Depending on the health of Forsberg’s right foot, a photograph might be the only way to see the former MVP in an NHL uniform again.
The Swede, who turns 34 in July, became an unrestricted agent when the Predators’ playoff run ended in the first round. He reiterated Monday that he will take a few months to rest and see if he can resolve the foot issues that limited him to 57 games this season.
“I had some problems with my foot there all year, especially at the beginning of the year,” he said. “I don’t want to rush it. I just want to make sure everything is fine and I can play at the level I’ve been playing at. That’s kind of what the decision’s all about.”
Forsberg had 55 points this season, 15 of those after Philadelphia traded him to Nashville in February for two players and two draft picks. Nashville was 10-4-3 when he was in the lineup, but couldn’t help the Predators avoid a second consecutive first-round loss to San Jose in five games.
Now Nashville general manager David Poile must decide whether to keep him and three other key unrestricted free agents – defenceman Kimmo Timonen, top points scorer Paul Kariya and forward Scott Hartnell.
Forsberg said he still loves to play, but wants to be sure his foot problems can be fixed. Surgery on loose ligaments in Forsberg’s right ankle last off-season made little difference on the painful condition that makes his foot feel crooked in his skate.
“I don’t think I can go through another year like this year,” he said. “It’s been hard, especially in the beginning of the year. I don’t think I could do myself justice on the ice, and it’s very hard. I don’t want to rush into a new season. I want to make sure everything’s all right if I come back and play.”
If Forsberg does want to play, the Predators have some tough decisions about which players to pursue. Forsberg just concluded a two-year deal worth US$11.5 million, a little pricey for a franchise carefully watching its paid attendance to ensure it receives all the revenue-sharing money available.
“We still have first rights to talk to them until July 1st,” forward Steve Sullivan said. “What Mr. Poile’s going to do or not do, that’s up to him. It’s not up to us. … Do we hope those four guys are back? Absolutely. If they don’t, we wish them the best.”
The Predators must also reach new contracts for coach Barry Trotz and his staff after finishing third in the NHL with a franchise-record 110 points. Poile and the coaches were scheduled to meet with reporters Tuesday.
Kariya, the first big-name free agent to sign with Nashville in 2005, said Trotz has been one of his best coaches and deserved to return for a ninth season.
“You can argue the team has overachieved. That’s in large part to his job as coach. He’s done a terrific job here,” Kariya said. “He’s the last person that should be blamed for the way things have gone.”
Timonen, the team’s third captain, has been with Nashville since the start, and he ranked 11th in the among defenceman with 55 points. He said he’d like to be back on a team he felt missed out on a deep post-season run only because of injuries, including to Sullivan and Martin Erat.
“Hopefully, they want to keep me. I want to stay here. … If it doesn’t happen, then I have to see something else,” Timonen said.