If Colorado fails to successfully defend its Stanley Cup title next season, Avalanche fans won't be able to say the front office let the best players get away.
The Avalanche re-signed Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy and Rob Blake to multiyear contracts, beating a midnight deadline that would have made them unrestricted free agents able to negotiate with any NHL team. They would have been among the most attractive players in the free-agent market.
"I know this will come as great news to our fans," general manager Pierre Lacroix said Sunday.
Another of the league's marquee goaltenders, Dominik Hasek, moved in a trade from Buffalo to Detroit. And another All-Star, Edmonton center Doug Weight, was shipped to St. Louis.
Sakic, a 31-year-old center, was the NHL's most valuable player last season. Goaltender Roy, 35, was the MVP as the Avs beat the New Jersey Devils to win the cup.
While financial terms on the Blake and Roy deals are unavailable, Sakic has signed a contract that will make him among the highest-paid player in the NHL. He has a five-year deal plus an option year that will pay him $50.5 million if it is a five-year deal or $57 million if the option year is picked up.
"In the end, Joe decided not to go to the free-agent market," his agent, Don Baizley, said Sunday. "He was happy in Denver and decided he didn't need to see what other options were available."
Sakic earned $7.9 million last season, Roy earned $7.5 million, and Blake made $5.267 million.
"To have athletes like Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy and Rob Blake commit themselves to this organization and market before having a chance to be an unrestricted free agent indicates how special they are and how equally special this city and hockey environment is," Lacroix said. "Moreover, our fans deserve this great news after supporting us so well over the years since the team arrived in Denver."
Blake, a 31-year-old defenseman who helped the Avs win the cup after being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings last February, had indicated a desire to stay in Colorado -- but only if Sakic and Roy returned.
The Colorado signings boost the team's hopes of a repeat following the retirement last week of defenseman Ray Bourque. That freed up $5.5 million for the team to use to retain its potential free agents.
The Avalanche failed to reach agreement with a fourth potential free agent, defenseman Jon Klemm.
The Blues, one of the top challengers to the Avalanche, improved their prospects by acquiring Weight in a five-player deal with the Oilers, who couldn't afford to keep their top scorer for seven of the last eight seasons.
Forward Michel Riesen also went to St. Louis for wing Jochen Hecht, center Marty Reasoner and defenseman Jan Horacek.
"It was emotional last night and it continues to be as I talk to my teammates," Weight said. "I'm going to a wonderful organization."
Weight, 30, has a five-year contract that will pay him $9 million next year, more than double what he made in 2000-2001.
The Blues also re-signed right wing Scott Mellanby, while the New York Islanders signed goalie Garth Snow. Both were two-year deals.
Hasek, a six-time Vezina Trophy winner, was traded by the Sabres late Saturday night for left wing Vyacheslav Kozlov, a 2002 first-round draft choice and future considerations. The Sabres knew they had to pick up the 36-year-old goaltender's one-year, $9 million contract option, trade him or lose him to unrestricted free agency.
The move came a week after Buffalo sent ex-captain Michael Peca to the Islanders. Peca sat out all of last season after failing to negotiate a deal.
Hasek made a base salary of $7.5 million last season. Neither the Sabres, the Blues, nor Hasek's agent would say whether either team picked up Hasek's option or if Detroit restructured the goalie's deal.
Hasek, who toyed with retirement the past two seasons, said part of his decision to remain in the NHL is to gear up for next year's Winter Olympics to help the Czech Republic defend its gold medal.
The 29-year-old Kozlov just completed his eighth season with Detroit, and was an integral part of the team's two Stanley Cup championships in the 1990s.
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