With just about two weeks left until the start of free agency, the Nashville Predators and Filip Forsberg are entering the danger zone. Will they be able to find common ground to get a long-term extension done?
Some recent reports are suggesting that the two sides may be heading for a divorce. If that were to somehow happen, Forsberg would have no shortage of suitors on the open market.
We need to set the scene for you as Forsberg signing with a new team would have drastic ramifications for the Predators, the team he signs with and the opponents in whichever division he joins. The 31 other teams would love to add a dynamic player like him to their roster. But because of the flat cap world, only a handful of teams would have a realistic shot to get him.
Setting the Scene
Forsberg is coming off a six-year, $36 million deal that he signed with the Predators in the summer of 2016. While he was productive throughout his contract, he enjoyed career highs in both goals and assists this past season with 42-42-84 in 69 games. He was on a 50-goal pace over 82 games.
Certainly it’s reasonable to think being in a contract year would motivate Forsberg to produce. He consistency showed why he was the Predators’ most dangerous player on every shift. If he had the puck in open space, good things usually happened for his team.
Forsberg really likes it in Nashville and would want to stay assuming a contract can be worked out. He said as much after their playoff exit against the Colorado Avalanche.
“I’ve said that since day one. The goal is to come back here,” Forsberg said. “The business side is completely different than the on-ice side, just kind of have to wait and see and play it out.”
Predators GM David Poile recently said the sides are talking and hoping to bridge the gap. But he did say that they won’t sign Forsberg for less than eight years.
From the Predators standpoint, they see this as offering the max term to Forsberg but is hoping the AAV can come in a little less than what he is looking for. In Poile’s words, “If we’re offering him an eight-year contract, it’s (Forsberg’s) team for the next eight years. He has to hopefully have a little buy-in to understanding that.”
Forsberg and his side are looking for a fair market deal. According to Frank Seravalli from Daily Faceoff, the ask from Forsberg is less than what Roman Josi gets. Josi’s AAV is at $9.059 million.
From a cap perspective, it seems the Predators could fit that in given they have over $21.5 million in cap space as of this writing. They do have some other business to attend to namely Luke Kunin’s next contract among others. But if Seravalli’s report is true about the ask, that feels like a golden opportunity for the Predators to close the deal.
But until pen hits paper, this is going to be a question. With that, the possibility of Forsberg leaving goes up. Poile even said that the player might “take a peek at free agency” but then could elect to sign before free agency begins. If he were to leave, which teams would make the most sense for him to go to?
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This is where we have to look at the fit most of all. Everyone would love to sign this kind of sniper. But the teams that would jump to the front would be those who can meet the asking price while providing Forsberg with a good fit and a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup sooner rather than later. This is why teams like the Arizona Coyotes don’t make sense here despite money not being an issue.
Which four teams are the most logical destinations for Forsberg in our view?
How fun would a combo of Forsberg and Sidney Crosby be? They would instantly become one of the more dynamic duos in the NHL. But before we can envision this, certain things have to play out.
The big story is the status of Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins will likely not act on anything else until the situation with their two stars is settled. In the event one or somehow both of them leave, that would open up a bevy of cap space for the Penguins to add talent with.
Even if they sign both, other moves could happen to open up the cap space needed to sign Forsberg. As long as Crosby is with the Penguins, they are all-in on the Stanley Cup. From both a win-now standpoint, this is logical. From a cap standpoint this is logical with the understanding that there are multiple ways to make it work. How about the fit on the roster though? Playing with Crosby works. But so would playing on another line to give the Penguins another dangerous weapon to attack with. What’s not to like from Forsberg’s perspective?
The Hurricanes are a contender who’s ready to take the next step. They have some questions of their own with potential UFA’s. The two big ones are Nino Neiderreiter and Vincent Trocheck. If one or both don’t come back, that leaves an opening perfect for Forsberg to fill.
If you thought Forsberg and Crosby was lethal, how about Forsberg and Sebastian Aho? From a fit standpoint, it’s perfect. The question will be dollars and term. Tom Dundon is known to pay players what he thinks they’re worth in his mind. Would he be willing to go between $8-9 million for Forsberg? Given what all Forsberg brings to the table, that should be a no-brainer.
New Jersey Devils
By default, if you are a star winger, you automatically make the Devils’ interested list. With plenty of cap space on hand and a desire to get out of mediocrity, signing Forsberg would help expedite their build back to contention. Playing with Jack Hughes certainly doesn’t hurt the case here.
The Devils would have options in terms of how to proceed given they have the second-overall pick in the upcoming draft. Maybe they look at Simon Nemec or David Jiricek with the second pick and take a swing at a seven-year deal for Forsberg. Then they look to add Jack Campbell or another goalie to go with MacKenzie Blackwood in net. All of a sudden, the Devils are not that far away from taking the next step. If he were to hit market, I could see the Devils being the most aggressive pursuer.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings took the Oilers to the brink in the playoffs. Adding a player the caliber of Forsberg could help them get to the next level. The Kings have a very young roster which gives them plenty of cap space to work with.
Now consider the presence of former teammate Viktor Arvidsson and you have a clear path for Forsberg to say yes to Los Angeles if he hits market. If there was one thing the Kings were missing from last year, it was a dynamic scoring winger who could fill the net.
With the Kings considered deep in young talent and clearly on the way up, this feels like an almost perfect situation for Forsberg to join. If he doesn’t re-sign in Nashville, don’t be surprised if the Kings land him.
The Penguins could use another star in their pursuit of the Cup. The Hurricanes are ready to become a serious annual Cup contender. The Devils need wingers to help their young centers. The Kings present an almost perfect situation. It’s for those reasons that these teams are the most logical destinations for Forsberg if he hits market come July 13.