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Forsberg likely won't return this year

Bob McKenzie

2/19/2008 1:27:06 AM

Peter Forsberg is not coming back to the NHL this season.

Or at least it's highly unlikely, according to his agent, Don Baizley.

"The prospect of Peter having enough confidence in the foot-skate issue to commit to being able to play in the NHL this season isn't where it needs to be at this moment," Baizley told TSN. "As a result, teams are being told it is unlikely he will be able to commit to return to the NHL this season."

That's the message Baizley has been passing along to the NHL teams that were still in the running for the services of the unrestricted free agent centre. Effectivley, he's saying to make other plans because Forsberg is having enough issues with his foot that he's not prepared to commit to signing a contract.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren got the call from Baizley on Monday afternoon.

''I'm disappointed for Peter more than anything. I know how bad he wanted to come back and play with somebody in the NHL,'' said Holmgren. ''It's unfortunate. He's been trying real hard to get himself back in position to come back and help somebody. It's also disappointing for the league because I think he's still an impact player and brings the league a lot of notoriety.''

Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke echoed Holmgren's sentiment.

''To his credit, he could have come over and passed the physical and gotten someone for pretty good dough,'' Burke said. ''He's been a warrior in our league and it was an honest way to deal with this in my opinion. It confirms my feeling that Peter Forsberg is a quality guy.''

By all accounts, Forsberg is extremely disappointed to find himself in this situation.

Forsberg has invested a great deal of time and effort - including undergoing a surgical procedure in December - to correct his chronic foot issues and had hoped he would have been in a position by now to fully commit to playing the balance of the season in the NHL and perhaps beyond.

But he simply doesn't have enough confidence in the foot to believe he can do that at this time.

It is interesting to note that Forsberg's agent Don Baizley did use the term "unlikely" to return as opposed to making it unequivocal. But if you know Don Baizley, that's not unusual. The man never closes a door all the way.

But the premise of Forsberg's potential return to the NHL was always based on his being "confident" he could play more than a week or two at a time without the foot problem flaring. And with the trade deadline one week from Tuesday, Forsberg and Baizley thought it only fair to let NHL teams know that the level of confidence today is not where it needs to be.

Could that change within the next week? It's extremely doubtful, but.

Forsberg had previously indicated that if this latest (post-surgical) attempt to come back did not bear fruit, he was likely to announce his retirement from the game.

But since Forsberg was working to the arbitrary deadline of February 26th - the NHL trade deadline - for this season, a possible return next season should not be ruled out at this point.

Baizley's dispatch to the NHL teams still in the running said only that Forsberg can't commit at this time, which is not to say with more time that he might not be able to make that commitment for next season.