Nedved gets a second chance

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Better late than never.

It's not often a player finds the right place at the right time, but that's the sweet circumstance Petr Nedved enjoyed with the Edmonton Oilers late in the 2003-04 season.

Even so, Nedved walked away from a marriage made in heaven for one that wasn't. In the summer of 2004, he signed with Phoenix as an unrestricted free agent because he thought it better for the career of model and fiancee Veronica Varekova that she be near Los Angeles.

Nedved, 35, did the same thing last season with the Coyotes when he asked for a trade to the Eastern Conference so his bride could be near the other Mecca of modelling, New York.

These days, Varekova is gone - the couple separated last summer - and Nedved is an Oiler again after being taken on re-entry waivers from Philadelphia. It turns out Philly wasn't close enough to the bright lights of Broadway to keep his better half happy, either.

Regrets? Nedved has a few. So it goes, as he begins an encore here knowing he never should have left.

"Being at the right place at the right time is a key thing," said Nedved, who has managed neither since he left. "I had it when I was in New York and I had it in Edmonton.

THREE SEASONS LATER

"I enjoyed Phoenix, too, but made a personal decision to go back east. I thought it was the right one. Yes, it's been very frustrating. I'm glad I can put that behind me and go forward. That's what I have to do now."

Nedved re-signing with the Oilers instead of spurning Edmonton for the same money with Phoenix would have been a big story. Now? Not so much. With the lockout, parts of three seasons have slipped past.

"I couldn't agree with you more," says Nedved at the suggestion he could've saved himself a lot of grief by staying here. "At the same time, it's something you don't want to be saying to yourself because you'd probably go bananas. Life would be too easy. Nobody wants to go through tough times or make the wrong decision.

"You can say, 'What about this? What about that?'

"The best thing is not to do that to yourself because you could go crazy."

One look at the stats tells you Nedved isn't the same player he was when he tallied 15 points in 16 games with the Oilers after being acquired with Jussi Markkanen from the New York Rangers with, as a bonus, Glen Sather picking up his salary for Kevin Lowe.

That said, Edmonton might still be the right place for Nedved in terms of timing and circumstance. This chance is as good as it's going to get for Nedved to kickstart a career that's produced 712 points in 963 games. Coach Craig MacTavish could use some of that.

If nothing else, Nedved, who'll cost the Oilers about $600,000 in salary, might free up a bargaining chip for Lowe in his pursuit of the puck-moving defenceman he covets.

"I just think it's a case of giving a guy an opportunity where he's had success in the past," said MacTavish after Nedved was plucked from Ottawa's grasp yesterday.

"We've got players, we've got a lot of depth at the forward position, and we're going to be able to give him a complement of players who I feel will work very well with him."

To understate, Nedved's career hasn't exactly been fraught with highlights since he took his vows with Varekova July 3, 2004.

Nedved played 25 games for the Coyotes in 2005-06 before being dealt at his request to Philadelphia for Dennis Seidenberg Jan. 19, 2006. He played 28 games with the Flyers.

SECOND-WORST

This season, Nedved, twice on waivers, played 21 games with the Flyers, scored one goal and was minus-20, the second-worst plus-minus rating in the league. He also played 14 games with the AHL Phantoms.

All told, Nedved has played just 74 NHL games since his first stint here, scoring 8-24-32 with a minus-34 rating.

"What's going to happen in the future nobody really knows," said Nedved, talking about the move to Philadelphia. "I thought if I went back east, Philadelphia or New York, that would make it easier.

"I was kind of putting that ahead of myself. At the time, I felt family was the most important thing. I don't regret it. I still think it was the right decision. It didn't work out on the ice, but that's the way it is."

Now, the do-over.

"Hockey decisions are the only decisions I want to be making," laughs Nedved, who'll be an unrestricted free agent July 1.

"I was thinking to myself, if it was just hockey, I might still be where I'm coming back to right now."


Videos

Photos