There is nothing more exciting throughout a season than the possibilities that occur around the NHL Trade Deadline. Sure, if your team is able to make it deeper into the playoffs that would trump this narrative, but around this time of year every whisper or rumor that surrounds a team or player is continuously picked at until a trade is executed.
As a Flames fan, who wasn’t glued to Twitter constantly refreshing the page when the news that Tyler Toffoli could be heading to Calgary?
The Calgary Flames burst onto the scene and started the trade fireworks last week when they traded for the coveted right winger. Of course with just under a month to go before the deadline, the question remains: are they done?
Now the team is probably going to make at least one more addition before March 21st, but what or who that looks like remains a total question mark.
On Wednesday evening, news broke that Nashville Predators’ superstar winger Filip Forsberg may have entered the trade conversation:
The possibilities ran rampant for fans across the league, and even among the C of Red.
Well, not to burst the bubble here, but the likelihood and possibility of the Calgary Flames acquiring Forsberg are next to zero. Let’s take a look:
There is absolutely no doubt that Forsberg would be a huge, and I mean massive, addition to the Flames’ current roster. Since entering the league full time in the 2014-15 season, Forsberg has netted a total of 204 goals and 429 points. His lowest point per game season came in 2016-17 when it was “just” 0.71, with this current campaign being his most productive at 1.16 at the time of writing.
Here is how his current season looks courtesy of HockeyViz.com:
Forsberg is able to combine a skill set of strength, offensive magic, defensive responsibility, and a beautiful mustache all into one package. In fact, the backbone of his talent is almost so good it’s crazy that this is the only season in which he is producing at above a point per game pace.
So why the heck is he rumored to be traded?
Well of course, it comes down to money. Set to become a UFA at the end of the season, Forsberg is currently earning himself a large pay day come July on a team that is currently in a bit of a slide that may not want to hand out long term money on their current salary cap.
The Predators have a ton of room right now, with a projected $10.5M of cap space. For next season, they only have 15 players under contract and have about $24M of space to do so. Elliotte Friedman reported that Forsberg would be looking to earn more than both Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene, which makes sense, but that would be over $8M a season. Would the the Predators are comfortable doing that?
In theory it absolutely should, but the NHL has seen crazier things. It would also be the fourth contract on the books at $8M AVV or higher.
If you thought that the Predators had some precarious decisions to make this offseason, then the Flames would be in full panic mode. Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, and Oliver Kylington all need new contracts. With what Gaudreau and Tkachuk are going to make, there is absolutely no room for an $8M player.
So rule out a long term fit for Forsberg immediately.
Does the possibility of a pure rental player then make more sense for the Flames? Not really either.
Forsberg is a right handed LW, and if you were to theoretically slot him into the lineup you’d probably put him alongside Sean Monahan and Toffoli and move Milan Lucic down to the fourth line. Or, you could run a right side of Tkachuk, Forsberg, and Toffoli, and move Coleman to the left side behind Gaudreau and Mangiapane. That would be the ideal scenario. Of course, there isn’t really a bad option for where Forsberg fits, but slotting him in would either move Mangiapane or Coleman off the second line or have one of them play a third line role. Now that would be some serious depth.
The bigger issue here isn’t fit, but rather the acquisition cost. Currently making $6M a season, the Flames would need to convince Nashville to retain a portion of Forsberg’s salary due to their cap constraints. With a projected cap space of $870K come deadline day, the Flames would need to move out at least $2.2M in a deal to give themselves some room.
Logically, people will look to Dillon Dube as the ideal starting piece for the trade. Making $2.3M a season, this would solve the team’s cap space assuming a salary retention deal.
In addition to Dube, it’s absolutely certain that the team would need to include multiple additional pieces. A first round pick, an additional pick, and a prospect would most likely be the starting price. The Flames have already traded away their first, third, fourth, and sixth round picks for this season, leaving just two seconds, a fifth, and seventh in their cupboard for this upcoming draft.
I’m not sure both second round picks would be appealing enough to pry Forsberg from the Predators, in addition to the Flames most likely not wanting to have only two picks for the entire draft.
It would also be hard to imagine that the Flames would be wanting to give up draft stock for next year when there is so much uncertainty over the status of Gaudreau and Tkachuk’s contracts. If they wanted to include a first round pick, it may have to be a conditional second for this year that could turn into a first next year.
The other wrinkle would be that if the Flames needed Nashville to retain salary, but couldn’t get that done, they may need to spend an additional asset to have a third team broker a deal.
It starts getting very expensive very quickly.
Although the idea of Forsberg on this current Flames roster is extremely salivating, it just is very hard to imagine the Flames executing this deal.
The Toffoli trade was Brad Treliving’s biggest in-season trade of his tenure, and to think that he would pull off a second bigger one shortly after seems like a pipe dream.
There also exists the biggest variable of them all, Forsberg loves being a Predator and reports from Friedman indicate the Predators are trying to sign him. All news yesterday was pointing towards the Predators trying to re-sign Forsberg rather than trading him, similar to the Mattias Ekholm situation last year.
It’s a big question mark as to what Forsberg’s status may be, but don’t expect to see him in a Flames jersey anytime soon.
Photo credit: Casey Gower/Nashville Post