NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Predators currently sit in seventh place in the NHL’s newly revamped Central Division for 2021, and look like they will be in selling mode with a seventh straight postseason appearance seemingly unlikely.
Over the weekend TSN’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Nashville general manager David Poile is already entertaining offers as he looks to rebuild the team just as quickly as it fell from contender status. Friedman’s sources indicated that only three players are off the table when it comes to potential deals: veteran goaltender Pekka Rinne, captain Roman Josi and fellow defenseman Ryan Ellis.
Rinne and Josi both have no movement clauses in their contracts, and Ellis has a long-term contract and teams with Josi on one of the top defensive pairings in the league. Everyone else, apparently, is available to be had for the right price.
Filip Forsberg needs to join them in the protected class.
Forsberg is the most exciting player on the Predators’ roster, capable of making highlight reel goals in the blink of an eye and putting the team on his back for stretches of games in a way no other skater besides Josi can do.
On Tuesday in Detroit, Forsberg had a goal and an assist in the Preds’ 2-0 win over the Red Wings. He had another goal taken off the board due to goaltender’s interference.
Forsberg now has a team-high nine goals this season. His 17 points have him on nearly a point per game clip, making it a wonder where this team would be through its 8-10-0 start if it wasn’t for the 26-year-old Swede.
Yes, his contract expires at the end of the 2021-22 season when the Predators may still not be back amongst the elites in hockey. And no, Poile and company won’t be able to re-sign him for anything close to the $6 million he’s played the last five seasons at.
But Forsberg consistently delivers offensively in a way that no other player on this team is capable of. Once he became a full-time member of the lineup in 2014-15 Forsberg posted five straight seasons of at least 26 goals, including back to back seasons of 30-plus, giving the Preds a top line scoring threat they’ve rarely possessed in the franchise’s history.
He also makes the players around him better, as evidenced by his terrific pass to set up Eeli Tolvanen’s power play one-timer against the Red Wings Tuesday. He’s topped 30 assists and 60 points three times in his career already. Even last season, when he was hampered by injury, a coaching change and the pandemic disruption, Forsberg still managed to score 21 goals and rack up 48 points in 63 games.
The bottom line is that Forsberg, along with Josi, are the faces of this team right now, and should be the foundational pieces of where they’re headed in the future.
This team needs a shakeup, and Poile would be wise to explore what he can get for high-priced centers Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, defenseman Mattias Ekholm and even promising youngster Dante Fabbro.
But as fans begin to return to Bridgestone Arena in larger numbers this season, and hopefully pack the place next year, Forsberg remains one of the team’s biggest draws. And with the Predators, like the rest of the league, hurting financially due to the reduced number of games and lack of attendance over the past year, don’t discount the value of having a star to sell.
Forsberg is a bonafide star. One of the few the Predators have. This season would already be a completely lost cause without him, and it’s hard to see any success in the near future without him.