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Major additions unlikely to come for Avs

Rick Sadowski
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” The Avalanche might test the NHL free-agent waters beginning at 10 a.m. MDT today, but don’t expect a big splash.

“My anticipation is that we won’t be really, really active like we were last year when we signed two of the top guys,” general manager Francois Giguere said Monday, referring to Scott Hannan and Ryan Smyth. “We’ve done our homework, we’re ready to go, and if there’s anything we can do to improve our team at a reasonable price, we’ll do it.

“I just anticipate, because there’s only a few guys that are top end, there’s going to be a market that’s going to be created on those guys and it’s going to be really, really prohibitive.”



As in too expensive.

Besides, Giguere said, he already has signed “two of probably the top five defensemen that were entering free agency” in John-Michael Liles and Adam Foote.

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“Our feeling is it’s like we just signed two free agents,” he said. “We just signed them a day early.”

Liles, 27, received a four-year, $16.8 million contract that includes a modified no-trade clause. Liles, who made $1.4 million last season, will be paid $3.7 million in 2008-09, $4,125,000 in 2009-10, $4,425,000 in 2010-11 and $4.55 million in 2011-12.

“I started my career with Colorado,” Liles said. “They kind of raised me in the NHL and I definitely couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else. You can go to free agency and see what’s out there, but I really did not have the desire to do that.”



Liles was at his parents’ lakeside home in Indiana when the deal was made.

“Some of the neighbors across the lake definitely heard me screaming after it was all confirmed,” he said, laughing.

Foote, who turns 37 on July 10, signed a two-year, $6 million deal. He made $4.6 million last season on a contract he signed with Columbus after the 2004-05 lockout, but he was willing to take a significant pay cut to stay in Colorado. He’ll be paid $2.75 million in the first year and $3.25 million in the second.

But the future of Joe Sakic has yet to be determined, and Giguere said he is willing to wait as long as it takes for the longtime captain to make a decision on whether to return for a 20th NHL season or retire.

“We’re going to prepare ourselves to ice the best team possible with the hope that some time in the upcoming weeks or months that he’ll decide to come back,” Giguere said. “But if he doesn’t, we’re going to be ready for that eventuality.”

Giguere said he last spoke with Sakic three weeks ago and doesn’t plan to badger him for an answer.

“That doesn’t mean that I won’t pick his brain on different stuff or talk to him,” Giguere said.

If Sakic does retire, the Avalanche would give third-year winger Wojtek Wolski – he’s an unsigned restricted free agent – the opportunity to play center, presumably on the second line behind Paul Stastny.

Liles said when he received a phone call from Sakic on Monday to congratulate him on his contract, he encouraged the veteran center to return.

“I played golf with him a couple times and it’s tough to not try to persuade him, but it’s something he’s got to do on his own and he’s going to end up doing on his own,” Liles said. “It’s going to be something that comes from his heart.”

Giguere expects at least two of the Avalanche’s free agents, forward Andrew Brunette and defenseman Kurt Sauer, to sign with other teams. He hasn’t been able re-sign goalie Jose Theodore and defenseman Jeff Finger, and they’ll also become unrestricted free agents.

“One of the luxuries that we have, I think in Peter Budaj we have a very capable goaltender,” Giguere said. “We know that we have an insurance policy that we felt pretty comfortable about. We’re not going to overpay, in our mind, to (re-sign Theodore).”

Giguere expressed disappointment in not being able to come to terms with Finger, 28, who played his first full NHL season last year and made the league minimum $475,000.

“If we can’t get Jeff done, we’ll see what direction we go from there,” Giguere said. “It also comes down to does Jose come back or not come back, allocating the dollars, where you’re going to put your dollars moving forward.”


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