While everyone eagerly awaits what could be a flurry of trades involving a slew of high-profile players leading up to Tuesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, the Colorado Avalanche
made the first splash -- and only had to dole out some money to do it.
The Avalanche announced Monday afternoon they had come to terms on a one-year contract with Peter Forsberg, who spent nine seasons in Colorado from 1995-2004 and won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 1996 and 2001.
Forsberg was an unrestricted free agent and hadn’t played hockey all season because of his long-running foot and ankle problems. Recently, he had been practicing with Modo, his former club team in Sweden.
The move is somewhat surprising considering Forsberg’s statement last Monday, through agent Don Baizley, that he would not likely be returning to the NHL this season due to recurring problems with his foot injury.
Now, a week later, Forsberg is back on an NHL roster, which should be a huge boost to the Avalanche as they pursue a playoff berth in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
"I wasn't sure (a week ago) that I was going to come back and I wanted to take an extra week," Forsberg said on a conference call from Sweden. "I just feel comfortable going back there (to Colorado) and try to help the team make the playoffs and go as far as we can go.”
Colorado currently sits 10th in the Western Conference, so the playoffs are not a given. But Colorado is just four points behind Vancouver and Nashville, who hold the last two playoff spots in the West. The Avs are just six points behind Northwest Division-leading Calgary, as well.
So the addition of Forsberg can certainly help bridge that rather small gap, especially with 19 games remaining in the season. Colorado GM Francois Giguere felt it was worth the risk to sign Forsberg, especially if the team can make it to the postseason tournament. The fact that it didn’t cost the team any future assets -- draft picks or prospects -- made the gamble even more palatable.
"We all understand that there's still a risk factor, but we are willing to take that risk," Giguere said. "Especially when we don't have to give an asset to acquire him.”
Forsberg had to be signed to a contract by Tuesday at 3 p.m. -- the League’s trade deadline -- to be eligible to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"At the end of the day, I felt I needed to do what I had to do to help this team," Giguere said. "That's part of the commitment that I also made to Joe Sakic two years ago when he accepted to stay on board. You're always trying to juggle improving the team and looking at the future, but we want to do as well as we can this year."
Forsberg clearly wants to be a part of bringing that magic back to the Mile High City. That is why he is putting his surgically repaired foot to the ultimate test of late-season NHL games with everything on the line for the team. He enjoyed the best part of his career in an Avalanche sweater and would like nothing better than to win it all again in Denver.
“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 told www.coloradoavalanche.com. “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.”
Adding Forsberg means the Avalanche have yet another tremendous playmaker to bolster their offense, which is currently 18th in the League in goals per game with 2.67.
Forsberg, who is only 34, still stands fourth on Colorado’s all-time scoring list with 741 points, including 216 goals and 525 assists, in 580 career games. Forsberg has 871 points, including 623 assists, in 697 regular-season NHL games.
The addition of Forsberg gives Colorado three of the top centers in the League when you factor in veteran Joe Sakic and youngster Paul Stastny.
Sakic was activated from the injured reserve Sunday. Stastny, who leads Colorado with 50 points, returned to the lineup this past Friday. But there is a chance that Forsberg could play the wing. Either way, with Forsberg joining Sakic and Stastny, plus wingers Wojtek Wolski, Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk, Andrew Brunette, and Marek Svatos, the Avalanche certainly have excellent options -- provided Forsberg’s foot remains healthy, which is always in doubt.
The Avalanche dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker Sunday night in Edmonton, leaving them with 68 points, four out of a playoff spot and just one point behind ninth-place Phoenix.
Colorado has 19 games remaining, including 13 against Northwest Division opponents. It may take Forsberg a few games to get familiar with his new teammates, but if Colorado can find its way into the playoffs, it is a safe bet that with this added offense, the Avalanche will undoubtedly be a contender.
“We’re proud to announce to our fans that Peter Forsberg has decided to come back and play with our franchise where he’s enjoyed so much success early in his career,” Giguere said. “His addition should complement our roster and will bring our team to an even higher competitive level.”
Yes it should.
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.