KELLEY'S KNAPSACK: Forsberg, Avs avoid complications with one-year extension

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Jim Kelley


Western Conference Knapsack

Our weekly midweek collection of tidbits of information for your knapsack of hockey knowledge.
Eastern Conference Knapsack
Colorado: The first clue that Peter Forsberg would work out a new deal with the Avalanche came when someone asked him about the old one. There was a great deal of speculation that the oft-injured forward had opened a great many cans of worms regarding payments owed and years owed on his old pact after he took a half-year off without pay while recovering from injuries and at least one unauthorized surgery. Forsberg said only that "these things have a way of working out, they always have." Translation: The Avs and me get along just fine and this will be handled in house. True to form, Forsberg agreed to a one-year contract extension on Wednesday. It's at the club's option, but it's a virtual given that the club will pick it up. Sources tell FOXSports.com that Forsberg agreed to the extension after the club agreed to lift a suspension it had imposed this season, a penalty handed down in part because Forsberg was medically cleared to play, but then opted for a leave of absence and then some apparently unauthorized surgery. In the end, it all washed out behind closed doors with Forsberg in essence agreeing to give the Avs one more season since he didn't play this season. Of course it's all contingent on his making a complete recovery from all of his ankle surgeries, which he is expected to do. There are even some people — and Forsberg is rumored to be among them — who think that the high-scoring center could rejoin the team in time for a late Stanley Cup run, should the club make it out of the second round. In lifting the suspension, Forsberg likely will be paid for the remainder of this season (a kind of playoff hedge bet), the Avs get another year out of their premier player for the price of this one and both sides walk away happy. There's still the uncharted problem of whether or not Forsberg could become an unrestricted free agent if the Avs were to pass on the option, but that's not likely. Like Forsberg said, when it comes to him and the Avs, these things have a way of working themselves out. Anaheim: We'll give the Ducks credit for trying, but it appears that the Sergei Krivokrasov experiment is over, and it was a failed one. The Ducks this week put the right wing on waivers and it's expected he'll go unclaimed, clearing the way for an assignment to the team's American Hockey League farm club. The 27-year old came to the NHL with bright promise as a first-round pick for Chicago in 1992, but since then he's washed through four clubs — Chicago, Nashville, Minnesota and now Anaheim. When the Ducks got him from the Wild (that's Minnesota to those of you who can't keep up with the NHL's seemingly endless expansion waves) it was for a seventh-round draft pick and the always deadly future considerations. That's not much for a player who once made the All-Star Game (representing Nashville) and had a 25-goal, 48-point season. However, lifestyle issues always seem to be a problem for this player (the Predators traded him shortly after there were charges that he had physically abused his wife) and his career is now at a crossroads. Calgary: Lets put those "everything's great again between Coach Greg Gilbert and forward Marc Savard" stories on hold again. Savard recently was taken off a line with Jerome Iginla, a decision that once again caused some consternation between the two parties. The rumor mill reports that the Flames are waiting for defenseman Derek Morris to heal up (he's expected back before the end of the month) and if they can get their power play going with Morris in and without Savard, a trade could once again be in the offering. Savard had requested out once before this season. It was smoothed over with the promise of time on the No. 1 line, but that doesn't appear to be the case any longer. Chicago: The Blackhawks have been backing away from thoughts that they would trade soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Tony Amonte, citing the fact that they are playoff contenders and would need him down the stretch and into the first round. Fine, but there are so many mixed signals coming from this franchise that we'll leave it at this: Amonte could go if the deal is right no matter what the playoff situation. History shows us that most teams move their unrestricted free agents because open-market bidding makes it almost impossible to keep them, and when they do, it throws the rest of the team's salary schedule out of whack. The Blackhawks could probably afford Amonte even at free-agent rates, but that has not been their style in the past. Coupled with the overall economics of the game, it's still wise to bet on Amonte not being a Blackhawk next season. FYI: Soon-to-be-38-year-old defenseman Phil Housley recently played in his 1,400th NHL game and shows no signs of slowing down. Housley, who came into the NHL at 18, right out of high school in Minnesota, is among the league's most gifted skaters. He also made the U.S. Olympic team this season, no small feat for a player of that age. Columbus: Just because there are rumors that a player is on