Wednesday, February 13, 2008

With Ryan Smyth and Joe Sakic soon to return, is Peter Forsberg not far behind?

After learning of the increasingly good news on the condition of Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik, I turn my attention to what is being described as the Peter Forsberg sweepstakes.

But what's interesting about it is the fact we as hockey fans and observers have no real idea what to expect as we approach the National Hockey League's trade deadline. Buyers and sellers are already plotting and planning their strategies on what their team will do. Will they bolster up their roster for a run at the Stanley Cup championship or undergo a fire sale? Those are the questions all 30 NHL general managers have to answer.

In the case of the Colorado Avalanche, they're in a dilemma. A real good one, I might add.

The prospects of a Northwest Division title or even a ticket to the playoffs was expected to take a serious hit when star forwards Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth were each sidelined by injuries in December. But to the surprise of some, Colorado has gone 9-9 since New Year's Day and without both players in the lineup. Also keep in mind that the Avalanche have also had two other important forwards not playing at some point during this 18-game span in Tyler Arnason and Paul Stastny. So, what makes this remarkable is how this team has responded while undermanned.

Arnason played in last night's Colorado's 2-1 home loss to the red-hot Anaheim Ducks, but Stastny was unable to play due to nagging groin discomfort despite having fully recovered from an appendectomy done on January 17th. While Stastny is basically at day-to-day status and according to the yesterday's addition of the Denver Post, he could play as early as Thursday's game against the visiting St. Louis Blues. Sakic and Smyth began practicing with the team. This is especially ahead of schedule for Sakic because he was expected to be out for at least another month following hernia surgery.

Now that the Avalanche have to this point kept themselves among the top eight teams in the Western Conference, are they buyers at the trade deadline? As of now, you would have to think so. But the rumor mill has begun to heat up and Forsberg's name has been in the minds of a number of NHL general managers in recent weeks.

The first time that Forsberg publicly stated he was going to attempt a comeback to play in the NHL was on January 14th when he told a Swedish television station that he was going to begin skating in two to three weeks. The 34-year-old Forsberg has been marred by an array of injuries in recent years then stated he'd like to either try playing for Modo of the Swedish Elite League or sign with an NHL team this season. He has not played since finishing last season with the Nashville Predators.

But it hasn't been a smooth ride for Forsberg since he made those intentions known about a month ago. After pulling out of competing in the LG Hockey Games in Stockholm and telling the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet on January 30th he made up his mind it was the NHL or bust, the Philadelphia Flyers were the clear frontrunner for his future services. Remember that he played for them prior to being traded to the Predators nearly a full year ago. Back on Friday, Flyers owner Ed Snider told Chuck Gormley of the Courier-Post that he had faith in Forsberg making the right call on his comeback attempt and if he wanted to return to the Flyers.

"I'd like to think Peter Forsberg has gone through hell and would never come back if he thought he had to go through that again," Snider said.

A slight bit of uncertainty has set in at this point because Gormley pointed out in his article that Forsberg has been having trouble finding the most comfortable pair of skates to use with his surgerically repaired right foot. As a result, it is not a 100% certainty that he'll play this season.

Despite that bit of news, while Philadelphia remains interested, Forsberg trimmed the list of teams in contention for his services after turning down the Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks and even the Predators. The New York Rangers were rumored to be interested, yet there has been no mention of them being turned away by Forsberg. But they have not been named in recent days as a possible suitor either.

The remaining teams that are left have been speculated to be the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks besides the Flyers, but there is one team that has emerged as a real possibility. If you guessed the Avalanche, you are right. Why wouldn't he consider returning to a franchise where he won both of his Stanley Cup titles with and had spent most of his career?

On the same day that Snider expressed his thoughts to the Philadelphia area media, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post published an extensive article that discusses the idea of Forsberg returning to Colorado. Dater appropriately sites one of the only main obstacles that can derail a Rocky Mountain reunion and that of course is the health of Forsberg's foot that has kept him away from the rink so far this season.

"The number one thing is Peter being physically ready to play," Forsberg's agent Don Baizley said. "That's the thing Peter is still trying to determine."

However, while Dave Krieger of the Rocky Mountain News feels that Forsberg's best fit would be to go back to Colorado, the Flyers remain on the radar of the former Avalanche superstar regardless of how much sense it may or may not be. One thing is for certain. Playoff contending teams trying to get their rosters ready for a postseason push aren't going to wait too much longer for Forsberg to make a decision. The trade deadline is on February 26th at 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, so it will arrive a lot faster than many think.

No comments: