When center Matt Duchene signed a seven-year, $56 million contract with the Nashville Predators this summer, the rest of the league barely batted an eye. "Come on," one prominent agent told me recently. "Everyone knew that was going to happen."
Indeed, the 28-year-old Duchene -- who has also played for the Avalanche, Senators and Blue Jackets -- has been linked to the Predators for years. In a conversation with ESPN, Duchene addressed why there was so much speculation surrounding the move (country music! property records!) as well as reaction to the shots former coach John Tortorella took in the media. Duchene also opened up about how he'd like hockey players to be marketed and whether we'll be comparing him to P.K. Subban for years to come.
ESPN: Many people in hockey -- fans, media, other players, executives, hockey Reddit -- speculated for some time that you would end up in Nashville. They mentioned your love for country music. A lot of people pointed out last year that you bought property in Nashville. Do you think the coverage was a bit overblown?
Matt Duchene: Yeah, I think so. I think the reason is because there were so many rumors. There were almost-trades that happened. There were things over the course of probably the last four years -- a lot of almosts. I think people know my interests. They thought my interest in country music was the reason I was going to end up there.
ESPN: You're not the only player who loves country music ...
Duchene: Yeah, totally. But I'm probably the most passionate about it in the league. At the same time, that wasn't part of our decision. The big thing about it was, it's a great hockey team, it's a great place for [me and my wife, Ashley] to live. It's our style of community and city and a place we'd love to bring our little guy up [Matt and Ashley welcomed a son, Beau, in January].
So, yeah, it was speculated for a long time, and there was definitely some merit to that speculation. There was a mutual interest, for sure. But even when I bought a property out there, it wasn't ever to live in. I mean, it's a small townhouse for an investment kind of thing. Short-term rental type thing because it's such a great market for that out there. My buddy lives next door. So that was the case with that. That place is going to come in handy right now when we move into our other place.
ESPN: Was it a little unnerving to see your property records online go so public?
Duchene: I was really upset about that because it looked like I had the whole thing planned out from day one. And that was never the case. When I went into camp last year with Ottawa, I was committed to playing there, and I thought there was a good chance I was going to stay there. We looked very hard at that. It was a tough decision to leave Ottawa. When I got to Columbus, same thing. We loved Columbus, and we looked at Columbus right up until the end. Once we got to the point where we got to choose, at that point, it was obvious where our hearts were. But throughout the rest of that, I was committed to the team I was playing for, for sure, one hundred percent.