Austin Watson will be sticking around with Nashville for a few more years. In a rare mid-game announcement, the Predators announced that they’ve signed the winger to a three-year, $4.5MM contract extension. PuckPedia reports (Twitter link) that the deal pays a straight $1.5MM each season with no signing bonuses or trade protection. GM David Poile released the following statement regarding the deal:
Austin is the ultimate team player and we look forward to continuing to see him thrive and be an impactful member of our team. The Predators organization continues to support Austin and his family and are pleased to take this next step forward with them. His hard work, coupled with a caring environment has him in a good place to be successful on and off the ice. Austin sticks up for his teammates and does whatever is necessary to help this team win hockey games.
After being more of an energy player at the beginning of his career, Watson has started to show that he can be more of an offensive producer in recent years, posting a career high in goals (14) and points (19) in 2017-18 and points per game (0.43) last season. He’s off to a bit of a quieter start this year with a goal and an assist in two games but his ice time has also dipped under the 13 minute per game mark. Nonetheless, while he isn’t hitting the scoresheet too often yet, he does lead the team in hits and is among the league leaders in blocks per game by a forward.
Watson, a 2010 first-round pick (18th overall), has spent his entire career with the Nashville organization. Over his NHL career which spans parts of six seasons, he has 31 goals and 34 assists in 206 games while chipping in with 536 hits. $1.5MM is certainly a reasonable rate for a winger that’s capable of playing a regular role on the third line and represents a $400K raise on his current $1.1MM AAV.
Poile and the Predators still have a lot of work to do with their pending free agents, even after extending Roman Josi back on Tuesday. Wingers Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith highlight a group of seven players that are slated to become unrestricted free agents in July. With Watson’s deal, Nashville has nearly $70MM committed to 15 players for next season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.