Monday, February 25, 2008

Peter Forsberg returns to Colorado Avalanche

For the best part of this season, hockey fans and teams as well as those that cover the National Hockey League on a daily basis have wondered what would happen with Peter Forsberg.

As I had mentioned recently when the Colorado Avalanche were on the verge of getting their three key players back into their lineup in Ryan Smyth, Paul Stastny and Joe Sakic from injuries, word out of Denver was the debate in whether or not Forsberg was not far behind in joining them.

That was answered today as the Avalanche signed Forsberg for the remainder of this season. However it is not known when he'll play his first game. Colorado certainly is taking a gamble in bringing back a star player that has often had to battle injuries in recent years. After signing with the Philadelphia Flyers as a free agent on August 3, 2005 and then being traded to the Nashville Predators on February 15, 2007, the 34-year-old Forsberg became a free agent last summer and hasn't played since. With chronic foot problems that had all but led him to retire, he took time off to assess the prospects of whether or not he would ever be healthy again to play at a high level in his professional career. Less than two weeks ago, it appeared that the Flyers were poised to bring him back. Other teams remained interested in his services despite the health risk, but Forsberg's agent Don Baizley politely told general managers looking to sign him that his client wasn't ready to make a commitment.

But in a surprise turn of events today, on the eve of the 2008 NHL trade deadline, Forsberg decided to sign with the Avalanche.

"Over the last several months, I have worked extremely hard in order for this to be possible. I am looking forward to putting this jersey on again," Forsberg said in the team press release. "I have so many great memories of my playing days in Denver. I'm excited about helping my new teammates and former teammates in the coming weeks, and hopefully I am able to do that in the very near future."

With Philadelphia and mostly recently speculated that the Minnesota Wild were contenders to land Forsberg, he explain why he decided to go to Colorado. One good reason was familiarity in his surrounding with the nine seasons he spent there and built the most of his impressive career resume.

"Well, obviously you know I had been there for a long time and I had such a good time there. The years I spent in Denver, we always had great teams, so I had great success there and I thought I played really well," Forsberg explained in a conference call earlier today from Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. "I wanted to come to a familiar place too. Since I’ve been going through this, I wanted to come back to Denver. I know everybody from the coaching staff and the management and they’re all great people. So that’s one of the reasons. I feel comfortable going back there to help the team make the playoffs and go as far as we can go."

Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reported today that since delaying his return to the NHL just a little longer, Forsberg went to see a Swedish doctor and also had another skate fitted for his surgically repaired right ankle. After indicating he felt better, he changed his mind that he may be able to play this season after all.

Dater also mentioned that Colorado officials began serious negotiations this morning and quickly came to an agreement.

Rick Sadowski of the Rocky Mountain News reported that Forsberg's contract is a pro-rated deal and will pay him $5 million. In order to eligible to be on an NHL roster for the playoffs, he had to sign by the 3:00 PM Eastern Time trade deadline.

With the Avalanche having lost 6 of their last 7 games and finding themselves four points out of the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference, it was a move that general manager Francois Giguere felt he had to make the gamble on Forsberg. Bringing in the two-time Stanley Cup champion and 2003 Hart Trophy winner to have an impact on Colorado's chances of making the playoffs was an easy decision.

"We all understand that there's still a risk factor," Giguere said to Sadowski after the signing was announced. "We are willing to take that risk, especially when you don't have to give an asset to acquire him. We all believe that Peter can still be a premier player in this league and hopefully everything will work out great. Many NHL teams were trying to sign him and we're very excited that he's decided to come back with us."

Sadowski also reports in his article that Forsberg is at the very least a week away from making his return on the ice with Colorado.

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