Now it's official. With the announcement of Peter Forsberg's pro-rated $1 million contract, the Colorado Avalanche are bringing the talented-but-fragile former Hart Trophy winner for another go-around. In however many games he plays, Forsberg will certainly be able to use his passing skills (that, according to coach Joe Sacco and Avalanche observers, are still impressive) to help out the power play and generate some creative offensive output.
That will be all well and good to nostalgia-seeking fans and Avalanche bean counters looking to boost ticket sales in a season of mediocre attendance. The problem is that this doesn't really solve many problems for the Avs.
Colorado currently has a power play clicking at 20.1 percent, just a little below the Tampa Bay Lightning. As of Monday morning, they've tallied 164 goals-for in 52 games -- more than every team in the Pacific Division, along with other teams ahead of the Avs in the playoff race.
Since the start of the new year, Colorado's only had five wins -- but in those five wins, they put up four goals in four games and five goals in the other game. In the games they've lost? They've given up three or more goals seven times, including every game on their current three-game losing streak. In fact, Colorado's 172 goals-against is the highest for any Western Conference team except for the Edmonton Oilers. With most of Colorado's defense under 25, it's clear that some sort of veteran presence is needed to stabilize things outside of 39-year-old Adam Foote.
(Things could be worse, though; the Ottawa Senators have a comparable goals-against but have nearly 50 fewer goals-for. Hey, silver lining.)
So what does the Forsberg signing really do for the Avs besides sell tickets and merchandise? Let's go out on a limb here and say that Forsberg stays reasonably healthy for the rest of the season with some maintenance days in between. Colorado has 11 games before February 28's trade deadline. Assuming that Forsberg's skills live up to expectations, Colorado's top-six forwards should look pretty good, even without Peter Mueller (who's skating).
That leads to the obvious holes on defense and the mediocre goaltending of duo Peter Budaj and Craig Anderson. With a number pending UFAs patrolling the blueline (Ed Jovanovski, Roman Hamrlik, Chris Phillips, Eric Brewer, and -- of course -- Tomas Kaberle), a healthy and productive Forsberg can offset the Colorado forward group enough to make them a major player in the defenseman sweepstakes. The budget-conscious Avalanche won't have to worry about cap space and should have no problem paying for a quarter-season rent-a-player.
Perhaps that will be the biggest impact Peter Forsberg makes on the ice -- not the playmaking and assists, but the forward depth for Colorado to be a bit of a player come the trade deadline. And if Colorado pushes ahead to the postseason, even a first-round exit will make the Avalanche accountants happy -- with, of course, the piles and piles of money earned off Forsberg merchandise.
For more on the Forsberg signing, check out Mile High Hockey.