Stamkos signs 4-year contract with Predators after leaving Lightning | (2024)

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'Unique experience for me' following 16 seasons with Tampa Bay; Nashville also adds Marchessault, Skjei in Cup push

Stamkos signs 4-year contract with Predators after leaving Lightning | (1)

© Mark LoMoglio/NHLI

By Robby Stanley Independent Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators made an aggressive push Monday to try to compete for the Stanley Cup, adding forwards Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Marchessault, defenseman Brady Skjei and goaltender Scott Wedgewood on the first day of NHL free agency.

After the Predators (47-30-5) finished as the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference last season and lost in six games to the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, they believe they have brought in significant scoring.

“It's huge because it's a statement, I think, for the rest of the League that these players will come to Nashville,” general manager Barry Trotz said. “These players see what we're doing with our franchise. We have lots to offer, and we're very determined to win. We're committed to that. That's what players want.”

Stamkos, 34, signed a four-year, $32 million contract ($8 million average annual value) with the Predators. The No. 1 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, he has 1,137 points (555 goals, 582 assists) in 1,082 games over 16 seasons, all with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has 101 points (50 goals, 51 assists) in 128 playoff games.

Stamkos had 81 points (40 goals, 41 assists) in 79 games last season and six points (five goals, one assist) in five playoff games. He ranks first in team history in points, goals, games, power-play goals (214), game-winning goals (85) and overtime goals (13).

The forward won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy for most goals in a season twice (51 in 2009-10, and 60 in 2011-12) and helped the Lightning to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021.

“This was a unique experience for me for sure,” Stamkos said. “Something I hadn’t really done in my career. When you’re trying to navigate where you’re going to play, there’s certainly a lot of factors that go into that. One, being a competitive team. Two, going to an organization that’s committed to winning. Three, probably the most important part, is it a fit for you and your family? When you have young kids like I do, being in the right city has to make sense for them as well.

“And then it’s got to be the right fit for you as a player. You try to check those boxes off as you go along. Some teams hit a couple. Some teams hit one or two. But I felt like Nashville continually, as we went through this process, hit a lot of those boxes.”

NHL Tonight talks about the Predators additions

Marchessault signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Predators ($5.5 million AAV) after he and the Vegas Golden Knights were unable to reach an agreement on a contract. An original member of the Golden Knights, the 33-year-old said he was disappointed he could not re-sign with Vegas, but told TSN, "I turned the page an hour ago. We move on. A new chapter, a new challenge for me and my family."

Marchessault, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP in 2023, when he helped the Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup, had 69 points (42 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games last season and four points (two goals, two assists) in seven playoff games. He has 487 points (230 goals, 257 assists) in 638 regular-season games for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Lightning, Florida Panthers and Golden Knights, and 76 points (36 goals, 40 assists) in 102 playoff games.

“To me, it’s an organizational win for today,” Trotz said. “But we don’t play the game on paper. Our lineup looks better, but we’ve got to be a better team. Plain and simple. You saw last year it took some time. This year it will take some time for some guys. We’ve got players from different organizations that don’t quite play the same way, but I think their DNA allows them to play the way we want them to play. We’ve got to give them a little time, and then hopefully we can get our feet off the ground and into training camp. I’m really excited about that.”

Trotz said his biggest priority heading into free agency was to address the void in the lineup left after Nashville traded defenseman Ryan McDonaghto Tampa Bay on May 21.

“A, he’s a good defender, and B, he’s a leadership guy,” Trotz said of McDonagh. “If I had to prioritize, I said I needed to fix the back end because I told our players I was going to do that.”

The Predators believe they did that with Skjei, whom they signed to a seven-year, $49 million contract ($7 million AAV). The 30-year-old had an NHL career-high 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists) in 80 games for the Carolina Hurricanes last season and nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 11 playoff games.

Selected by the New York Rangers in the first round (No. 28) of the 2012 NHL Draft, Skjei has 247 points (68 goals, 179 assists) in 609 regular-season games for the Hurricanes and Rangers, and 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 76 playoff games.

The Predators also re-signed defenseman Alexandre Carrier to a three-year, $11.25 million contract ($3.75 million AAV) and signed goaltender Juuse Sarosto an eight-year, $61.92 million contract ($7.74 million AAV) that will begin with the 2025-26 season.

Saros, 29, has one season remaining on a four-year, $20 million contract ($5 million AAV) he signed with Nashville on Aug. 16, 2021. He was 35-24-5 with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage in 64 games last season and 2-4 with a 2.02 GAA and .900 save percentage in six playoff games.

Carrier, 27, had 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) in 73 games last season and three points (one goal, two assists) in three playoff games.

Wedgewood signed a two-year, $3 million contract ($1.5 million AAV) to compete to be Saros’ backup. He was 16-7-5 with a 2.85 GAA and .899 save percentage in 32 regular-season games (28 starts) for the Dallas Stars last season and had a 2.28 GAA and .862 save percentage in three games off the bench in the playoffs (no decisions) -- his only NHL postseason experience.

A third-round pick (No. 84) by the New Jersey Devils in the 2010 NHL Draft, the 31-year-old is 48-48-22 with a 2.98 GAA and .899 save percentage in 130 NHL regular-season games (114 starts) for the Devils, Arizona Coyotes and Stars.

Goaltender Yaroslav Askarov, selected by Nashville with the No. 11 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, will also vie for the backup role at training camp. He has played three NHL games.

The Predators believe their additions in free agency have given them the necessary components to compete in the playoffs.

“I’ve been on championship-winning teams in the past in Tampa,” Stamkos said. “You see those teams that have won recently, there’s always a mix of a really good goaltender, an elite defenseman and some elite forwards. Even before today with the signings, Nashville checked those boxes. Obviously, a great goalie. (Defenseman) Roman Josi, he speaks for himself. You’ve got [forwards Filip Forsberg, Ryan O'Reilly and Gustav Nyquist], that line was dynamic last year. And they’ve got a great mix of younger players, too.”

The Predators haven’t yet determined where Stamkos, Marchessault and Skjei will fit into the lineup, but Stamkos and Marchessault will likely be top-six forwards. Skjei could play with Josi on Nashville’s top pair.

“We’re so excited to be part of this amazing franchise,” Stamkos said. “We saw what happened today with some of the other signings. A great day to be a Nashville Predators fan. Very, very excited to be part of that.”

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Stamkos signs 4-year contract with Predators after leaving Lightning | (2024)
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