In less than three weeks, Forsberg is due to become an unrestricted free agent and be one of the top targets on the market. He will have multiple suitors looking to add a player still in his prime that just set career marks in points (84), goals (42), power play points (27), and shooting percentage (18.6).
Per a report from NHL.com Correspondent John Glennon, General Manager David Poile has made an offer to Forsberg of eight years, and cites that the soon-to-be free agent will not sign for anything less than eight years.
Hopes of Forsberg returning to the Nashville Predators have gotten bleaker by the day going all the way back to the trade deadline in March when Poile took a major risk by deciding not to make a trade and get a lucrative haul in return.
Perhaps Poile will cave in to Forsberg’s demands and a deal gets done at the very last minute and we’ll avoid disaster of losing the franchise’s leader in goals for absolutely nothing in return. Not even a penny.
However, there’s still that very real possibility that Forsberg moves on, and leaves the Nashville Predators in a heap of trouble heading into 2022-23 season. Is it that simple, or can Poile be a big spender with all of his cap space to work with?
The Predators’ current projected cap space is 11th-most in the NHL at $21, 561,358 per CapFriendly. Their latest team transaction was the signing of Cody Glass to a one-year deal. It’s a two-way contract with a $874,125 cap hit.
What’s Plan B for the Nashville Predators if Forsberg doesn’t return?
Even if Poile tries to replace the Forsberg void with another big time free agent, I don’t see how the Predators will be anything more than mediocre next season. Replacing Forsberg with any of these other free agents won’t be enough to push this team over the first round playoff hump.
What we saw from the Predators last season was their absolute ceiling with this current roster, even with Forsberg. Take Forsberg out of the picture and it shakes up the entire chemistry this team has, most notably with Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund.
The path forward in terms of improving and becoming a legit Stanley Cup contender has to involve retaining Forsberg, while also making another impactful move to address the offensive output. The Predators have the cap space to do both.
Forsberg has earned his huge payday not just from what he did last season with career highs in so many offensive categories, but also how he makes his linemates around him better, forechecks and is an on-ice veteran leader.
Do you really think Duchene is going to repeat last season’s performance, or even come close, if Forsberg is out of the picture? I think not, unless Poile has a trade up his sleeve to acquire the likes of an Alex DeBrincat or David Pastrnak.
Your most dominant forward line by a mile is broken up without Forsberg, and there’s no one on this current roster to replace him. Poile will have to go heavy in the paint to shop for a replacement, which scares me that he’ll be pushed into aother bad contract.
The power play, which showed considerable improvement last season, will likely revert back to being unreliable without Forsberg. It was a big factor into the Predators exceeding preseason predictions and making the playoffs.
A Fork in the Road for this Franchise
To add onto all of this uncertainty surrounding their superstar hitting unrestricted free agency, the team was just sold to former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. He will gradually become majority owner over the coming years, which means a dramatic shakeup from the top down could be coming soon.
If the Predators fall even further back in the Western Conference pecking order next season after losing Forsberg in the offseason, I don’t see how Poile is kept as General Manager for very much longer.
Poile has to figure out a way to get Forsberg to sign the dotted line, but he has also stated recently that it’s a balancing act to not negatively impact the team by offering too much to keep Forsberg:
"“We’re taking a position where we feel we’re offering the right thing.They’re taking a position where they think it should be more than that. I’m trying to weigh the balances of what I pay to each individual player vs. my total team cap and what other things we need to do to have a good team going forward.”- Per John Glennon’s report on NHL.com"
We’re at a massive fork in the road for this franchise in many ways this offseason. Without Forsberg in the picture, the front office will have to forge ahead with a predominantly young team and look towards possibly going through some dark years to get back to postseason success.
On the flip side, if they end up coming to an agreement on a long-term deal that gives Forsberg a contract on the level of Roman Josi‘s, then once again the team will enter the season as a fringe playoff team looking to finally get past the first round again.
I don’t think I’m being overdramatic when I say that losing Forsberg will greatly tarnish Poile’s legacy as General Manager of the Nashville Predators, which will be unforunate considering all of the good he’s done for this franchise from the expansion years throughout all of the postseason appearances.
Forsberg has all the leverage, and we knew that as soon as the trade deadline passed. Hopefully his loyalty to the Nashville Predators reigns supreme and something gets done, but I have very little faith in that happening. After all, it’s ultimately a business decision as both sides have stated.