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Predators GM says Kariya going into free agency @NHLdotcom

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Predators forward Paul Kariya plans to enter free agency, the latest loss for a team "fighting for its life," general manager David Poile said Thursday.

Poile said Kariya decided to become a free agent because the Predators are up for sale and the team's future is uncertain.

"He just decided it's best for him to look at alternative options," Poile said.

The Predators have already shed several of their franchise players, including goaltender Tomas Vokoun, defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell.

Kariya led the team in scoring for the last two seasons, with 85 points in 2005-2006 and 76 points last season.

"He's been a great player for us," Poile told The Associated Press. "He'll be one of the most highly sought free agents this year."

Owner Craig Leipold has been trying to sell the team for $220 million to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie. However, the National Post in Canada reported Thursday that Leipold is looking at a second bidder, San Jose, Calif.-based venture capitalist William "Boots" Del Biaggio III, who reportedly has an ownership agreement in place with Kansas City's Sprint Center to locate a team there.

Balsillie had started a process to move the Predators to Hamilton, Ontario, if low ticket sales allowed the Predators out of their lease with the arena in Nashville after the sale's completion.

Poile acknowledged that the process has been hard on Predators' executives and fans.

"The whole situation is difficult. Our team is for sale, our payroll has to be a lot lower. The franchise is fighting for its life. This is a tough time here in Nashville," he said.

The Predators are still waiting to see if they'll get back veteran Peter Forsberg, who has said that his return to the league will depend on whether he can find a solution to a nagging foot ailment.

He had surgery on his foot Thursday, Poile said. The general manager had no other details.

The Swedish player had surgery last offseason on loose ligaments in his right ankle. It didn't fix the painful condition that makes his foot feel crooked in his skate.

"He's going to see if he's healthy," Poile said. "We'll hear later in the summer."

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