Atop the to-do list for the Nashville Predators this offseason is re-signing left-winger Filip Forsberg, the team’s leading scorer in each of the past two seasons. The 21-year old is a restricted free agent and is expected to walk away from the negotiating tables with a well-deserved raise.
General manager David Poile said at the end of the year press conference that he and Forsberg did not engage in contract discussions during the season and waited until it concluded.
The Predators can re-sign Forsberg to be either of these two contracts. One, a bridge contract, meaning a short-term deal, allowing him to test the free agent market and, possibly, earn even more money. Or two, he can sign a stable long term.
But one thing is for certain – Forsberg “loves” being with the Predators.
“I love being here in Nashville,” Forsberg said on May 14. “I love the city. I really love what we have going on here. The fans here are the best in the league. There is no other place I want to be.”
Forsberg had a career-high 64 points last season, and his 33 goals tied a franchise single-season record set by Jason Arnott in 2008-09. The year before, Forsberg had 26 goals and 63 points as a rookie.
As the Preds’ most promising scorer in team history, Forsberg has the leverage to get a big-money contract. The question is, however, how much?
James Neal’s $5 million cap hit is the most among the Predators’ forwards, according to GeneralFanager.com. Forsberg’s money will be in the same ballpark as Neal’s, and he has a case to surpass Neal when looking at statistics.
Looking elsewhere in the NHL, Forsberg’s next contract could range from $4.5 million to $6 million annually. Players of similar caliber, such as Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens and Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers, have a $4.5 million hit to their respective teams, which is a bargain.
Possibly the best comparison for Forsberg is 23-year-old Brandon Saad’s six-year, $36 million deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets last summer.
The only thing hindering Forsberg from potentially earning $6 million annually is his abysmal playoff performance this year. Reportedly dealing with a back injury, he registered just four points (two goals and two assists) and was a minus-11 in 14 postseason games.
However much money Forsberg will receive — likely anywhere between $5 million and $5.5 million — the Predators can afford to pay it. Paul Gaustad, who had a $3.25 million cap hit last season, is an unrestricted free agent, and Eric Nystrom, who is scheduled to make $2.5 million in 2016-17, will be moved this summer.
Nashville should not make these contract negotiations too complicated. Just pay the man.