The Nashville Predators have landed one of the top free agents remaining, signing Nino Niederreiter to a two-year, $8MM contract. The $4MM average annual value comes in quite a bit below the $5.25MM cap hit he had carried for the last five years, and the two-year term will leave him as a UFA again at the age of 31.
There is a lot to like about this deal for the Predators, who now have the opportunity to reunite Niederreiter with former linemate Mikael Granlund if they choose. Getting a 24-goal scorer for such a reasonable contract perhaps shows how tight the market has become in the days since free agency opened, as this move presents very little risk for Nashville general manager David Poile.
With Philip Forsberg taken care of, the Predators had nearly $8.5MM in cap space to add to the current roster, with only Yakov Trenin left to re-sign. Putting Niederreiter in the mix gives them another versatile, physical winger to move up and down the lineup, one that comes with a strong history of goal-scoring.
Over a career that spans parts of 11 seasons and 732 games, Niederreiter has scored at almost exactly a 20-goal pace and most of his damage comes at even-strength. On last year’s Carolina Hurricanes team, for instance, his 20 even-strength goals trailed only Sebastian Aho (23) and Andrei Svechnikov (21) for the team lead.
Adding that kind of player—who also comes with 1,115 career hits—will help to lengthen out an offensive group that suddenly looks rather imposing. After Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen‘s incredible bounce-back performances in 2021-22, the emergence of Tanner Jeannot and Philip Tomasino, and now Niederreiter’s addition, the team should be able to ice three lines that can produce offensively. Add in Ryan McDonagh on the back end and the Predators are setting up to be a real contender in the Central Division.
For the player, this is a rather stunning contract, given how similarly productive wings like Rickard Rakell had landed much longer and more lucrative contracts. Still, Niederreiter has set himself up to hit the market again in two years when the cap will be starting to increase and at a young enough age to land another long-term deal. For the next two, he should provide solid value for the Predators as they continue to chase their first Stanley Cup.