trotz won a Stanley Cup with Kuznetsov, who was incredible during that run…but that (trade is) obviously over.”

Sources told Nashville Hockey Now that the Predators did indeed inquire about trading for Kuznetzov, who reportedly wants out of Washington. The parameters of a deal were discussed, but it hasn’t been confirmed if it indeed was one-for-one.

The 31-year-old center had three of his best seasons in 2015 (20 goals, 77 points), 2017 (27 goals, 83 points) and 2018 (21 goals, 72 points) when Trotz was head coach of the Capitals.

It’s believed the Predators were eyeing Kuznetzov and newly signed forward Gustav Nyquist to fill the top-six spots vacated by Duchene and Ryan Johansen, who was traded to Colorado a week before the draft.

When the deal with the Capitals fell through, Trotz instead pivoted to free agency to find his top-six center, signing Ryan O’Reilly to a four-year, $18 million deal.

“[O’Reilly] reminds me of a Joe Pavelski-type of guy that continues to produce,” Trotz said. “People follow him, and everybody around him is better. And for our young guys and our culture, that was a critical piece for us. … He has an effect on the offensive zone. He has an effect in the defensive zone. He has an effect in the faceoff circle. He has an effect in late-game situations, offensively and defensively.”

It didn’t Duchene long to find another team. He signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the division rival Dallas Stars on Saturday. He’ll make almost as much money from the Predators ($2.56 million) as he will from the Stars in 2023.

With three years left on his $56 million deal, Duchene’s buyout will cost Nashville $19.36 million over the next six seasons, including $5.56 million in dead cap in 2024-25 and $6.56 million in dead cap in 2025-26.

“It was heartbreaking, I found out very late in the process and obviously, I’ve been beyond grateful to have been a Nashville Predator,” Duchene told TSN. “Nashville will be home for us forever. That’s where we love and that doesn’t change with this. I understand obviously what’s going on there. New things happen and directions get changed.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_

(Photo of Evgeny Kuznetzov, left, Trevor Van Reimsdyk, center, and Zach Sanford by John Russell/Nashville Predators)