The Filip Forsberg Deal is First Priority for Nashville

Filip Forsberg and the Nashville Predators are coming off a successful season. The Swedish sniper had a slow start to his sophomore campaign, but finished up with 33 goals and 31 assists as the team was one game away from reaching its first conference final in franchise history.

The 21-year-old has broken many milestones as he tallied the most goals in team history with 33. He also recorded two natural hat tricks in four days, which was the first time it was accomplished in a single season by a Predators player. The time between the two hat tricks was also the shortest between days since the 1987-88 season.

The slow start could have left the speedster off the Team Sweden roster for the 2016 World Cup, but his hot play after the New Year guaranteed his spot on Tre Kronor.

However, Forsberg only managed two goals and two assists in 14 games and his scoring could have tipped the semifinal against the San Jose Sharks the other way. (He did complain of a back problem that kept him away from the IIHF Worlds.) Despite this, it was a successful campaign for the Swede.

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The big question with the start of the offseason is how much will Forsberg get for his next contract. His entry-level deal is up, and he’ll be due for a raise. The question is “how long and how much,” and general manager David Poile knows that locking up his leading scorer is the first priority.

Super Scorer

Forsberg’s acquisition from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat and Michael Latta is one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory. The move got rid of the unhappy Erat, but also brought in a player widely regarded as a future prospect. The Östervåla, Sweden native has delivered that in spades.

According to our buddies at CapFriendly, Forsberg’s cap hit was only $894, 167 and that was the steal for a budget-conscious team like the Predators.

Nashville was often criticized for not having a lot of offensive sizzle in its lineup, but Forsberg has given the Predators a little more punch. His 6’2” frame and speed make him one of the better young talents in the league.

Scoring is a premium and Nashville sits in the rough-and-tumble Central Division. The team will need to have its leading scorer locked up if it wants to sustain being in the playoff hunt.

Making Filip Forsberg Fit

The main concern is will Poile be able to make Forsberg’s deal fit into the salary cap. Ryan Johansen will be a restricted free agent that will be arbitration-eligible at the end of the 2016-17 season. There’s no doubt that he’ll be the main priority once his teammate’s contract situation gets sorted out.

Johansen will be in line for a raise if he continues to make the Predators one of the better offenses in the Western Conference. The deals for older centers Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro run out and there’s uncertainty if either will return. That could free up the necessary funds needed to keep “RyJo” in the Music City.

However, Poile has to figure out how much he’ll be able to give the 23-year-old Vancouver native once the Forsberg contract gets figured out. Both players are young and have plenty of promise.

One thing Poile has hope for is his ability to get a discount on young talent. The Roman Josi deal is a thing of wonder as he’s locked up at $4 million until the end of the 2019-20 season. Mattias Ekholm’s deal was also very friendly at $3.75 million.

If Poile can get a hometown discount, it will be a major victory that will allow him flexibility in the future.

The Verdict

I’ll side with my fellow Predators writer Colin Fitts as he thinks a $5-$5.5 million deal would be a very fair deal.

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It wouldn’t cripple the team’s salary cap and it would allow Poile some room for Johansen to get re-signed and for any other moves that are needed to beef up a roster that is on the edge of something special.