NHL free agency 2023: Luke Schenn signs 3-year, $8.25 million contract with Predators

Despite mulling over a return to Toronto, Luke Schenn has taken an offer he couldn't refuse from the Predators.

SUNRISE, FL - MAY 10: Luke Schenn #2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs stretches prior to the game against the Florida Panthers in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the FLA Live Arena on May 10, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida. The Maple Leafs defeated the Panthers 2-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators are signing Luke Schenn to a three-year deal worth an annual average value of $2.75 million.

Schenn was acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline from the Vancouver Canucks. During his time with the Canucks, he operated as a key partner alongside Quinn Hughes, helping the 23-year-old star develop into one of the NHL’s best defenders.

Schenn was a godsend for the Maple Leafs during the playoffs and operated as a safety valve for Morgan Rielly. Toronto controlled 57% of the expected goals at 5-on-5 when Schenn was on the ice during the postseason and he was on the ice for 10 goals for versus two against.

It was believed that Schenn was mulling a return to the Maple Leafs or Canucks, but ultimately the Predators won out with a contract that may extend to the end of his career. Schenn’s stellar postseason performance likely ensured that the Maple Leafs wouldn’t be able to retain him on a meager budget with several free agents to retain, while looking to sign Auston Matthews and William Nylander to massive, long-term extensions.

Schenn won two Stanley Cups as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning and is the rare player who has improved in his 30s. Entering his age-34 season, Schenn could be paired on the Predators’ top pairing alongside Roman Josi in a somewhat similar role to the one he played with the Canucks.

Although this outcome was always within the range of possibilities, the Maple Leafs are likely reeling from losing one of their best playoff performers, a player who spoke repeatedly about the joy of playing for one of the NHL’s highest-profile franchises. He proved to be too expensive but he earned the bag from the Predators and it’ll be compelling to see if he continues at this rate of improvement as this deal ages.