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The signing of Peter Forsberg in 2005 made the then recent big time free agent signings of Chris Gratton and Jeremy Roenick pale in comparison. Forsberg was brought into town with the promise of being "the greatest hockey player in the world." Unfortunately, his short tenure with the team was marred by injury, frustration and a team pulling apart at the seams.
Originally drafted by the Flyers, the word around the campfire was that Forsberg would not leave Sweden to play in North America unless it was for a "European" type city...kind of like French speaking Quebec for example. This made him expendable to the franchise when Jay Snider and Russ Farwell decided to deal for Eric Lindros and thus starting a never ending comparison between the two and an uninformed argument that the Flyers got the worse of the deal.
This argument is usually made by people who don't realize the issues the Flyers were having getting Forsberg to come to Philly were almost as bad as the issues the Nordiques were having getting Lindros to play in Quebec; these are also usually the same uninformed people who blame Bobby Clarke—the then GM of the Minnesota North Stars—for making the Lindros trade.
While Lindros turned the franchise around, Forsberg eventually crossed the pond to play for the
Nordiques/Avalanche franchise, became a super star, won two Stanley Cups, an Art Ross trophy and a Hart Trophy. He also played on a team with Joe Sakic that had Patrick Roy in goal, which helps.
After the Conference Finals run in 2004 and the lockout "lost season" of 2004-05, the Flyers put the pedal to the metal to make 2005-06 the Stanley Cup year. With returning captain and 2004 playoff hero Keith Primeau, star forward Simon Gagne, free agent signings Mike Knuble, Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje and the promotion of "future superstars" Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the Flyers signed Forsberg to put them over the top and visions of a parade in June danced in the fan base's head. It was not to be.
Forsberg needed minor foot surgery before the year even began. The first half of the season, the Flyers played up to expectations despite losing Primeau to a career ending concussion. Forsberg was hampered by a groin injury limiting him to only 60 games, yet he still posted an impressive 75 points. Much to the dismay of the organization that was paying him close to $6 million, the injured Forsberg insisted on playing for Team Sweden in the 2006 Olympics, risking further injury. Upon his return, the team steadily declined, culminating in an embarrassing first round elimination to the Buffalo Sabres.
During the offseason, he had corrective surgery performed on his right ankle. He was expected to have the same surgery done on his left ankle and be sidelined until January of 2007. He opted not to have the second surgery. You'd be hard pressed to find a person on the planet who wanted to be the captain of the Flyers less than Forsberg did, but the Flyers ignored that and named him team captain anyway. His captaincy and season were plagued by questions regarding his contract situation, his injured feet and a special skate boot he needed to wear that became more well known to the city than most of the players.
Unable to work out a contract extension, the Flyers threw their hands up in the air and traded the constantly irritated Forsberg to the Nashville Predators for Ryan Parent and Scottie Upshall. Forsberg left behind a team in turmoil that was suffering through the worst season in their 40 year history.
What was the most hyped free agent signing in the team's history ended in major disappointment with the Flyers having the league's worst record. To add insult to injury, they even lost the coin toss to determine the first overall draft choice in 2007 to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks picked Patrick Kane who would come back to really haunt the Flyers by burying the overtime series winning goal past Michael Leighton as the Blackhawks beat the Flyers, on their own ice, for the Stanley Cup.
Thanks for the memories, Foppa.