- Matt Porter of The Boston Globe posits that the Predators should consider trading winger Filip Forsberg. The 27-year-old is entering the final year of his contract and with Nashville heading into what appears to be some form of a rebuild, extending him would go against that direction and take away some potential assets to add to their future core. Forsberg carries a $6MM AAV without any form of trade protection which would give the Preds some extra flexibility to find him a new home if they decide to go that route at some point during the season.
After three straight early playoff exits, the Predators have embarked on somewhat of a reset this summer that saw long-term pieces Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Ellis head elsewhere. Speaking with Gentry Estes of The Tennessean, GM David Poile indicated that he wants to avoid the dreaded middle and is okay with taking a step back to move out of that spot in the standings:
- The Predators and winger Filip Forsberg have not yet started discussions on a contract extension, reports Robby Stanley of ESPN 102.5 (Twitter link). The 27-year-old has spent his entire career with Nashville, suiting up in 497 games, many of which have been spent on their top line. Forsberg has a $6MM cap hit for next season, the final year of his contract and he will undoubtedly be looking for a nice raise to give up a shot at testing the open market next summer.
The Nashville Predators have signed Eeli Tolvanen to a three-year contract worth $4.35MM. The deal will carry an average annual value of $1.45MM. Tolvanen was a restricted free agent and not eligible for arbitration.
Now 22, Tolvanen finally established himself as a full-time NHL player this season, playing in 40 games for the Predators. The 2017 first-round pick scored 11 goals and 22 points, but was held scoreless in the team’s short playoff run. He’ll have a good chance to increase those totals this season as he steps into a bigger role after the Predators said farewell to names like Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok, and Erik Haula.
These kinds of deals are the other edge of the David Poile sword. Though there have been several times his long-term contract extensions for veterans have been mistakes, he also has routinely locked up young players for a reasonable amount before a potential breakout. That’s exactly what could happen with Tolvanen, who has the potential to be a big offensive producer. If that happens in either of the next two seasons, there’s still time for this contract to be a big win.
For Tolvanen though, this is also a contract that likely guarantees him a roster spot. With just 47 regular season games to this point, he didn’t have a lot of leverage in contract talks and wouldn’t have been eligible for arbitration until next offseason.
With him signed, the Predators have now locked up all of their restricted free agents for the offseason.
- The Predators recently announced an affiliation extension with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. Nashville has been with them since 2019-20 with Tanner Jeannot and Cole Smith being the players who suited up for the Everblades that have since seen NHL action. The duration of the extension was not announced.
The Nashville Predators locked in Juuse Saros this week to a four-year, $20MM contract, but the work doesn’t end there for GM David Poile. The executive told ESPN radio that the focus will now turn to an extension for Mattias Ekholm.
Now that we’re past the Juuse situation, we’re going to turn our focus now to Ekholm. I actually spoke with his agent yesterday afternoon and we’re going to talk either later this week or next week on that.
Ekholm, 31, is heading into the final season of his six-year, $22.5MM contract signed in 2015 that turned into one of the best bargains in the NHL. Originally a fourth-round pick in 2009, Ekholm has been a key member of the team’s blueline since 2014 and has averaged at least 22:52 in each of the last five seasons. This year he had 23 points in just 48 games and is part of the reason why someone like Ryan Ellis was deemed expendable this offseason. The Predators moved Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers in a deal that cleared some cap and added some more young forward talent, but still have Ekholm and captain Roman Josi to anchor the back end.
While Josi is locked in long-term, Ekholm would be one of the top free agents if he hit the open market next summer. An extension would likely have to include a substantial raise on his current $3.75MM cap hit, with a contract like Jake Muzzin’s recent four-year, $22.5MM deal being an easy comparable. The fact that Ekholm will be 32 whenever his next contract begins is a big factor, but he has shown no real signs of slowing down to this point. The Predators have three depth defensemen–Mark Borowiecki, Matthew Benning, and Ben Harpur–all coming off the books after this season, which could free up a little bit of space depending on their replacements. The trio currently combines for $3.8MM.
