Forsberg reunites with Avs for rest of season
DENVER -- Peter Forsberg always realized it was nothing personal, just business.
Now, he's back for another run.
Forsberg agreed to a $5 million, one-year deal Monday with the Colorado Avalanche, a team he won two Stanley Cup championships with before their split following the league's lockout in 2004-05.
"There were no hard feelings," Forsberg said of his departure due to salary-cap reasons. "We went our separate ways as good friends."
The Avalanche are hoping the arrival of Forsberg can help propel them into the postseason. The team is currently four points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 19 games to play. Colorado recently got back Ryan Smyth, Paul Stastny and captain Joe Sakic from injuries.
"It's a real good lineup," Forsberg said. "When everyone gets back, hopefully we can show we have a really good team and have a shot at going far."
Bringing back Peter Forsberg is great news for the Colorado Avalanche. It gets a splash in the newspapers and on the Internet and gives a team that's on the outside looking in a big boost.
Now, it all depends on which Forsberg we see out there. Don't expect to see the Forsberg of old, especially considering he's seen no game action this season. We'll see more of the Foppa we saw in 2006-07 with the Flyers and Avalanche; he played 57 games, 40 with Philly before he was dealt to Nashville before the trade deadline. He still battled injuries and was still a shadow of his former self. That will be the unavoidable question going forward.
Having said that, if Forsberg can play at least at the same level as he did last season (he did have 55 points in those 57 games), that will make Colorado better than it was a week ago. With Joe Sakic, Paul Stastny and Ryan Smyth getting healthy, coach Joel Quenneville will experiment with his lines over the next 19 games as the Avs battle for a playoff spot.
I'd like to see Sakic, Forsberg and Milan Hejduk together on the top line, then see Stastny and Smyth together on the second line. That's a start, but there will be mixing and matching until Quenneville sees combinations he's comfortable with. Either way, time is short. Colorado is 10th in the West, just four points out of the last playoff spot. The Avs will hope Forsberg is the factor that pushes them into the postseason.
-- Barry Melrose
Forsberg is trying to come back from a balky right foot. Not that Colorado is all that concerned about it.
The Avalanche decided his ailing foot was a risk worth taking. Forsberg will earn around $1 million since there are about six weeks left in the regular season.
"We believe that Peter can still be a premier player in this league and hopefully everything will work out great," Avalanche executive vice president and general manager Francois Giguere said in a conference call. "We're very excited Peter agreed to come back."
In addition to winning two Stanley Cups in his nine seasons with the Avalanche, he also won the NHL's MVP award in 2003 after scoring 29 goals and adding 77 assists.
Foot and ankle injuries plagued him in the years that followed, but the 34-year-old forward said his surgically repaired right foot is on the mend.
"I feel good," Forsberg said. "I'm confident that it's going to be good."
Forsberg didn't know when he'd return to the ice in an Avalanche sweater. The team is in the midst of a five-game road swing, which concludes Wednesday in Vancouver.
He didn't think he would be ready in time for Colorado's game Saturday night against Los Angeles at the Pepsi Center.
Still, he's hopeful.
"I'd like to get back as soon as I can," he said.
Giguere brought back Forsberg in part because he felt the move could reinvigorate the team.
"At the end of the day, I feel I needed to do what I had to do to help this team," he said. "That's part of the commitment I made to Joe Sakic. You're always trying to juggle, improve the team. Anything I can do to energize the team, I'm going to try to do."
Forsberg didn't know if he'd ever play again. He began to have some doubts as he rehabilitated his foot in Sweden. But he quickly shoved them aside.
"I never really wanted to believe it was over," said Forsberg, who won't make a decision about 2008-09 until after this season. "I don't feel that old. I feel like if I can solve this, I could play for a while. I never really gave up hope."
Until Monday's announcement, it appeared Forsberg wouldn't return to an NHL team this season. His agent, Don Baizley, informed teams last week that Forsberg didn't have enough confidence in the strength of his right foot to play.
Peter Forsberg has 623 assists in 697 NHL games, an average of 0.89 assists per game. Only three players in NHL history have a higher career assist-per-game average than Forsberg (minimum: 300 games played): Wayne Gretzky (1.32), Mario Lemieux (1.13) and Bobby Orr (0.98).
• Read more Elias Says
Forsberg said it wasn't a tactic, merely a way to caution other teams that he might not be ready.
"I always wanted to be honest with teams coming down the stretch," Forsberg said. "I was like, 'If you want to go in a different direction, please do. Don't wait for me.' I didn't want to be a burden. That's why I came out and said that."
The Avalanche were one of a handful of teams vying for Forsberg's services. Philadelphia, Minnesota, Chicago and Ottawa also were believed to be in the hunt.
Forsberg spent 1½ seasons with the Flyers, scoring 115 points in 100 games, before being dealt to Nashville at the trade deadline last season.
Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen was disappointed his team didn't win the Forsberg sweepstakes. Timonen played with Forsberg at the end of last season in Nashville.
"We're talking about one of the better passers in the game," Timonen said. "I'm not sure what kind of shape he's in. But I'm sure, knowing him, if he wants to come back he's in pretty good shape and he wants to play. ... I'm sure he's going to help Colorado for sure."
Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said that Forsberg's ice time will depend on how he feels. Quenneville is hoping Forsberg's presence can bolster the Avalanche's sagging power play. The team ranks last in the league with just 34 power-play goals.
"As an offensive team, we improved in a lot of areas," Quenneville said. "We're certainly excited to get him back as soon as possible."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
PETER FORSBERG RETURNS
On the eve of Tuesday's NHL trade deadline, Peter Forsberg stirred things up by signing with the Colorado Avalanche, the team he won Stanley Cups with in '96 and '01.
NEWS• Forsberg returns to NHL, signs with Avs
• Vote: Will Avs make playoffs with Forsberg?
ANALYSIS• Burnside: This time, Forsberg wagering legacy
• Hradek: Which Forsberg will we see? • Melrose: Don't expect Foppa of old
• Fantasy spin: Get what you can for Foppa
FORSBERG'S HISTORY• ZOOM gallery: A career in pictures
• Career stats