<
>

Avs now have right to match

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche want to keep Peter Forsberg
around.

Forsberg's agent, Don Baizley, told the Rocky Mountain News the
star forward has received a qualifying offer from the Avalanche to
retain his rights and prevent him from becoming an unrestricted
free agent July 1.

The offer is believed to be $11 million, Forsberg's 2003-04
salary. Baizley did not immediately return a call from The
Associated Press on Thursday.

Forsberg still will become a restricted free agent next week and
could sign an offer sheet from another NHL team. But the Avalanche
would have the right to match the offer.

The collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the
players' union expires Sept. 15. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
wants what he calls "cost certainty" in a new agreement, which
the union believes will be a salary cap it won't accept.

Without a new agreement, the NHL is expected to lock out the
players and put the 2004-05 season in limbo. That possibility is
believed to be one reason Forsberg might decide to play for MoDo in
his hometown of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, next season. His father,
Kent, will coach the team.

The Avalanche would retain his NHL rights even if Forsberg
returns home.

"Nobody knows what's going to happen in the future," Baizley
told the News. "It affects so many things in so many different
ways, not the least of which is guys whose contracts are up (and)
how much fluidity there will be in this marketplace. I think for a
bit we're just going to see people feeling their way."

Avalanche forwards Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne are expected to
become unrestricted free agents July 1. Both have Baizley as an
agent.

Selanne made $5.8 million last season, compiling just 16 goals
and 16 assists in 78 games. He was benched for a playoff game.

"[Selanne] is back in Finland, and I really don't know what his
plans are for next year," Baizley said.

Kariya, who had a one-year, $1.2 million deal, had 11 goals and
25 assists in 51 games. He missed 10 of 11 playoff games with an
injured ankle.

Baizley said it is possible Kariya could return to Colorado.