Why the Flyers Have Little Chance of Resigning Forsberg

Today I would like to address something that has been nagging at me since Peter Forsberg’s contract expired at the end of last season, and that is one of the fallacies surrounding the Peter Forsberg Free Agency “sweepstakes.” More specifically, the notion that the Flyers are going to resign Forsberg.First, there’s the question of whether or not he is even going to return. Personally, I think he will. Foppa is a born competitor, and I don’t see him as the kind of guy who would hang up the skates just yet. Assuming his second surgery goes well, I’d say he would be able to give at least 3 or 4 more solid years to his career. That is, of course, assuming the surgery is a success. If he still has ankle problems, we’d see him gone from the league before the playoffs even start, if he even decides to return at all.

Assuming that he does decide to return, where can he go? Let’s take Peter’s personal preferences into account. He recently told the Swedish newspaper, “Aftonbladet,” that if he does return, it will more than likely be for the Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators, or Colorado Avalanche, three of his former teams. The Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators have also expressed interest. This article is going to focus on the Flyers’ bid. Let’s have a look:

Philadelphia Flyers
22-48-12, 56 points, 30th in the NHL
Available Cap Room: $1,300,000

Forsberg definitely believes that he has unfinished business in Philadelphia, and I’m sure he would love to be reunited with the city of Philadelphia and the Flyers fans (and vice versa). The Flyers are definitely much stronger this season than they were last time we saw them, adding star center Daniel Briere and defensemen Jason Smith and Kimmo Timonen, among other additions. They also have a bright future ahead with young guys like Scottie Upshall, Joffrey Lupul (assuming Edmonton was a fluke), Braydon Coburn, and Ryan Parent.

Let it be known, the Flyers will not be as bad as they were last season, and they will probably be in the running for a playoff spot. However, I don’t see them as a Stanley Cup Contender, not for another year or two. Now, let’s examine the reality of the situation:

Forsberg, if he does return, is going to be a rental player in his first season. I don’t think any team will be brave enough to offer him a long-term contract, not even one of his former venues. Teams usually “rent” players when they feel they have a significant shot at winning the Stanley cup immediately, and that the addition of the rental can be the final piece to push them over the hump. The Flyers, as improved as they are, have a very, very, very slim chance of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals this year. There’s two likely possibilities that I can see transpiring between Forsberg and Philadelphia:

1) So the Flyers sign Foppa for one year, the team improves vastly over the last season they had and even makes the playoffs before they get bounced in the first or second round. Forsberg’s contract expires and he (assuming he is healthy, because if he isn’t I think he would retire by now, making all of this pointless) jumps into the free agency market. Now that he’s returned to form, other teams are chomping at the bit to get Foppa on their squad, and the Flyers have no chance in a bidding war because of the splash they made on last season’s free agency market. Both Foppa and the Flyers part ways for the third and final time.

2) The Flyers offer Forsberg a long-term contract. Not only is this a significant gamble, because there is no guarantee that Forsberg will return to past form, but it is also very unlikely, because the Flyers simply don’t have the sort of space to give a player like Forsberg a long-term contract (or even a one-year contract, at that).

Yes, that’s right. Forsberg will, most likely, command at least 3 million dollars on the free agency market. His decision to return to the NHL is a testament to the fact that he believes that he will return to his past form; therefore, I can’t see Forsberg accepting a salary less than what he has received in the past if he believes he can perform up to par with what he has previously done.

Now, Philly has about half of the cap room needed to resign Forsberg, and the only way they can clear the rest is by moving some personnel. They would have to unload one of their 2 million-plus guys in order to take a stab at Forsberg. If they did unload anyone, I would expect it to be Denis Gauthier. Derian Hatcher, though old, was the team’s best defenseman last season, and he’ll be a big pillar of support for the rookies to learn from. Mike Rathje is on long-term injury, so moving him is pointless since his salary doesn’t count against the cap.

Considering these factors, I don’t think Philly will resign Forsberg. The Flyers have no need to rent a player since they most likely will not compete for the cup next season, even if they do make the playoffs as a lower seed. However, a return to Philadelphia is not completely out of the question for Forsberg. Assuming a contending team rents him for this season (my money’s on Colorado or Vancouver; I don’t see him playing for a rival to either of his former teams [Detroit or Ottawa]), he should be available on the free agency market again next season. By then, Philadelphia will be in position to buy out Rathje, Hatcher, and/or Gauthier, since they will all have one year left on their contract. This will free up enough cap-room for them to take a run at Forsberg, assuming he had a relatively productive first season back from surgery and is poised to return to form.

As a Flyers fan, I would love to ignore the cap, resign Forsberg for a 10 year, 99 million dollar contract, stick him back on the Gagne/Knuble line, and watch the magic happen. But I wrote this article as a realist, and I just can’t see Foppa returning to the Flyers. At least, not this season. Anyway, I think the Flyers will be okay with or without Forsberg; they have definitely improved and are only going to get better with the rising talent of their young guns. The loss of Forsberg will be a relatively small disappointment compared to the quick renaissance of hockey in Philadelphia.