Thursday, August 11 2022

Second from the bottom in the Eastern Conference standings, the Ottawa Senators are in the unique and regrettable position of being both non-competitive in terms of the postseason picture and without many trade chips to cash in at the NHL trade deadline.

There are a few players heading into unrestricted free agency with which the Senators could part with. Zach Sanford could be of use to a contender, but the Senators just spent a first-round selection, albeit a struggling one, to acquire him. Chris Tierney checks off many boxes in a depth forward role, but he’s injured at the moment. Nick Paul is also on an expiring clock, but one would have to imagine the Pierres — that is, Dorion and McGuire — would prefer to lock him up on an extension.

On balance, the prospects are pretty grim when assessing the Senators’ ability to be productive over the next two weeks in what has been an undeniably disappointing season.

Ottawa Senators goalie Anton Forsberg has raised his stock ahead of the NHL trade deadline. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)Ottawa Senators goalie Anton Forsberg has raised his stock ahead of the NHL trade deadline. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)
Ottawa Senators goalie Anton Forsberg has raised his stock ahead of the NHL trade deadline. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

However, there is one player who may be able to single-handedly make up for the fact the Sens have little to barter with in the trade market.

The once-readily-waived journeyman, Anton Forsberg, has been one of the NHL’s single-best netminders this season. Starting 24 times with Matt Murray continuing to toggle between availability and absence, Forsberg has emerged as something of a rock for a Senators team which has found a multitude of reasons outside of goaltending to lose games.

Forsberg has seen his raw save percentage rise to .920, or 11th overall, under some of the worst conditions as a netminder league wide. Only four starters or platoon options have had to deal with more shots and high-danger looks against on average than Forsberg, who’s providing Ottawa with nearly 32 saves for every hour spent on the ice.

The less-than-sheltered element has led to some tremendous underlying data points. Forsberg’s average goals saved above average (GSAA), which is a stat that measures performance to a perceived league average, is eighth among qualified netminders, and superior to the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tristan Jarry and Thatcher Demko.

What’s maybe most impressive about Forsberg’s season is that he continues to build more and more momentum. Forsberg has a .930 save percentage and total GSAA of only a shade under 15 goals since Dec. 1, and in eight starts since Feb. 1 Forsberg has a .934 save rate while exceeding the “average” performance by more than one goal per contest.

So, the question needs to be asked: is there a future for Forsberg in Ottawa, or should the Senators look to send one of the top performers at the most important position on the ice to a contender as a rental?

With Toronto, Edmonton, Washington and Minnesota among postseason-bound teams rumoured to be in the market for goaltending, Forsberg figures to be the most cost-effective option given that he’s earning just $900K on a one-year deal that will carry him through to unrestricted free agency.

Whether it’s a toe dipped in the water or a genuine attempt to improve at the position, Forsberg can fill the need for just about any team looking for help at the position.

While an unlikely candidate to do so, Forsberg might indeed be one of those players worth keeping around.

Forsberg was only intended to be a depth stopgap. Murray is locked into his big-money contract as the primary starter, and has two years left at $6.25 million, while prospect Filip Gustavsson will be working on a one-way deal next season, which is likely enough for him to earn a permanent promotion for a team known to count pennies.

This is definitely an opportunity to sell high on an asset who has previously moved from team-to-team freely through waivers.

At some point though, the Senators have to keep and build around players managing to have a positive impact in their slow ascent back to relevance from the Erik Karlsson era.

While an unlikely candidate to do so, Forsberg might indeed be one of those player worth keeping around.

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