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Flyers set to move on without captain Forsberg

NHL.com @NHL

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Add Peter Forsberg to the swelling list of superstars who deserted Philadelphia without a championship.

Instead of winning a Stanley Cup, all the Flyers got out of their high-priced free agent was 100 games, no real solution to his lingering foot woes and no commitment to the future.

Turns out, the "C" fit on Forsberg's sweater about as well as his right foot fit in his skate.

The team captain and former NHL MVP never asked to be traded, but he never told chairman Ed Snider and general manager Paul Holmgren that he wanted to stay, either. So the Flyers had little choice. Watch him retire or sign elsewhere in the offseason as an unrestricted free agent and lose him for nothing, or deal him and keep building toward what has to be a better future.

Just don't call what the Flyers are doing rebuilding.

"We don't understand what rebuilding is," Snider said.

So Forsberg goes to Nashville for forward Scottie Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent and two draft picks, leaving the team with the fewest points in the NHL for the one with the most points in the Western Conference.

Allen Iverson. Terrell Owens. Jim Thome.

Forsberg joins a list of Philadelphia superstars who left with championship dreams unfulfilled. Much like when the 76ers traded Iverson in December, the Flyers are mired in last place and play before dwindling crowds.

"To say the least, it's been a very difficult stretch," Snider said.

Snider should know. He runs both teams.

For the rest of this season, Forsberg's absence means little. In almost two seasons with the Flyers, they went 50-36-14 with Forsberg in the lineup and 10-24-5 without him.

The 33-year-old Swede had 11 goals and 29 assists in 40 games for the Flyers this season.

"I think we're fortunate that we had him over the last two years and it's unfortunate we had so many injuries," Snider said. "We weren't able to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish."

The Flyers did manage to get younger and obtain draft picks - two things they need to build a winner.

Upshall was the sixth overall pick in 2002 and was part of the Milwaukee team that won the AHL's Calder Cup last season. Holmgren described the 19-year-old Parent as a "shutdown" defenseman.

"It's a foot-in-the-door opportunity," said Upshall, who played 14 games for the Predators this season. "I felt like in Nashville the opportunity just wasn't there."

Upshall will be with the Flyers when they play Saturday in New York against the Rangers.

But Nashville is the short-term winner in this deal.

If Forsberg has his foot and skate issues resolved - and he says he's feeling better now than he has all season - the Predators have solidified themselves as a Stanley Cup favorite. Forsberg has acknowledged he thought about retiring at the end of this season because of a painful condition that makes his right foot feel crooked in his skate. He had offseason surgery to repair loose ligaments in his right ankle, but the operation has made little difference.

"Believe me, it's been a tough year," Forsberg said. "It's been feeling much, much better with all the help I've been getting, but I'd like to see that I'm playing good for a long time before I commit to another year."

The Flyers could even jump back in the Forsberg picture when he becomes a free agent on July 1, though Forsberg hardly sounded like a player who would consider returning to Philadelphia.

"If I considered it, I would have signed already," Forsberg said.

Snider wouldn't rule out a return, but made it clear in his last-ditch meeting with Forsberg on Thursday afternoon that he wanted a commitment from him then and not in the summer.

"I would have much rather signed Peter for three or four more years," Snider said.

Forsberg's departure marred perhaps the most chaotic season in the team's 40-year history. The Flyers fired coach Ken Hitchcock only eight games into the season and longtime general manager Bob Clarke resigned, before returning to the organization in a different job.

Hitchcock had named Forsberg team captain after Keith Primeau retired, but the superstar never felt at ease as locker room leader. He tried to bail out of an early season shootout, visited foot specialists more often than he lit the lamp, and didn't have that fiery persona needed to jolt the Flyers out of their awful start.

Coach John Stevens said it was too soon to think about who would assume the captaincy.

In the end, Forsberg's skate issues seemed symbolic of the Flyers' overall play: neither could find the right balance.

"It's been a really hard year," Forsberg said. "I don't think most people understand if you can't skate how hard it is to play hockey."

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