Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced the team has signed defenseman Mattias Ekholm to a four-year, $25 million contract that will keep him in Nashville through the 2025-26 season. The contract will begin in the 2022-23 season and carries an annual average value of $6.25 million.
“When you think about foundational pieces on our hockey team, Mattias Ekholm is certainly at the top of the list, and we couldn’t be happier to get this deal done with the start of the regular season upon us,” Poile said. “An alternate captain who leads both vocally and by example, Mattias brings stability and size to our defense corps and has embraced serving as a mentor to the younger players on our team. We have a group of young, right-shot defensemen that includes Alexandre Carrier, Philippe Myers, Dante Fabbro and Matt Benning who all have the opportunity to learn from and play with Mattias on the side opposite him, and we’re excited about the stability that will provide us on the blue line.”
Ekholm, 31 (5/24/90), has played his entire eight-season, 586-game NHL career with the Predators after making his League debut during the 2011-12 campaign. He reached the 20-point mark for the sixth consecutive season in 2020-21, tallying 23 (6g-17a), the second-most among Predators defensemen; he also was third among all Nashville skaters in assists with 17. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound blueliner led the Predators and was tied for 16th among all NHL defensemen in plus-minus at +19, the third-highest total of his NHL career. Ekholm, who served as an alternate captain for Nashville last season, also notched two game-winning goals and recorded his first career multi-goal game on Feb. 27, 2021 vs. Columbus. In six Stanley Cup Playoff games, Ekholm recorded three assists, including two in Nashville’s Game 4 victory vs. Carolina, and averaged a career-high 26:27 of ice time, the second-best total on the team.
“Staying with this organization and in this city was a priority for me and my family, and I’m so excited to be able to sign this contract,” Ekholm said. “Nashville is home for us – it’s where we want to be. I believe in the future of this team and I’m looking forward to the chance at competing for the Stanley Cup here in the next five seasons.”
Among franchise defensemen, Ekholm ranks near the top in several statistical categories, owning a +90 plus-minus rating (second); 586 games played (fourth); 51 goals (fifth); 219 points (sixth) and 168 assists (sixth). He’s averaged 21:36 of ice time throughout his NHL career, the seventh-most among blueliners in Predators history, and he’s logged at least 20 minutes of TOI per game in each of his last six seasons, led by a career-high 23:35 in 2017-18. Ekholm’s best statistical season of his NHL tenure came in 2018-19, when he established career highs in assists (36), points (44) and plus-minus (+27), the latter of which is tied for the highest single-season mark in team history, en route to a 10th place finish in Norris Trophy voting. He also owns or shares two other franchise records for defensemen, including the most consecutive games with a goal (four, set in 2017-18) and most consecutive team games with at least two points (four, set in 2018-19). Ekholm has scored at least two game-winning goals in each of his last three seasons, and his 13 career game-winners are the fourth-most among defensemen in Predators history.
Originally drafted by the Predators in the fourth round (102nd overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft, Ekholm has suited up in 71 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, tied for the third-most among all skaters in franchise history. His +14 rating in the postseason is the best mark in franchise history; he also sits fourth in assists (27) and fifth in points (33). During Nashville’s run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, Ekholm tied for the team lead in assists with 10 and averaged 25:20 of ice time, the third-best mark among all skaters.
A native of Borlänge, Sweden, Ekholm has extensive experience competing for his home country, most recently representing Tre Kronor at the 2019 World Championship. He’s a two-time World Championship medalist, winning gold alongside teammate Filip Forsberg in the 2018 tournament and earning bronze in the 2014 edition. Ekholm also competed for Sweden in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and the 2010 World Junior Championship, where he took home a bronze medal and posted the tournament’s best plus-minus (+10). Before coming to North America, he skated two seasons for Brynäs of the Swedish Hockey League and won Defenseman of the Year in 2012 – while also claiming the Le Mat Trophy as league champions – and Rookie of the Year in 2011. He also played one season in the AHL for the Milwaukee Admirals in 2012-13, recording 32 points (10g-22a) in 59 games.