Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg is Forcing the Hand of David Poile

Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) during the first period against the Montreal Canadiens at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) during the first period against the Montreal Canadiens at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The ongoing saga of Filip Forsberg‘s contract season has put Nasville Predators General Manager David Poile in quite the predicament with his superstar.

On the one hand, Forsberg’s stellar play is helping the Nashville Predators vastly outperform preseason expectations and has them with the most points in the Western Conference standings.

Forsberg is up to 18 goals in just 26 games played, which is by far way ahead of his career goal pace of 0.37 goals per game. He’s at just under 0.7 goals per game this season. He’s missed the last two games due to covid-19 protocols, but the Predators have managed to notch wins in his absence.

Poile has a difficult decision to make that might force him to really overspend to keep Forsberg in Nashville. Everyone understands he’s due a massive pay increase from his current salary of $6M which was signed back in July of 2016.

The prevailing question is just how much is Poile willing to pay, and will that even be enough to entice Forsberg to sign long-term and resist the urge of pursuiting a Stanley Cup elsewhere? And Does Forsberg feel that the Nashville Predators are building a Stanley Cup caliber team again? That’s very important in all of this.

Forsberg’s camp has all the bargaining power

Thanks to Forsberg playing on the elite level that he’s on this season, he’s really done himself a lot of favors in maximizing his value.

At just 27-years-old, Forsberg is really setting himself up for a massive long-term contract once he gets to the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. If he was just having another ordinary season by his standards, then maybe Poile would have more bargaining power to work out a shorter term deal with not as much risk.

However, Forsberg has earned himself all the power at the negotiating table, which is why I suspect this is lingering throughout the season. I’m sure Poile would love to get a deal done before the season ends, but I just don’t see that happening.

Just a week ago Poile gave some rather candid comments to 102.5 The Game in Nashville regaring the ongoing contract talks with Forsberg:

Poile kind of played both sides of the fence with his comments, revealing that he has every intention to re-signing Forsberg, but that both sides clearly aren’t there yet. It’s a business and he has to think about the best interest of the franchise as a whole.

“We want to sign Filip, I believe he wants to sign here, but it’s a business transaction that has to work for both sides.” – Predators GM David Poile on Forsberg contract talks to 102.5 The Game

Nashville Predators might lose Forsberg for nothing in the offseason

The Predators front office is really in a lose-lose situation here, unfortunately. If you deal Forsberg before the March 21 trade deadline, then yes you’ll haul in a lot of assets and avoid the nightmare of losing your superstar for nothing in the offseason.

However, the downside to that is you lose a huge weapon, the biggest weapon among your forwards, as you pursuit a playoff spot and even possibly a division title. Losing Forsberg will drastically hamper your chances of going deep in the playoffs.

Forsberg is on track to set the new franchise single season record for goals in a season which is currently held by Viktor Arvidsson at 34 goals. If Forsberg can avoid any more games missed due to injury, he should be able to break that record and add it to his impressive résumé.

The pessimistic side of me says just deal Forsberg before the trade deadline and acquire a lot of assets, because you’re likely not going very deep in the playoffs even with Forsberg remaining in the lineup. Then you bypass the risk of losing in the first round yet again, only to lose Forsberg in free agency.

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This is such a tricky and challenging dilemma for Poile to be in, and I can honestly see this going a few different ways. Poile lengthy experience as a NHL general manager does give me some confidnence that he can work something out and keep Forsberg in Nashville. But the long-term aspect of it scares me a bit if indeed this is his peak, and he’ll just drop back down to a mid-tier forward after this contract year.

Ultimately I see this lingering into the offseason and a huge bidding war commences. The only way the Nashville Predators keep Forsberg is by likely overpaying and possibly hampering their abilities to retain other important role players in the coming seasons.

That’s the fear, but in the end there’s no right ansnwer here. It’s going to be a difficult decision to come to either way for Poile.