At the start of this season, with Corey Crawford yet to return from his first concussion, Cam Ward and Anton Forsberg were the two active goalies in Chicago, with Collin Delia manning the net for the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL. But Ward started the first five games then Crawford returned, prompting Forsberg to be placed on waivers — which he cleared — before spending the rest of the season in the AHL.
When Crawford was injured again in December, Delia was the one summoned to Chicago, not Forsberg. After taking over for Crawford during the 2017-18 season, Forsberg still hasn’t returned to the NHL, which — again — begs the question: what is Forsberg’s future in Chicago?
The answer seems to be: short-lived.
It’s worth mentioning that Forsberg’s numbers were far from dazzling during his NHL time, with a 10-16-4 record, .908 save percentage and 2.97 goals-against average. Although defenders of Forsberg can point to the subpar play of his teammates as part of the explanation for those unsightly numbers. Forsberg’s AHL numbers this season were solid, yet not quite spectacular at 15-15-4, .919 SA% and 2.64 GAA, respectively. Contrast that with Delia’s marginally better 13-8-4, .922 SA% and 2.48 GAA, and it’s hard to see a massive gulf between the two. But from the outside, it appears Delia is firmly ahead of Forsberg on the organizational depth chart.
Remember: Forsberg has strong AHL credentials. In the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs, he posted an absurd 1.34 GAA and .949 SA% for the Erie Monsters as part of a championship postseason. Injuries were the downfall of the IceHogs this season, not goaltending, so it’s hard to imagine Forsberg has been chosen as the scapegoat for Rockford missing the playoffs.
It could simply be Delia has outplayed Forsberg — and that’s fine. But with Forsberg already being 26 years old, he’s at risk of clogging the pipeline of goaltenders within the organization. Kevin Lankinen, 23, has another year on his contract and played well enough in limited time with Rockford to earn another look next season.
Behind Lankinen, there’s 24-year-old Matt Tomkins (2012 seventh-rounder), who signed a one-year AHL deal this spring after being the starter for the Indy Fuel in the ECHL. Alexis Gravel (2018 sixth-rounder) and Wouter Peeters (2016 third-rounder) are just 19 and 20, respectively, but could have future roles with the IceHogs. And there’s always the prospect of 25-year-old Russian goaltender Ivan Nalimov finally arriving from the KHL.
As the puzzle pieces come together, it doesn’t appear Forsberg fits anymore. He is a restricted free agent this summer, which means the Blackhawks could ultimately let him walk for nothing. And if they elect to re-sign him, it could be with the intentions of using him as trade bait in a summer deal. Either way, it’s hard to envision a scenario that ends with Forsberg being a part of the Blackhawks organization by next fall.