Predators focused on signing Ekholm, Forsberg long term

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NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators are focused on signing Mattias Ekholm and Filip Forsberg to long-term contracts, general manager David Poile said.

The defenseman and forward can each become an unrestricted free agent after this season. Poile said he spoke with Ekholm’s agent Monday and will resume discussions later this week or next week.

“And then I think shortly before training camp we’ll reach out to Filip Forsberg and his camp and sort of get a lay of the land as to where Filip’s thoughts are right now,” Poile said Tuesday. “Those are the next two priorities.”

Ekholm has one season remaining on a six-year, $22.5 million contract ($3.75 million average annual value) he signed Oct. 26, 2015. He scored 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 48 regular-season games and had three assists in six Stanley Cup Playoff games last season, when Nashville lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup First Round.

Forsberg enters the final season of a six-year, $36 million contract ($6 million AAV) he signed June 27, 2016. He scored 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 39 regular-season games last season and three points (two goals, one assist) in six playoff games.

“It’s a lot of business decisions,” Forsberg said June 2. “It’s going to be one of those things that obviously management and me and my agents are going to have to talk through. But I’ve loved every minute of my time here in Nashville and I don’t see why I wouldn’t love the future here too. It’s definitely something that I want to do.”

Goalie Juuse Saros signed a four-year, $20 million contract ($5 million AAV) with the Predators on Monday to avoid a salary arbitration hearing scheduled for Wednesday. Forward Viktor Arvidsson was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on July 1 and defenseman Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers on July 17. Poile has spoken this offseason about younger players in the organization getting more opportunities and said he wants to ensure Ekholm and Forsberg are on board for the short and long term.

“It’s a very important part of the conversation, and they have to believe in the organization and what we’re doing and where we’re going,” Poile said. “I’ve certainly had talks with both of them at the end of the year a little bit on that, but I think as we get into negotiations, if you will, that those conversations will be taken up a notch.

“I’m going to give my viewpoints and my vision, but I certainly need to see how they see themselves fitting in because those type of players need to be our best players. They need to be leaders for us, and so they need to be totally bought in or it’s not going to work for them or for us. They’ll be important discussions that will hopefully lead to future contracts with us. That would be the goal.”

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