The start of free agency (July 1) is almost upon us, and to help shed some light on the subject we bring you the first in a series of profiles of this season's class of top free agents. First up is Peter Forsberg.
The man pictured to your left needs no introduction. What he does need, is an NHL team to call his own. Step right up NHL GMs! He enjoys candlelit dinners, long walks on the beach... Well, I don't know if he really does enjoy those things, but he certainly is good at his day job.Forsberg has battled serious injury problems during the past three seasons; from groin strains to ankle and wrist injuries, even a concussion. Those problems have limited him to 156 games over that span. That averages out to 52 games played per year.
Despite those problems, Forsberg is still one of the premier players in the league and is arguably the best player to ever come out of Sweden. Over those three injury plagued seasons he still averaged 1.19 points per game and had an average plus minus rating of +14.6. Those numbers are even more impressive considering that he played the majority of the 06-07 season for Philadelphia, the NHL's worst team.
To play devil's advocate, Forsberg can be looked at as a shaky signing. He will be 34 in July probably still has a few good years left, but there's always the chance that his next injury (and it seems likely there will be a next injury) could be the one that ends his career for good. In 12 NHL seasons, Forsberg has managed to play 70 or more games five times, the last of those seasons coming in 2002-03. It's almost certain that he will spend at least a small chunk of the year on the shelf.
Despite his injury problems, it's clear that any NHL team would love to have Forsberg in their lineup, but who will have the most realistic shot at obtaining the Swede?
Two years ago, Forsberg signed with Philadelphia as an unrestricted free agent. At the time, the Flyers were a serious competitor in the East and threw big money in his direction ($5.75 mil this season). List some of the main factors Forsberg will look at... competitive teams, $, previous experience, who has cap room.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match...
(in no particular order)
- Philadelphia Flyers: Forsberg may choose to go back to the team that traded him in February, and if so, the Flyers will certainly have the money to do it. NHLNumbers.com estimates the Flyer's contract commitments for 2007-08 to be in the neighborhood of $31 million. There are serious questions about this option; is Philly a town Forsberg wants to be in, and does he want to be part of a rebuilding project? Let's face it. Despite the acquisition of Martin Biron, the Flyers aren't going to be a contender next year. If winning another title is part of Forsberg's plan, and there's a good chance it is, Philly may drop on his list.
- MoDo (Swedish Elite League): Rumor has it that there is currently an offer on the table from MoDo asking Forsberg to return home. He would certainly be taking a pay cut, but he is adored in Sweden, and a ticket home is never something that is easy to turn down. Earlier in the season Mats Sundin turned down an offer to play in Sweden. We will have to wait and see if Forsberg does the same. Remember, prior to the lockout it was rumored that Forsberg would return to Sweden. Thanks to the lockout he did without having to choose between Sweden and the NHL, but did he get the urge to play at home out of his system?
- Nashville Predators: You certainly can't take them out of the equation, as Forsberg would have the opportunity to play along side Paul Kariya and a host of other talented players on what should be a competitive team. That begin said, as the scenario of Nashville relocating gains steam, so does the scenario of many of the Predators free agents (Forsberg, Kariya, Timonen) skipping town. Unless things really accelerate, it looks like they will have at least one more season in Nashville, but it may not be a location that is attractive for the long-term. The Predators do have the cap space (approx. $28 mil committed to 07-08) to sign both Kariya and Forsberg, but there are also 14 other expiring contracts on their roster. Signing both players, who will be asking for at least five million a piece, may not leave enough room to sign Timonen (who is coming off a career year and will certainly be looking for more than this season's $2.28 mil) and the rest of the pack.
- Dallas Stars: Forsberg could fit in as a short term replacement for the aging Mike Modano, or would look great playing alongside Modano, Jere Lehtinen and Brenden Morrow. The problem with this scenario is that the numbers don't look so great. Dallas is committed to ~$40 million for next season and has a plethora of free agents. Leading scorer Mike Riberio is a RFA, and will undoubtedly be looking for more than the $1.9 mil he made this season. The contracts of 10 other players, including Eric Lindros, Patrick Stefan, Daryl Sydor and Jussi Jokinen are also up. Even if Dallas lets most of those players walk (likely), they still need room for replacements.
- Colorado Avalanche: It has been reported that the Avalanche currently have about $30 million locked up for next season, leaving a lot of wiggle room under a salary cap which is expected to increase. To add to that, they only have two RFAs to worry about in Marek Svatos and Cody McCormick. Forsberg is going to cost a pretty penny, but he spent most of his career in Colorado, including two Stanley Cup victories. They certainly have a 'home town advantage' so to speak. Colorado missed the playoffs this season and didn't roll through the West like we expect them to - don't let the facade fool you. This team is bursting at the seams with young talent and is on it's way up (Svatos, Wolski, Stastny and Liles to name a few). If the Avs can get a solid net minder, be it through Budaj's development or free agency, this team will be making some serious noise next year. One side note: Colorado would only be committed to about $24 million next season, if they didn't have Jose Theodore's lousy contract. Just imagine all of the possibilities!
- Detroit Red Wings: If Forsberg wants to go to a Cup Contender, and loyalty to Colorado isn't a factor, here's his next stop. Detroit came up short this year, but looks as if the Wings will be able to have continued success in the future. Money isn't as much of a problem in Detroit as it is in Dallas, but they face the same problem that Nashville is facing. Chris Chelios, Robert Lang, Dominik Hasek, Todd Bertuzzi, Kyle Calder, Mathieu Schneider and Danny Markov are all unrestricted. Yikes. It's tough to imagine them resigning half those guys and still having room for Forsberg.
- San Jose Sharks: This one is purely a hypothetical, but think about it. It almost makes too much sense. Yes, the Sharks were right up against the cap this year, but that was in part to Vladimir Malakhov's $3.6 million dollar retirement. Best of all, they have all their core players signed. They are looking at a total of eight free agents (5 UFA, 3 RFA), the big names being Bill Guerin, Scott Hannan and Craig Rivet. Let's get to the numbers. The Sharks have ~$35 million committed to next season. We'll say that the cap moves to $46 mil next year, leaving San Jose ~$11 million under the cap. If they ink Forsberg for $6 mil (I'm being a bit generous), let Guerin and Rivet walk, sign Hannan for $2.5 (again, a bit generous), that leaves ~$2.5 to fill in the rest. Forsberg's offensive output replaces Guerin's, who was a rental and might not want to stay in San Jose anyway. There is one string attached; the Sharks must be confident enough to leave their defense mostly as is. That means an increased role for Matt Carle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
- New York Rangers: You can bet the Blueshirts will be interested in a big name like Forsberg, but this scenario may be a little far fetched. Imaging him alongside Prucha and Jagr is a frightening possibility... Spotlight? Check. Contender? Check. Not relocating? Check. Cap room? Sort of. Free agents? Tons. Like San Jose, the Rangers are looking at about $35 million already committed. They can drop Kevin Weekes and Sandis Ozolinsh, freeing up $4.75 mil. That doesn't replace the fact that they have 12 free agents to be including, Petr Prucha, Henrik Lundqvist, Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan. Prucha and Lundqvist made a combined $1.38 last season. You can bet that figure is going to sky rocket. This scenario has some possibilities, but I feel like the Rangers have too many players to resign to take a realistic shot at Forsberg. Of course, if for some reason they let Shanny and Avery walk, all bets are off.