It’s been one week since Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman grabbed the attention of the hockey world by swapping Brandon Saad and Artemi Panarin as part of a four-player, two-pick trade last Friday.
The Hawks also sent Tyler Motte and their 2017 sixth-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets, receiving the Blue Jackets’ 2018 fifth-round pick and goaltender Anton Forsberg.
Saad was prized part of this deal for the Hawks, but Forsberg appears to be the replacement for the recently departed Scott Darling as Chicago’s backup to starting goalie Corey Crawford. Forsberg signed a two-year, $1.5 million deal with the Hawks earlier this week, so what are the Hawks getting in the 24-year-old Sweden native?
This trade was yet another example of the Hawks opting to find ways outside of the draft to bolster their organization’s goaltending depth. In this century, only two goalies drafted by the Hawks have seen significant time with the parent club: the aforementioned Crawford and Craig Anderson. And the Hawks have only selected two goalies in the last five drafts. But Chicago has managed to find quality backups by looking everywhere else. They’ve signed veteran NHLers like Marty Turco and Ray Emery. They’ve used contracts on unheralded players from Europe like Antti Niemi and Antti Raanta. And they also struck gold with career minor leaguers like Darling.
So trading for a 24-year-old goalie who’s appeared in just 10 NHL games in his career leads you to believe that the Hawks scouting department has seen something in Forsberg’s game that it likes enough to entrust him with shouldering some of the load for Crawford, who will turn 33 this season.
He is not related to Filip or Peter, but he has championship experience
Forsberg was drafted by Columbus in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and then debuted for Modo in the Elitserien, the top tier of hockey in Sweden, as a 19-year-old. He appeared in two games for Sweden during its gold medal run at the 2012 World Juniors.
By the 2013-14 season he was in the AHL, and later led the Lake Erie Monsters to the 2015-16 Calder Cup with an undefeated postseason and an impressive 1.34 GAA and .949 save percentage in his 10 games played during the playoffs. During the 2016-17 season, he played in 51 games for the Monsters, posting a 27-17-6 record, 2.28 GAA, and .926 save percentage.
He has good size for a goalie
Forsberg stands 6’3 and weighs 192 pounds, which would put him on the larger end of the goalie size spectrum. A look at his highlight reel shows a goalie who will get down in the traditional butterfly, but still has the agility to move post-to-post, aided by the long reach of his 6’3 frame.
But everyone looks good in a highlight reel, right?
Forsberg’s future in Chicago
How much can you accurately conclude about a goalie who’s appeared in 10 NHL games? Probably not much. But Forsberg has some highlights on his resume, most notably the sparkling postseason performance he had which resulted in a 2016 Calder Cup win. One scouting report I read said he was “overwhelmed” in his limited NHL time, but that can be forgiven.
As I mentioned earlier, Crawford turns 33 this season and has three years remaining on his deal. It seems the only other goalie worth mentioning in the Hawks’ system is Wouter Peeters, who’s just 18 years old. There’s no one else in the Hawks’ organization to challenge Forsberg’s job. (Jeff Glass doesn’t do it for me, if that’s what you’re thinking.)
I’ll defend Crawford’s ability in every corner of the Internet -- he’s one of the league’s best and probably still the best in the Western Conference. But he’s not getting younger. And if Forsberg starts to figure things out at the NHL level, with that much lower of a cap hit ...
... let’s save that discussion for some other time.