Nashville Predators need to splurge this offseason, with or without Filip Forsberg | Estes

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Last we heard from Nashville Predators general manager David Poile on the negotiations with Filip Forsberg, the impression was unyielding.

He sounded like he’d run out of ideas.

"Something has got to give in the next couple of weeks for Filip to sign,” Poile said.

This was last Thursday. A lot may have changed between then and now. More could change between now and the start of NHL free agency on July 13. I write this knowing that a deal could be reached at any moment.

But as of Thursday, someone’s mind had to change to get this done.

Poile’s words last week – surprisingly candid for a GM in ongoing negotiations – were unnerving to anyone who'd assume Forsberg would stay in Nashville. They suggested two sides at an impasse. In other words, one side must be willing to give in and agree to something it doesn’t want to make a deal feasible.

That is common in negotiations, but this has been going on for months. When Poile says “something has got to give” at this late stage, it's with a whiff of exasperation. Sounds like he has carved a line in the ice.

And if he’s doing that publicly, it sounds like it won’t be the Predators giving ground.

And that sounds like Poile is in a tough spot.

If he caves and gives too much, he’ll get criticized. If he loses Forsberg for nothing in free agency after not trading him, it’d be even worse. Smashville's devotees might show up on Broadway with torches and pitchforks.

Nothing Poile can do about that now, though.

Remove the emotion and it remains understandable that a GM would refuse to trade a forward that was on a path to the best offensive season in franchise history – while his team’s legit playoff hopes looked a lot more promising than in the final weeks of the regular season, especially after Juuse Saros was injured.

I wouldn't be among those bashing Poile for letting Forsberg walk after not trading him for maximum value when he could.

I would bash Poile for re-signing Forsberg and then doing nothing else meaningful this offseason to help a roster that clearly needs more to contend for a Stanley Cup again.

Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) moves down the ice with the puck in Game 4 of a first-round playoff series Monday, May 9, 2022 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) moves down the ice with the puck in Game 4 of a first-round playoff series Monday, May 9, 2022 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

What's the holdup?

For months, I’ve expected a deal with Forsberg to happen. Most observers have.

That’s because both sides want one. Poile didn't trade Forsberg, and Forsberg has said all along that he wants to stay.

So what’s the holdup? It isn't the length of the contract. The Predators have offered Forsberg the max of eight years, per Poile.

Could be money. Poile has repeatedly suggested that's the case. Odd, then, that NHL insider Frank Seravalli said on his Daily Faceoff Podcast that Forsberg’s camp is asking “somewhere in the low” $8 million range. If that’s true, it’d be surprisingly reasonable for Forsberg – and not a huge bump on the $6 million has been making with the Predators.

If I had to guess, I'd say another snag could be a no-trade clause. The Predators, as policy, hate giving those.

But if a no-trade clause is so distasteful as to spoil a eight-year deal and months of negotiations, the team shouldn’t be awarding such a contract anyway.

Case and point: Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen each make $8 million on long-term deals. They don’t need no-trade clauses. The Predators can’t trade them anyway because no other team wants to take on their salaries.

For that kind of money, the Predators would end up married to Forsberg, too, once the time comes when they’d want to trade him. If it’s worth giving him all that money and all those years, then you might as well give the no-trade clause, too.

That’s not the real question.

To me, it's what happens after Forsberg re-signs or walks. How do the Predators improve in the coming months, with or without Forsberg? Because they must get better, though I’m not convinced they must keep Forsberg to do it.

A difference in want vs. need

Odds are that the Predators will keep Forsberg. They want to keep him. And they should want to keep him. Any team should want to keep its best players.

But if this becomes a matter of losing face or giving something you’d rather not give in order to save face, Poile shouldn’t let that force him to overestimate Forsberg's value.

Bringing Forsberg back is a status-quo move. It wouldn’t make the Predators better.

Forsberg is a very good, very talented player who hasn’t been great when it matters most. He had a career season in 2021-22. Then he disappeared while Nashville was being swept by Colorado's flying stars. Forsberg had one point in the series.

In the Predators' four playoff series losses since 2017-18, Forsberg averaged 0.55 points per game – as opposed to his career mark of 0.82 in the regular season.

Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau had a career-best 115 points this season.
Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau had a career-best 115 points this season.

For that reason, I don’t think it’d crush the franchise’s hopes and dreams to lose Forsberg. He's not irreplaceable. Not if the Predators are prepared. Not if they used the extra money to go sign, say, Johnny Gaudreau, a more prolific forward than Forsberg – and more importantly, a better postseason player (Gaudreau averaged 1.16 points in the playoffs this season).

Don't say the Predators can't do it. They have roughly $23 million in cap space.

That’s enough to have a lot of fun. It's enough to re-sign Forsberg (or chase Gaudreau) and still get creative. And without Forsberg, it’s enough to profoundly enhance the roster in any number of ways. The Predators could trade for another high-priced star and/or add two or three needed forwards to fill out the top lines.

There are plenty of avenues in which the Predators could emerge from this as a more formidable team without Forsberg.

One way they wouldn’t, however, would be to throw a fortune and Forsberg and call it a day, thinking that’s good enough when they should already know it’s not.

Reach Tennessean sports columnist Gentry Estes at gestes@tennessean.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes. 

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville Predators need to splurge, with or without Filip Forsberg