Predators lock down depth defensemen in wave of moves

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So, uh, this was sudden.

In a wave of moves that sort of came out of nowhere, the Nashville Predators handed contract extensions to three depth defensemen on Tuesday, as Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber, and Anthony Bitetto got new deals.

Irwin and Weber signed the same extension: two years, $1.35 million overall. Bitetto, meanwhile, signed for $650K in 2018-19. The Irwin and Weber extensions break down like this:

2018-19: $650K
2019-20: $700K

With these three extensions added to the mix, the only Predators blueliner without a deal through at least 2018-19 is Alexei Emelin. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Emelin and the Preds might discuss something after this season.

On one hand, the Predators can enjoy some cost certainty for 2018-19.

On the other, this trio of defensemen is pretty marginal. Nashville’s committing to Bitetto, Irwin, and Weber rather than giving prospects a better chance to rise up into the mix, not to mention possibly opening the door for cheap upgrades in free agency.

These deals are too thrifty to get too bent out of shape about, yet some are less than thrilled about the idea of retaining guys with such low ceilings.

The most interesting questions about Nashville’s defense arise as you look further and up the pecking order.

Ryan Ellis will need a raise from his bargain $2.5 million cap hit after 2018-19. Roman Josi will be in line for higher pay from his $4M following the 2019-20 season.

These contracts don’t really stop the Predators from re-signing either one of those guys, but it’s interesting to see GM David Poile insist on even keeping bottom-of-the-order players in the mix. It also makes you wonder if something’s cooking, as signing all three on the same day makes for interesting timing.

(Plus, Poile’s training us to believe that something’s always cooking, at this point.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.