If the Nashville Predators truly are in a competitive rebuild, then the success of said rebuild hinges on General Manager David Poile’s ability to convince defenseman Mattias Ekholm and forward Filip Forsberg to sign long-term contract extensions this season.
Objectively speaking, Ekholm seemingly will be on board with staying put. Forsberg, on the other hand, may take a good bit of convincing. Following his comments during training camp on Tuesday, it would seem that Poile is going to have to bring his A game — and then some — if he’s going to persuade the 27-year-old Swede to stick it out in Nashville.
“I have no rush to sign,” Forsberg said Tuesday, via 102.5 The Game’s Robby Stanley. “I still have a full year. I don’t know. I feel like you have to play your contract out. I love this place. I’ve loved every minute since I got here.
“I definitely feel like we have a really good opportunity to make something great, not just this year but going forward as well. [But] it is a business and everything is going to have to be handled properly like that.”
It’s hard to fault Forsberg for wanting to play hardball. After all, he watched close friend Viktor Arvidsson get shipped to the Los Angeles Kings during the offseason, which prompted a large thumbs down emoji on Forsberg’s Instagram account moments after the trade was announced.
Then he saw fellow Swede Calle Jarnkrok — another close friend — get exposed in the Seattle expansion draft and swiftly snatched up by the Kraken.
Forsberg is also likely taking into consideration that defenseman Ryan Ellis, who took a hometown discount when he signed his contract extension, was traded just two years into his six-year deal. In addition, franchise cornerstone Pekka Rinne retired, wiping out four members of Nashville’s core from its Stanley Cup Final run in 2017.
Has too much damage already been done to the relationship? Is a rebuild — competitive or not — something Forsberg genuinely wants to be a part of in the middle of his prime?
“They have to believe in the organization and what we’re doing and where we’re going,” Poile said of Ekholm and Forsberg in mid-August. “But as we get into negotiations, those conversations will be taken up a notch. I certainly need to see how they see themselves fitting in because those types of players need to be our best players and be leaders for us. So they need to be totally 'bought in' or it’s not going to work.”
Then there are the financials. Forsberg is in the final season of a six-year, $36 million contract and is likely due for a sizeable raise somewhere in the territory of Gabriel Landeskog ($7 million average annual value) or Patrick Laine ($7.5 million AAV).
Is Poile willing to shell out that kind of cash with Roman Josi, Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene making $9.06 million, $8 million and $8 million per year, respectively?
The fundamental question that needs answered isn’t if Forsberg is worth the money he’ll be seeking — he is. No, the key consideration is if Forsberg sees a long-term future in Nashville — or has that bridge already been burned?
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_