Duchene signing with the Stars brings a close to what has been a hectic last 24 hours for the nine-time 20-goal scorer. On Friday, the Nashville Predators elected to place Duchene on waivers for the purpose of a buyout with three years remaining on a contract carrying an $8 million annual cap hit.
Finding a top-nine forward who could be used throughout the lineup became a priority for the Stars. It was something Stars GM Jim Nill and his front office staff addressed at the NHL trade deadline when they acquired Evgenii Dadonov and Max Domi in separate deals. Both Dadonov and Domi played important roles for the Stars late in the regular season and again in the playoffs.
Getting to the Western Conference Final where they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights reinforced the Stars were in a championship window. But it also meant trying to improve their roster with limited cap space. They re-signed Dadonov to a two-year contract worth $2.25 million earlier in the week which left them with a little more than $5.144 million in available cap space.
Even with that $5.14 million, there was an internal belief that re-signing Domi would be a challenge given he could potentially command more money on the open market.
Bringing in Duchene, who led the Predators with 22 goals, strengthens a forward group that already has Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Wyatt Johnston and Dadonov.
There was an expectation that Duchene could be moved with the caveat that the Predators' decision to buy him out was still something of a surprise. Longtime Predators GM David Poile began retooling the roster during the trade deadline with his successor Barry Trotz, who was also the first coach in team history, continuing with that plan.
"It was heartbreaking, I found out very late in the process and obviously, I've been beyond grateful to have been a Nashville Predator," Duchene told TSN. "Nashville will be home for us forever. That's where we love and that doesn't change with this. I understand obviously what's going on there. New things happen and directions get changed. I can't say enough about my time there and how much I love the fans, the city, everything.
"On the other hand, this is a business and I'm really excited to be joining an amazing team in Dallas. Really looking forward to it."
Duchene signed that eight-year contract four years ago Saturday. It was a plan that saw him and Johansen serve as the top-six anchors for a team that was trying to maximize is window as a Stanley Cup contender having just lost the 2016-17 Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Since reaching the Cup Final, the Predators had only reached the second round once with their eight-year playoff streak ending this season when they finished three points adrift the final Western Conference wild-card spot despite having what could be viewed as a stripped-down version of their roster compared to the start of the season.
The Stars also announced they had signed forward Sam Steel on a one-year deal worth $850,000. Steel spent last season with the Minnesota Wild where he scored a career high in goals (10), assists (18) and points (28) while also having two points in five playoff games.