Wednesday, January 5, 2005
Updated: August 4, 6:39 PM ET
Flyers can get it right second time around
By EJ Hradek
ESPN The Magazine
It's Christmas in August for Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock and hockey fanatics in Philly.
Fourteen years after drafting him with the sixth overall pick, Peter Forsberg is finally going to suit up for the Flyers. GM Bob Clarke, seemingly intent on ending a near 30-year Stanley Cup drought, plucked Forsberg off the free-agent list with a two-year, $11.5 million deal.
The signing temporarily bumps the Flyers over the salary cap. According to league sources, the club likely will remedy that financial issue by dealing chatty center Jeremy Roenick. Ironically, that will make Roenick the first actual cap casualty of the new system. Remember, it was Roenick who spoke out in defense of salary-cap system during the lockout.
In Forsberg, the Flyers get a ferocious competitor who was part of two Stanley Cup championship teams in Colorado. For many years, Forsberg has been viewed as the game's most complete player. His ultra-competitive style has taken its toll on him over the last several years. At 32, some will wonder if he remains the same dynamic player.
Last season, while playing in the Swedish Elite League during the lockout, Forsberg suffered a wrist injury and a concussion. He totaled 13 goals and 39 points in 33 SEL games.
He was also hampered by injuries during the 2003-04 season. Playing in just 39 games, Forsberg totaled 18 goals and 55 points. In the previous season, however, he piled up 77 assists and 106 points in 75 games.
Simply, when Forsberg is healthy, he remains one of the game's best.
With the addition of Forsberg, the Flyers have a very formidable group of centers that also includes Keith Primeau, Michal Handzus and impressive prospect Mike Richards.
The acquisition seems to right one of the organization's most significant miscalculations. In 1992, the Flyers sent Forsberg, along with Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Ron Hextall, Mike Ricci, Chris Simon, two draft picks and cash to the Quebec Nordiques for much-hyped center Eric Lindros.
The Big E enjoyed some terrific seasons in Philadelphia, but he battled several major injuries and never was able to lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup.
Now, the Flyers are hoping a guy they drafted a long time ago can do just that.
EJ Hradek covers hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, click here to send EJ a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.