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August 4, 2005 - Flyers sign Forsberg; J.R. on the way out?

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Flyers sign Forsberg; J.R. on the way out?
By WAYNE FISH

phillyBurbs.com

It took 14 years but Peter Forsberg finally is coming home to play hockey for the Flyers.

Forsberg was supposed to be the team's star of the future when he was selected in the first round (sixth overall) of the 1991 draft.

Instead he was traded to Quebec as part of a multi-player deal to secure the rights to Eric Lindros in 1992.

Wednesday night the Flyers announced that they have signed Forsberg, a 32-year-old free agent, to a two-year deal worth a total of $10.7 million --- $5.7 million for the first year and $5 million for the second.

To make such a move, the Flyers have to clear more payroll to stay under the salary cap, leading to speculation they will trade veteran Jeremy Roenick.

General manager Bob Clarke admitted he will have to trade away somebody but denied he was sending to Roenick to the Los Angeles Kings, as was reported on several national publications' websites.

"Peter Forsberg is one of the best players in the game,'' Clarke said. "We signed him knowing that he puts us over the ($39-million) cap and we will have to trade some guys now.''

Forsberg received a four-year, $13.5 million offer to remain with the Colorado Avalanche, the team he has played for his entire career. But Forsberg, nicknamed Sweden's "Magic Boy,'' decided to go to the Flyers.

"He had the offer and he chose to go to Philly,'' Avalanche spokesman Damien Zier told the Associated Press.

Added Forsberg's agent, Don Baizley: "In the end, Peter chose Philadelphia. It was his decision.''

The 6-1, 205-pound Forsberg won two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche (1996, 2001) and is considered by many to be the best player in the game.

In recent years he's been plagued by injuries (he missed the entire 2001-02 season with a spleen injury and all but 39 games of the 2003-04 campaign to hip and groin problems). But the Flyers believe the year off due to the lockout has given his body valuable time to recover.

The talented center has recorded 741 points in 580 NHL games. But his playoff production is even more impressive. He's registered 154 points in 133 postseason games.

As recently as 2003 he was voted the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player.

The Flyers will make the official announcement at a press conference this morning.

Flyers captain Keith Primeau said the addition of Forsberg gives the rest of the team a lot of confidence heading into the season.

"For me, it doesn't get any bigger,'' Primeau said. "You're talking about the best all-around player in the game deciding to come to Philadelphia. It's extremely exciting. I'm excited to get started and get the opportunity to play with Peter.''

What makes Forsberg such a dominant all-around player?

"The title comes from his ability to play any style of game,'' Primeau explained. "If it's a high-scoring game, you recognize him. If it's a low-scoring, defensive battle, he's involved. If it's a physical game, he's involved.

"That's where he gets the reputation because he can play under any circumstance. He's a guy who's unafraid to play in traffic, takes a hit to make a play, and those are qualities you can't teach - you're either born with them or you don't have them. He's this dynamic player who can include all those attributes.''

As to why Forsberg chose the Flyers, Primeau said it might have something to do with looking for "new challenges.''

"The Philadelphia Flyers are a desirable destination for free agents because they recognize they always give you an opportunity to win. This is a great challenge for him, too ... to see if he can help this organization get back to its rightful place among the top teams in the NHL.''

Meanwhile, Roenick sounds resigned to heading west to either Los Angeles or his former team, the Phoenix Coyotes. Reportedly, he waived his no-trade clause.

Such a deal would save the Flyers $4.94 million in salary.

In an interview with Philadelphia radio station WIP, Roenick said: "The Flyers have a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup with Peter Forsberg than with Jeremy Roenick.''

He later said he would never stand in the way of a deal for the No. 1 talent in the game.

If a deal is made, Roenick, 35, will have played only three of the five seasons on his original five-year, $37.5 million contract. He was limited to 62 games in 2003-04 due to a broken jaw and his 10th career concussion.

Primeau said it would be tough parting with Roenick, who has been a big contributor the past four years.

"I spoke to him today,'' Primeau said. "He felt he would be the player moved to take on Peter's salary. Not only has he been a good teammate but a good friend. So it will be tough not to see him around if that's the case.

"He knows how Peter is to any franchise. He will move on with dignity.''

Now that the Flyers have strengthened both their offense (with the addition of Forsberg), plus their defense with the signings of Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje, many will pick them as Stanley Cup favorites.

Does Primeau mind the pressure?

"I love it,''he said. "There are always lofty expectations here. We accept that. This just adds to that. It's a wonderful environment to play in when you have those expectations.''

HE'S IN

Peter Forsberg

Age: 32

Position: Center

2005 salary: $5.7 million

Career stats: 218 goals, 525 assists

Stanley Cup titles: 2 (Colorado: 1996, 2001)

What he did during the lockout: Forsberg spent the lockout staying in shape and playing in the Swedish Elite League

HE'S OUT?

Jeremy Roenick

Age: 35

Position: Center

2005 salary: $4.94 million

Career stats: 475 goals, 645 assists

Stanley Cup titles: 0

What he did during the lockout: During the lockout, Roenick started a construction real estate business in Phoenix and Chicago to prepare for life after hockey

DID YOU KNOW?

The two Flyers to be named league MVP were Bobby Clarke (1973, 1975 and 1976) and Eric Lindros (1995).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"The Flyers have a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup with Peter Forsberg than with Jeremy Roenick."

 - Jeremy Roenick