the trade block doesn't mean the team wants to trade him. Consider these quotes from Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean after reports surfaced that Lyle Odelein was on the market. "They aren't true," MacLean said. "I haven't had one conversation about Lyle Odelein. Not one. That (the rumor) one's out there. I don't know how it got started or why it's out there, but there's nothing to it.'' It got started because teams like big, tough, scary players like Odelein and figure that since Columbus won't make the playoffs again this season that MacLean might want to move him. Get the talk going if you will. General managers sometimes do this. So do players, agents, scouts and just about everyone in hockey, except of course the media. The media never stoops to rumor mongering; we give you inside information instead. Dallas: By now you've probably heard of the newest Ed Belfour rant, the one in which he claims he doesn't need to be pushed, but perhaps his coach, Ken Hitchcock, does. If you haven't heard the exact quote, it's as follows: "I don't need anybody to push me. I know what I need to do, and I know how to figure out my problems and how to fix them. That's part of what being a successful goalie is all about. He (Hitchcock) can say whatever he wants and that doesn't make any difference to me. They tried to do that to me in Chicago, and it backfired. "My record speaks for itself, I know how to win. I don't need anybody telling me what I need to do and what I don't need to do. I'm a winner, I've always been a winner, always will be, and if he wants to push the panic button, go ahead. . . . Maybe we should hire another coach, so we can push him.'' Good stuff, the kind of stuff we hockey insiders (not rumor mongers) and fans love — a player who speaks his mind. One thing though, since it was Hitchcock and pretty much only Hitchcock who argued that Belfour should be on the Canadian Olympic team despite his temperamental nature wouldn't you think Billion Dollar Eddie would have eased up just a bit? The Stars are coming to the point where they have to make a call on Marty Turco and whether or not he's their future. Given that Belfour hasn't been playing all that well since, well, since the Olympic announcement, one can hardly blame Hitchcock for a) trying to win and b) accelerating the decision-making process. You would think given what Hitchcock did to make the Olympic experience happen for Belfour that Belfour might have owed his coach one. Detroit: An Uwe Krupp update: It appears the Red Wings and the defenseman are destined to part ways and argue over money all the way through to the bitter end. Krupp underwent the surgery he said he needed on his shoulder and likely is lost to the team for the remainder of the season. He's also moving through arbitration over money he says he's owed from a past contract, provisions of which the Red Wings are claiming they don't owe because Krupp went dog sledding when he supposedly had a hockey-induced back injury. There's the matter of some $8.2 million to be settled here. Look for Krupp to get most, if not all, of it and go on his way. FYI: We would be remiss in not congratulating Luc Robitaille for his 610th NHL goal last week. That marker tied him with the legendary Bobby Hull for No. 1 among left wingers all time. That pretty much makes Lucky Luc legendary as well. Edmonton: The recent stumbles involving the Oilers can pretty much be traced to the play of goaltender Tommy Salo of late. Salo is good and this is just one of those things a goalie goes through, but his goals-against average, once as low as 1.80, has been around 2.40 recently and that's costing the Oilers wins. There's a question of the goalie being overworked in all of this. Salo denies it, but if he doesn't sharpen up soon it will cost both the Oilers and Team Sweden. Salo is the Swedish Olympic netminder this year. Los Angeles: We told you this team would be better when it got healthy and it's making us look good (OK, maybe the Kings are making themselves look good, which is more important, but we never skipped a credit that favored us). The recent run through New York marked the first time the three New York metro area teams — the Rangers, Islanders and New Jersey Devils — had been beaten in succession by the same club. That's how good these guys are. And to think there where rumors that coach Andy Murray was going to get the ax. He could well be a candidate for coach of the year. Health played a big part in the resurgence, but so did the fact that Jason Allison, obtained from the Boston Bruins in trade, has finally started playing to form after missing all of training camp. Minnesota: According to the Sports and Business Journal, the Wild now rank No. 1 in the NHL in jersey sales. In addition, they're No. 2 in the United States in overall product sales behind the Detroit Red Wings. And the Wild are No. 3 in North America in overall product sales behind Detroit and the Toronto Maple Leafs. We have one question: Why? The sweater is nice, but not exactly the greatest thing since the Chicago Blackhawks or Montreal Canadiens. The team is good for an expansion club, but hardly high scoring or even overly entertaining to watch. The coach is amazingly competent, but hardly the second coming of Bill Parcels or even the anointed one, Steve