After the Nashville Predators were swept from the opening round of the playoffs by the Colorado Avalanche, Paul Skrbina of The Tennessean raised questions about the club's offseason plans. Topping his list was the future of Filip Forsberg.
Eligible for unrestricted free agent status on July 13, Forsberg is completing a six-year contract with an annual average value of $6 million. The 27-year-old left winger has been a reliable offensive performer for the Predators, tallying at least 21 goals and 48 points in six of his last seven seasons.
The 2021-22 campaign, however, saw Forsberg enjoy a career year, with 42 goals and 84 points in 69 games. Those stats would've been higher had he not been sidelined for 13 games. He finished second among Predators scorers in goals and third in points. Since his breakthrough performance in 2014-15, he's the club's leader in goals with 219 and second to Roman Josi with 463 points.
Following the Predators' elimination by the Avalanche, Forsberg told reporters his goal is to stay in Nashville. Nevertheless, his asking price could be over $8.5 million on a seven- or eight-year extension. With $25.9 million in projected salary-cap space for 2022-23, the Predators have room to sign Forsberg to a lucrative long-term extension.
A potential problem, however, is they already have two forwards earning $8 million annually in Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene. General manager David Poile could be leery about having a third one on a club engaged in what he called a "competitive rebuild" last July.
In February, we examined five potential landing spots for Forsberg on the trade market. The following is an updated look at five possible destinations if he becomes an unrestricted free agent. You can express your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
The Calgary Flames topped the Pacific Division standings this season in part because of Johnny Gaudreau's career-best 115-point performance. However, the 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent. If his asking price is too expensive, Flames general manager Brad Treliving could seek an alternative such as Forsberg.
Gaudreau's position among this season's top-five scorers could push his next annual cap hit to well over $10 million.
Forsberg is a left winger accustomed to first-line minutes, making him a solid replacement for Gaudreau. He's more of a goal scorer than the playmaking Gaudreau but should still fit in well on the Flames' top line alongside Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk.
Flames head coach Darryl Sutter's reputation as a demanding bench boss could raise questions over whether Forsberg could adjust to his style. However, he has played under two experienced, defensive-minded coaches in Peter Laviolette and John Hynes with Nashville. Like Gaudreau, he could thrive under Sutter's guidance.
Forsberg would also be joining a team he knows well from his years with the Predators. He'd remain in the Western Conference, joining a ready-made playoff club with Stanley Cup ambitions.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Re-signing restricted free agent Patrik Laine is among the priorities facing Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. If he is unable to reach an agreement with Laine, Kekalainen could end up trading the 24-year-old left winger. That will put him in the market for a replacement.
Forsberg could end up on Kekalainen's radar. He'd be a solid replacement for Laine at left wing on the Jackets' top line alongside center Jack Roslovic and veteran right wing Jakub Voracek.
While Forsberg isn't as dynamic a goal scorer as Laine, he has considerably more experience and has played under coaches who stress solid two-way play. Skating between two veterans like Forsberg and Voracek could help Roslovic find the consistency needed to be a reliable scoring center.
The Jackets are still building toward postseason contention. They exceeded expectations this campaign despite failing to qualify for the playoffs. They have a good mix of young talent such as Roslovic, Zach Werenski and Cole Sillinger along with established veterans like Voracek, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Elvis Merzlikins.
With $54.4 million invested in 15 players for next season, the Blue Jackets would be well-positioned to make a competitive bid for Forsberg. The salary cap is expected to be $82.5 million. He could provide the Jackets with the experience and leadership necessary to accelerate their rebuild and put them on a faster path to playoff contention.