NHL free agency 2023: Ryan O'Reilly signs 4-year, $18 million contract with Predators

The Nashville Predators have shored up their centre position by adding the former Conn Smythe winner.

The Nashville Predators have reportedly made a major splash on the first day of free agency by signing veteran centre Ryan O'Reilly.

Nashville has inked the 32-year-old centre to a four-year deal with worth $4.5 million per season. The deal leaves the Predators with $16.94 million in cap space to continue their offseason shopping.

O'Reilly is coming off a season where he produced 30 points in 53 games, but his offensive output improved after a midseason trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Between the regular season and the playoffs, he tallied 20 points in 24 games for Toronto.

Ryan O'Reilly had nine points in 11 playoff games for the Maple Leafs. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Ryan O'Reilly had nine points in 11 playoff games for the Maple Leafs. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

While that strong finish was undoubtedly a positive sign for the Predators, O'Reilly's offensive production was not his only selling point to Nashville.

The 32-year-old is also a strong two-way player who finished in the top five in Selke Trophy voting in each of the four seasons prior to 2022-23. He also comes with plenty of playoff pedigree as a Stanley Cup winner with a Conn Smythe Trophy on his shelf. His presence was also critical to earning the Maple Leafs their first playoff round in 19 years in 2022-23.

Although O'Reilly has declined slightly with age, he was still arguably the top centre in a weak free agent market. The Predators had an acute need for top-six players after shipping Ryan Johansen to the Colorado Avalanche and buying out Matt Duchene in the days leading up to free agency.

Going to Nashville probably isn't the best move for O'Reilly if he's looking to win another Stanley Cup, but the team was likely able to promise him a prominent offensive role — and some other squads may have been reluctant to give a four-year contract to a player entering his age-32 season.

After signing this contract, O'Reilly is the Predators forward with the highest salary cap hit, and the only one signed through 2026-27.