A virtual hockey nomad, Anton Forsberg inked a one-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers on the opening day of 2020 NHL free agency, October 9.
The 28-year old was hopeful for a spot as backup or at worst, bide his time on their taxi squad. It wasn’t meant to be as the Oilers waived Forsberg out of training camp.
With goalies in short supply due to teams having to carry three at all times during this pandemic season, Forsberg was immediately scooped up by the Carolina Hurricanes off waivers. However, just three days later, Forsberg was cut loose once again only to become the property of the Winnipeg Jets.
The netminder remained Jets property for two months without getting into a game and was subsequently waived a third time.
The third time was a charm for the Harnosand, Sweden native, and for the Ottawa Senators who claimed him March 17 when both Matt Murray and Marcus Hogberg were out with injuries.
With the club dressing Joey Daccord and Filip Gustavsson, General Manager Pierre Dorion was fortunate he didn’t have to look to far to find a veteran NHL to take the load off his youngsters.
In order to avoid a 14-day quarantine, Forsberg was rushed to Ottawa via private jet. Having not played a live game in over a year, his last being March 7, 2020, a 3-2 Carolina Hurricanes win, Forsberg made a successful conditioning start for Belleville prior to facing the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 25.
The 2011 Columbus Blue Jackets’ seventh-round selection was full marks for the Senators that night, making 38 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss. Forsberg went on to win his next start in Montreal and has gone on to supply steady goaltending when called upon. So much so that the possessor of a 3-3-1 record, 2.87 goals against average, .917 save percentage, was awarded with a one-year, $900,000 deal for the 2020-21 campaign.
In a team release Dorion said of Forsberg, “Anton’s addition has been a steadying one for us this season. He possesses a calm and controlled playing style, has good size and ability, is a tireless worker with good habits and is a good teammate. He’s worked hard in practice to earn his playing opportunities and this contract extension.”
Head coach D.J. Smith echoed, the GM’s comments, “We’re looking to win every game, and obviously, we’ve seen a lot of really good goalie displays down the stretch.”
The team has allowed only 15 goals in their past nine outings on route to a 7-1-1 record.
“But we think he’s a guy that works extremely hard away from the rink, in practice. He’s going to help all goalies involved – give us a chance to win. Its going to be competitive to see who gets all our starts. Obviously, “Murr” (Matt Murray) is our guy. The way he played when he came back here, he’s going to help us win games. But then you have Forsberg who gives you games like that – in this league you need two, three, four, as you see or more goalies. I think we’re in a good spot with both goalies,” explained Smith via Zoom Wednesday evening.
For his part, Forsberg is excited to know where he’s going to make his home next season.
“Yeah, that was nice, obviously, to know where I’m going to be next year and what’s left of this season. So, I’m really happy. It’s been a tough season. I’m happy to be here now. It’s nice. It’s really nice going home. It’s been nothing but positive since I got here from Day One. I’m really happy to be back,” noted the six-foot-two, 176-pound goalie after stopping 30 shots in a 5-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday.
Forsberg is appreciative of his new teammates, “Just the way we battle every night. We’re out there battling. We were far away from the playoffs, not even half a chance to make it, but we’re still out there battling for each other, blocking shots. It just shows how much character there is in this room.”
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The reasoning for signing Forsberg is two-fold; one is added insurance in case the Senators lose a goalie in the Expansion Draft to the incoming Seattle Kraken. The club can only protect one of Forsberg, Murray, Daccord, Gustavsson, Hogberg.
The spectre of losing one of Daccord or Gustavsson depending on which backstop is protected may occur, especially due to the play of the duo this season.
Two; the Senators also want a veteran backup on a team that is gearing to make a run at a playoff spot.
For his part, Forsberg realizes the Kraken situation but doesn’t want to think of what’s out of his control, “You never know. I thought I was going to be in Edmonton at the start of the season too. I’m not focusing on that. I’m happy to sign the contract and know I’m going to be here next year.”