Updated Landing Spots for Free-Agent Predators Forward Filip Forsberg
After the Nashville Predators were swept from the opening round of the playoffs by the Colorado Avalanche, Paul Skrbina of The Tennessean raised questions about the club's offseason plans. Topping his list was the future of Filip Forsberg.
Eligible for unrestricted free agent status on July 13, Forsberg is completing a six-year contract with an annual average value of $6 million. The 27-year-old left winger has been a reliable offensive performer for the Predators, tallying at least 21 goals and 48 points in six of his last seven seasons.
The 2021-22 campaign, however, saw Forsberg enjoy a career year, with 42 goals and 84 points in 69 games. Those stats would've been higher had he not been sidelined for 13 games. He finished second among Predators scorers in goals and third in points. Since his breakthrough performance in 2014-15, he's the club's leader in goals with 219 and second to Roman Josi with 463 points.
Following the Predators' elimination by the Avalanche, Forsberg told reporters his goal is to stay in Nashville. Nevertheless, his asking price could be over $8.5 million on a seven- or eight-year extension. With $25.9 million in projected salary-cap space for 2022-23, the Predators have room to sign Forsberg to a lucrative long-term extension.
A potential problem, however, is they already have two forwards earning $8 million annually in Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene. General manager David Poile could be leery about having a third one on a club engaged in what he called a "competitive rebuild" last July.
In February, we examined five potential landing spots for Forsberg on the trade market. The following is an updated look at five possible destinations if he becomes an unrestricted free agent. You can express your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
The Calgary Flames topped the Pacific Division standings this season in part because of Johnny Gaudreau's career-best 115-point performance. However, the 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent. If his asking price is too expensive, Flames general manager Brad Treliving could seek an alternative such as Forsberg.
Gaudreau's position among this season's top-five scorers could push his next annual cap hit to well over $10 million.
Forsberg is a left winger accustomed to first-line minutes, making him a solid replacement for Gaudreau. He's more of a goal scorer than the playmaking Gaudreau but should still fit in well on the Flames' top line alongside Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk.
Flames head coach Darryl Sutter's reputation as a demanding bench boss could raise questions over whether Forsberg could adjust to his style. However, he has played under two experienced, defensive-minded coaches in Peter Laviolette and John Hynes with Nashville. Like Gaudreau, he could thrive under Sutter's guidance.
Forsberg would also be joining a team he knows well from his years with the Predators. He'd remain in the Western Conference, joining a ready-made playoff club with Stanley Cup ambitions.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Re-signing restricted free agent Patrik Laine is among the priorities facing Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. If he is unable to reach an agreement with Laine, Kekalainen could end up trading the 24-year-old left winger. That will put him in the market for a replacement.
Forsberg could end up on Kekalainen's radar. He'd be a solid replacement for Laine at left wing on the Jackets' top line alongside center Jack Roslovic and veteran right wing Jakub Voracek.
While Forsberg isn't as dynamic a goal scorer as Laine, he has considerably more experience and has played under coaches who stress solid two-way play. Skating between two veterans like Forsberg and Voracek could help Roslovic find the consistency needed to be a reliable scoring center.
The Jackets are still building toward postseason contention. They exceeded expectations this campaign despite failing to qualify for the playoffs. They have a good mix of young talent such as Roslovic, Zach Werenski and Cole Sillinger along with established veterans like Voracek, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Elvis Merzlikins.
With $54.4 million invested in 15 players for next season, the Blue Jackets would be well-positioned to make a competitive bid for Forsberg. The salary cap is expected to be $82.5 million. He could provide the Jackets with the experience and leadership necessary to accelerate their rebuild and put them on a faster path to playoff contention.
New Jersey Devils
We had the New Jersey Devils among our five previous landing spots and trade ideas for Forsberg. He would still be a terrific fit with a rebuilding club that could be poised for playoff contention with a significant free-agent addition or two.
The lack of a proven scoring winger to play alongside Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier remains an issue. Having someone of Forsberg's skills skating with either center could provide a significant boost to the team's scoring punch. On May 5, Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald indicated he'd like to add an established player to his group of core forwards.
Fitzgerald could attempt to find that player in this summer's trade market. But New Jersey has $57.2 million invested in 15 players next season. While he has to shore up his goaltending and re-sign restricted free agents Jesper Bratt and Miles Wood, the GM should have enough to make a notable free-agent addition.
It wouldn't be the first time Fitzgerald made a big splash in the free-agent pool. He surprised many observers last summer by adding puck-moving defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Forsberg could provide the Devils with the offensive lift necessary to finally break through as playoff contenders.
New York Islanders
A lack of scoring depth contributed to the New York Islanders' failure to reach the playoffs this season. Their 2.79 goals per game ranked in the bottom third of the league. That could send general manager Lou Lamoriello on the hunt for a scoring winger.
On May 10, NYI Hockey Now's Stefen Rosner speculated that Lamoriello could use his 2022 first-round pick (13th overall) as a trade chip to acquire a top-four defenseman or a top-six winger. If the Isles GM retains that pick, perhaps he'll shift his attention to this summer's free-agent market for someone such as Forsberg.
Lamoriello needs to find a suitable scoring winger for center Mathew Barzal. Winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2017-18 following his 85-point debut, the playmaking center could see his production return to those heights again with Forsberg on his line.
Salary-cap space is an issue. The Islanders have $70.5 million invested in 18 players for 2022-23, with restricted free-agent defenseman Noah Dobson in line for a raise coming off his entry-level contract. Lamoriello would have to make a cost-cutting move or two to find sufficient cap space to add someone like Forsberg.
That could be accomplished by shipping out goaltender Semyon Varlamov and his $5 million cap hit now that Ilya Sorokin has proven himself as a starter. Finding a trade partner for underachieving winger Anthony Beauvillier ($4.2 million) could clear more room to take on Forsberg.
Despite the Predators' quick exit from the 2022 playoffs, Forsberg made it clear his goal is to sign a long-term extension with the team. It's apparent general manager David Poile wants to keep the winger in Nashville. Following the trade deadline, he expressed his hope of getting Forsberg under contract.
Reaching an agreement on acceptable terms won't be easy. While the Predators have the cap room to sign Forsberg, Poile must keep his long-term cap space in mind.
Forsberg could perhaps get more money on the open market. However, Poile could try to tempt the winger into accepting a little less than market value for an extra year on his contract. Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams can re-sign their pending UFAs to a maximum of eight years if the deal is made before free agency begins. The most Forsberg can get elsewhere is a seven-year deal.
There's an old saying that the grass isn't greener on the other side. In other words, Forsberg could get a better deal with another club but may find that he's not as good a fit with that team. He might opt for the familiarity of Nashville and the only NHL team he's ever played for.