Spurrier, and it's cold there. Must be the marketing. After all, the Wild don't wear shoes. Nashville: These guys must think they're good. In recent weeks, the Predators have beaten Detroit and New Jersey and forced a tie with Colorado. They've also lost to Tampa, Minnesota and Columbus, teams considerably lower in the standings. What's going on? Well, teams usually rise to a challenge and most young teams, the Predators included, see the "name clubs" as teams they must beat to measure their progress. At the same time, Tampa, Columbus and Minnesota have been working hard and scoring some successes this season and they see the Predators as a team they can beat. The day the Preds see the teams below them in the same way as the teams above them, is the day they'll have figured out what real good teams already know. FYI: Is there a more apropos place in hockey for defenseman Bubba Berenzweig than Nashville? Amazingly enough, he's Southern hockey's second Bubba. Predators play-by-play man Pete Weber has had that nickname for years. Phoenix: The true test of whether or not this revamped team can make the playoffs comes right now. Goalie Sean Burke is injured (groin). Backup Robert Esche is the heir apparent, but he's got to be the man who does the job right now. Early in the preseason he was one of five U.S.-born goalies invited to the Olympic tryout camp and at the start of the season he was brilliant in a limited role. Now it's an every-night thing and both management and his teammates are anxious to see how he'll respond. FYI: Veteran center Mike Sullivan, a premier defensive player and top penalty killer, has been a healthy scratch in about half of the team's last 15 games. Word is that coach Bobby Francis would play him more, but he's been under orders to play some of the kids so that management can assess where they are heading toward the trade deadline. Sullivan is 33 and has to know what could be coming. St. Louis: The eye injury to Scott Young puts his Olympics participation in doubt. Doctors are optimistically saying Young could be back in four weeks after suffering a torn retina and several corneal abrasions, but that's an optimistic date. Young wasn't wearing a visor at the time he caught a stick in his eye. That's surprising in that teammates Pavol Demitra and Al MacInnis last season both missed chunks of the season because of eye injuries. "It's so scary," said Demitra, who now wears a shield. "That was the scariest thing that ever happened to me. I just saw (Young) when he came by the bench and you could see blood and it was around his eye." San Jose: No knock on Teemu Selanne, he's a player we love to watch. But a starting berth at the All-Star Game? Come on. This guy has had a really tough season and the one before that wasn't exactly All-World either. Even Selanne admits he hasn't played near the form that once saw him score 76 goals in a season, or even to the form he showed in Anaheim. Couldn't be that San Jose fans figured out a way to muddle with the electronic fan balloting process, could it? Nah, not even in the Silicon Valley could they do something like that, even if Owen Nolan and Vincent Damphousse also got voted to starting spots. Nolan and Damphousse, who've scored 11 and 12 goals respectively on the season, deserve an All-Star berth, but starters? Perhaps only Damphousse could make that claim and it wouldn't be easy. Vancouver: Why do teams do this? When goalie Dan Cloutier left the Canucks during a recent visit to Buffalo, the club would only say that it was for "personal reasons." Later, after about a dozen calls asking if there could be a substance abuse issue here, the club altered the statement to say it was a personal leave of absence and that there might be a family illness involved. It's an unfair world that finds a person suspected of substance abuse just because he's a pro athlete, but it's also the world we live in. Is it so wrong to make a statement that relieves someone from any and all suspicion right from the get go? Cloutier is a good kid and his name and the words "substance abuse" in the same sentence just don't fit, but if you hear the words "personal reasons" on any nationwide sports report and the connection is automatically made just because in so many other instances it happened to be true. A simple statement saying Cloutier went home to tend to a family matter makes a world of difference. FYI: General manager Brian Burke said he would refuse to let Latvian goaltender Peter Skudra have time away to play for that team in an Olympic qualifier. Burke, who made the statement at the time Cloutier had left the team, said he had an obligation to ticket buyers in Vancouver and to the NHL first. It may not be the most popular stand in North America, but a lot of general managers who found themselves forced to do otherwise would applaud him for it. Jim Kelley can be reached at his email address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Bruins, Flames, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Oilers, Kings, Stars, Devils, Islanders, Avalanche, Sharks, Blues, Maple Leafs, Canucks, Coyotes, Predators, Blue Jackets, Wild, Marc Savard, Derek Morris, Tony Amonte, Luc Robitaille, Marty Turco, Ed Belfour, Dan Cloutier, Robert Esche, Sean Burke

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