There’s another big fish in Nashville scheduled for unrestricted free agency after this season though, as Filip Forsberg will be reaching the end of his six-year, $36MM deal. Poile also explained the team’s gameplan on an extension with the 27-year-old forward:
Shortly before training camp we’ll reach out to Filip Forsberg and his camp to sort of get a lay of the land as where Filip’s thoughts are right now. Those are the next two priorities.
Once again, Forsberg was a driving force behind Nashville’s offense (such as it is), scoring 32 points in 39 games. Incredibly, that was actually the most by any forward on the team despite him missing a good chunk of the season, showing just how important Forsberg is to the team overall. Nashville is basically running it back with almost the same group up front this season after only really bringing back Mikael Granlund in free agency, though several young players should be given a bigger role. Newcomer Cody Glass joins Eeli Tolvanen (who does not yet have a contract as an RFA) and Philip Tomasino as the team’s net wave of forward talent that could really tip the scales toward contending again.
It’s Forsberg though that will need to be the focus in a few weeks, as relying on the development of those young players without a consistent offensive player like him in the mix will be a difficult task. Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene have both been huge disappointments thus far, Viktor Arvidsson was traded this offseason and even Calle Jarnkrok, who finished second among all Nashville forwards this year, was lost to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. Losing Forsberg in free agency would create a giant hole up front similar to the one Ekholm would leave on the back end, meaning these two negotiations are extremely important if the Predators want to stay competitive in the short-term.
The Nashville Predators and starting goaltender Juuse Saros have reached a new agreement, signing a four-year, $20MM contract. The two sides had an arbitration hearing set for Wednesday, which will no longer be required. Adam Vingan of The Athletic provides the full breakdown:
- 2021-22: $4.0MM
- 2022-23: $5.0MM
- 2023-24: $6.0MM
- 2025-26: $5.0MM
The contract does not have any trade protection, despite buying out three years of unrestricted free agency for the 26-year-old goaltender. Saros experienced a real breakout this season, showing he could be the team’s full-time starter by appearing in 36 games and posting a .927 save percentage. He finished sixth in voting for the Vezina Trophy and even received some Hart Trophy consideration. Predators GM David Poile released a statement on the contract:
Juuse has proven himself as one of the best young goaltenders in the NHL, and we are very pleased to have him remain our No. 1 goaltender for years to come. While being mentored by Pekka Rinne, he has spent the last several seasons growing and taking steps physically and mentally to become a top goalie in this League, as evident by his spot on the NHL’s All-Rookie Team in 2017-18 to finishing near the top of Vezina Trophy voting this past season. Juuse gives our team a chance to win in every game he plays, and we feel confident that with him leading the tandem we’ve established with David Rittich, our goaltenders will be a large part of our success in 2021-22.
Even though this may have been the first year Saros was recognized on a national scale, Predators fans will know just how good he’s been since entering the league. As a 21-year-old rookie he posted a .923 in 21 games and has continued at a high level while playing backup to Nashville legend Pekka Rinne. Among goaltenders with at least 150 NHL appearances, he sits sixth all-time with a .920 save percentage.
With Rinne now retired and completely out of the picture, Saros will be asked to carry a heavy load. The team brought in David Rittich on a one-year, $1.25MM deal to serve as the primary backup, but there’s little doubt the newly extended Saros will get the bulk of the work.
The contract actually appears to be quite the bargain for the Predators, considering some of the other goalie deals that have been handed out recently. Linus Ullmark received the same four years and $20MM, for instance, but also negotiated a full no-movement clause in the first two seasons and a modified no-trade clause in the final two. While Ullmark was a UFA already, a year ahead of Saros, his numbers are also nowhere near as strong or as established.
Igor Shesterkin actually got a much higher contract, despite being two years away from UFA status and having just 47 games under his belt. While the Rangers netminder has been outstanding in the early going, his four-year, $22.67MM deal shows the haircut that Saros accepted on this new contract.
There are other extenuating circumstances to all of these negotiations, but this one seems like a win for the Predators, who have no shot of competing without high-level goaltending. The team has struggled to score for years now and has several bloated, underperforming, high-priced contracts on the books upfront. With Saros signed for $5MM, the team can allocate some extra money elsewhere to try and round out the roster.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet broke the contract terms.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
- The Nashville Predators are approaching an arbitration hearing with starting goaltender Juuse Saros, scheduled for August 18. Adam Vingan of The Athletic breaks down the case that both sides have, but notes that Saros’ camp is looking for a long-term deal, while the Predators are hoping for a three to four-year contract if things can be worked out before the hearing. Saros truly broke out this season, finishing sixth in the Vezina Trophy voting and even receiving some Hart Trophy recognition, after posting a 21-11-1 record with a .927 save percentage. The 26-year-old goaltender is just a year away from unrestricted free agency, meaning any multi-year contract would be buying out almost exclusively UFA seasons. An arbitration ruling on the other hand could only be one year in length, taking him right to the open market next year.
The Nashville Predators have locked up a young defenseman, signing Dante Fabbro to a two-year contract. The deal will carry a salary of $2.4MM in both years, and means that the two sides will no longer need their arbitration hearing scheduled for August 20.
Fabbro, 23, has become everything the Predators hoped for when they selected him 17th overall in 2016, stepping into a top-four role on the team the last two seasons. He averaged more than 19 minutes a night through 40 appearances this year, registering 12 points. That role is only expected to increase now that Ryan Ellis was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, leaving Fabbro as the team’s top right-handed defenseman. There are others who will fight for those minutes, but Fabbro likely has the inside track on that open spot next to captain Roman Josi.
Even if he doesn’t end up on that pairing, there will be a big chance for Fabbro to show some more offensive upside for the Predators as well. At Boston University in 2018-19, Fabbro was dynamic with the puck on his stick, racking up 33 points in 38 games. While he’ll likely never become a true powerplay quarterback, the team will need him to add a little more offense moving forward.
If he does, it could be a big payday for the young defenseman two years from now. For now, this contract leaves the team with plenty of cap space, though at least a good chunk of it will be eaten up by restricted free agent Juuse Saros. The 26-year-old goaltender is going to get a huge raise after his Vezina-caliber season, but still, the Predators could have been even more aggressive during free agency. Perhaps GM David Poile is looking at a salary cap that isn’t expected to see any significant movement for several years and isn’t willing to overspend, but the team currently sits with more than $17.6MM in room as the season approaches.
In Fabbro’s case specifically, the team has set themselves up for massive excess value if he can take another step forward and become a top-pairing player. That alone would make this a win for the Predators, even if their overall strategy this offseason—moving on from key players like Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson while re-signing Mikael Granlund to a $20MM contract—has left some questioning whether they’re trying to contend or rebuild.
The Nashville Predators have finished some offseason work, signing restricted free agent forward Rem Pitlick to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will be worth $917,831 at the NHL level, as he signed the qualifying offer he was issued.
Pitlick, 24, was a third-round pick of the Predators back in 2016 and has slowly worked his way to becoming a legitimate option at the highest level. The young forward is still looking for his first NHL goal, but did register two assists in ten games for Nashville this season. A star at the University of Minnesota, he had a 20-goal rookie season in the AHL during 2019-20 and scored eight goals in eight games during his short minor league stint this time around.
There should be a battle for some bottom-six spots in training camp for Nashville, who have lost a few of their key forwards this summer. The team needs to find a way to get more offense out of the group, given how underwhelming the performances have been from high-priced talent like Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene. It’s not that Pitlick is going to light up the league right away, but he has more offensive upside than some of the other players the Predators have used at the bottom of the roster in previous years.
The fact that he will not be waiver-exempt any longer could help his case, as he won’t be able to bounce up and down between the two levels without being risked to the rest of the league.