While not mathematically eliminated, when center Matt Duchene was placed on injured reserve on March 6, the Nashville Predators were a team that wasn’t going to the playoffs. However, without Duchene, the team went on a impressive run and currently sit fourth in the Central Division. While the team didn’t get better without Duchene in the lineup, the 30-year-old center now returns to the team (after missing almost six weeks due to a lower-body injury) and many eyes will be on him.
The Athletic’s Adam Vingan (subscription required) writes that Duchene needs to prove his value to the team. Duchene, who signed a seven-year, $56MM contract in July of 2019, hasn’t lived up to his end of the contract so far after two years. He was expected to step in and solve the team’s second-line center issues, but instead he has struggled. He scored an underwhelming 13 goals and 42 points last year in 66 games and has struggled even more with just three goals and eight points in 24 games. With five more years of Duchene at $8MM per season, the team has to hope they can get Duchene going in hopes of potentially convincing a team, such as the Seattle Kraken to take him.
- It looks like Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman may have found himself a gem in recently acquired forward Vinnie Hinostroza. Acquired from Florida for middling prospect Brad Morrison, Hinostroza returned to his former team only to already post five assists in his first six games with Chicago. Originally added as a depth option, the Blackhawks could see a potential longer future with him. Hinostroza will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
- Sticking with the Hawks, forward Alexander Nylander tweeted out himself that he is skating again. The 23-year-old forward was injured during the playoffs last season, suffering a torn meniscus, and hoped that rest would be enough to be ready for this season. In December, he decided instead to have surgery on his knee instead and was given a recovery timetable of four to six months. Now with four months done, Nylander looks like he’s slowly progressing.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets announced that defenseman Zach Werenski, who was deemed out for the rest of the season due to a sports hernia, had successful surgery Wednesday. The recovery time for the surgery is expected to be six to eight weeks, ensuring that Werenski should be back for the start of training camp next season.