NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 13: Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) and referee Jean Hebert (15) talk during the NHL game between the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks, held on December 13, 2018, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators defence is arguably the best in the National Hockey League. Players like P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi are worth the big salaries they command. However, Mattias Ekholm is likely the biggest value in the league.

A recent article in The Hockey News stated that Ekholm is one of the biggest bargains in the league.

Ekholm commands a salary of $3.75 million per season over the next three seasons. Josi has a comparable pay-rate of $4 million per season, but he’s likely to net a big raise after his deal expires next season. Subban brings in $9 million per year, but that deal was given to him by Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin. Ellis recently signed a long-tern deal that will give him $6.25 million a campaign until the end of the 2026-27 season.

These values are typical of Predators general manager David Poile. He’s widely regarded as one of the best negotiators in the league that manages to get key players to fit into the salary cap. Nashville’s cap juggling act is similar to the way the New England Patriots do it in the National Football League.

Subban’s big personality and big game overshadow the other three defenders. Josi was first regarded as the underrated one, but that title shifted over to Ellis. It’s now Ekholm’s time to be known as the most underrated defenceman of the group. Subban and Ekholm have formed one of the league’s best defensive pairings.

The Borlange, Sweden native is a big body at 6-feet-4-inches and 215 pounds. However, he’s not just a big, plodding defender. He has a great two-way game that is regarded as a shutdown-defender with offensive skill. The former fourth-round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft has five goals and 27 assists for 32 points in 44 games. Those numbers are good enough for second in points on the team behind first-line centre Ryan Johansen.

His two assists in Wednesday night’s 4-3 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks was his third straight multi-point game. He’s three points short of eclipsing his career-high of 35 in just over half a season.

He picked up the slack when Subban was out for 19 games and helped the Predators stay close in the Central Division. Nashville currently leads the rival Winnipeg Jets by one point going into Thursday night’s games.

Ekholm has managed to stay humble and looks at everything with a workman-like attitude. He is underpaid according to some, but he’s said he’s glad he won’t have to work after his hockey career is complete.

“These numbers, the money we get paid, it’s crazy how some people discuss small details in contracts,” he said to The Tennessean. “I’m just really happy with the deal I got. I know I’m going to be set for my entire life.”

Head coach Peter Laviolette has described that Ekholm is almost irreplaceable. Ekholm has added offence to his already solid defensive game. That offence has helped when players like Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg and Subban have been out.

Nashville is one of the favourites to hoist the Stanley Cup at the end of the season. The recent spate of injuries threatened that, but Ekholm helped stabilize the situation.

The Predators still will get players Kyle Turris back and regain the chemistry from the start of the season. However, the recent returns of Forsberg and Arvidsson as well the play of Ekholm have them starting to get back into form before the All-Star Break.

Ekholm will get that raise and maybe a Stanley Cup or two before his contract ends if he keeps up his solid play.

NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 13: Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) and referee Jean Hebert (15) talk during the NHL game between the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks, held on December 13, 2018, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


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