Voorhees, NJ – Little did Flyers General Manager Bob Clarke know when he woke up on the morning of August 3, but the face of his organization was about to change with the addition of arguably the best player in the National Hockey League. Clarke got a call around noon that day, leading to a whirlwind of activity that resulted in what may be the biggest free agent signing in franchise history just hours later in Peter Forsberg.More: Flyers Sign Peter Forsberg
It took everyone by surprise, including Flyers Chairman Ed Snider.
"I was stunned, to be honest with you," said Snider. "Bob did a masterful job. He only had a couple of hours. He had a two-hour window to make the deal, one way or the other. We decided to take the gamble to go over the cap, knowing that there would be options for us to get back under. I can't congratulate Bob Clarke enough for what he has accomplished."
There were several offers for the man who was considered the biggest prize in the free agent market in this particularly crazy offseason. Many teams made their intentions known early on, yet Clarke still managed to outmaneuver them all for the five-time NHL All-Star and former league MVP.
In fact, Clarke himself thought that the Flyers' roster was set after the additions a day earlier of free agent defensemen Derian Hatcher, Mike Rathje and Chris Therien. Defense was the top priority for Philadelphia, and Clarke quickly filled that need with a trio of towering blueliners on just the second day of the free agent signing period.
When Clarke spoke with Forsberg's agent, Don Baizley, however, he had no other choice but to weigh his options.
"I think when you're talking about a player like Forsberg, a lot of times you convince yourself that this player is so good that you're never going to be able to get him anyway," said Clarke. "But, [Baizley] said that he was interested in us, and he gave us a chance so we jumped at him.
"When I told you that I wasn't going to sign anyone else (on Tuesday), that was our intent. At the time, we thought, this is who we're going to go with. When we had a chance to get Peter, we just said we'd be dumb not to do something like that."
While the excitement is evident with Clarke and Snider, Forsberg himself is just as happy to be coming to a team that has a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup. He had the opportunity to go elsewhere, but chose to go back to the team that originally drafted him in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft.
"I was talking to a few teams when Philly came in," said Forsberg. "They came in pretty late, but when they came in I was really excited and very interested and it went really fast from there.
"It's an organization that always has shown that it really wanted to win every year," he said. "They always put out a good team, and it's a classy organization. I don't know if it puts too much pressure (on me), but of course I want to show them that I am a good player and can help the team to go as far as we can. I think there's no question that everybody expects us to go far and hopefully win the Cup."
With the addition of Forsberg, the salary-cap casualty turned out to be popular center Jeremy Roenick, who was traded to Los Angeles on Thursday morning in exchange for future considerations. The decision to deal Roenick was not an easy one for Clarke or Snider, but one that was necessary in this new era of economics for the NHL.
"I'm going to miss Jeremy Roenick. He was a class act for our club, and when I think of all the injuries that he played through, particularly in the playoffs the year before last, Jeremy is a heck of a guy," said Snider. "He also was a class act in the way he handled this whole thing, because he had a no-trade and we asked him in advance of making the deal. Jeremy was 100 percent in favor of us going forward. You don't meet guys like that too often."
Regardless of the unfortunate situation of having to deal Roenick, at the end of the day the Flyers are a better club on paper than they were on Tuesday. In what was supposed to be a hard situation for the so-called "big market" clubs with the new CBA, the Flyers are the early winners and Clarke's preparedness in how to deal with the new economics has landed him the biggest prize available.
And it all happened so fast.For Flyers ticket information and an updated seating chart, please click here or call (215) 218-PUCK (7825).