Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile has checked quite a bit off his offseason to-do list. But there are two pressing matters that still need to be addressed: contract extensions for Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm.
Forsberg is in the final year of a six-year, $36 million deal, and Ekholm is in the final year of his six-year, $22.5 million steal of a contract. Both players are integral pieces of the team’s shaken-up core, and both are due for decent pay raises.
“I actually spoke with [Ekholm’s] agent (Monday) afternoon and we’re going to talk either later this week or next week on that,” Poile told 102.5 the Game on Tuesday. “Then, shortly before training camp, we’ll reach out to Filip Forsberg and his camp and sort of get a lay of the land as for where Filip’s thoughts are right now.”
Nashville has the cap space — even after signing Juuse Saros and Mikael Granlund to matching four-year, $20 million contracts — to keep both around long-term and shell out the kind of money each will likely command.
Forsberg’s representation will likely want compensation somewhere between those of Gabriel Landeskog ($7 million AAV) and Sebastian Aho ($8.45 million AAV), while the Predators are probably looking at Sam Reinhart ($6.5 million AAV) or David Pastrnak ($6.66 million AAV) kind of money.
Ekholm is more than likely looking at a contract extension similar to the eight-year, $50 million deal Ryan Ellis signed in 2018. It wouldn’t be surprising for Ekholm’s agent to ask for more, however, as the case could be made that the Predators got the 30-year-old for a bargain $3.75 million for the last six years and now it’s time for Ekholm to cash in.
Money aside, the other piece to this puzzle is each player’s desire to stay in Nashville beyond 2021. Do Forsberg and Ekholm both want to be a part of a “competitive rebuild,” which could easily turn into a four- or five-year rebuild, or would they rather hit the open market and play for a team that’s more in a win-now situation?
“That’s a very important part of the conversation,” Poile continued. “They have to believe in the organization and what we’re doing and where we’re going. I’ve certainly had talks with both of them at the end of the year on that. 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.”
Whether each player signs an extension could presumably come down to more than just the dollar and cents, however.
The fact that Ellis was traded just two years into his new contract, which he took a team-friendly discount to facilitate, could also be lurking in the back of Ekholm’s mind.
It’s also not known if Forsberg has truly soured on Nashville after close friend and line-mate Viktor Arvidsson was traded to Los Angeles. The 27-year-old stated in June that he has loved every minute of his time in Nashville and “I don’t see why I wouldn't love the future here too.” But that was before Arvidsson was jettisoned to L.A.
While this is all par for the course for NHL general managers, Poile is not in an envious position right now.
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