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Thursday, July 3
Updated: July 4, 5:09 AM ET
Former teammates sign one-year deals

Associated Press

DENVER -- Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne used free agency to team up again in a quest to win the Stanley Cup.

When a move like this is made, it makes your jaw drop. This is a good move for the Avalanche for two reasons:

One, they've added two world-class players in Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. Everyone in the NHL knows how good they are and how good they are together. They're great players on and off the ice, limiting any concerns about character issues.

Second, this gives Colorado the chance to shuffle some of its other assets. It's now possible for the Avs to use Martin Skoula and Steve Reinprecht as trade bait to address needs like adding more depth to the blue line or acquiring a top-flight goaltender.

But this isn't as bad as it may seem for the Mighty Ducks, who knew Kariya was gone. Although Kariya is a terrific player, Anaheim's position has been that one player isn't bigger than the team and it takes more than Kariya for the team to win. Unless Anaheim was going to add another player, it'd be difficult for Kariya to put up the kind of numbers he's used to.

  • Fantasy outlook: Avs rich
  • The former Anaheim teammates both took major pay cuts Thursday in agreeing to contracts with the Colorado Avalanche.

    Once linemates on the Mighty Ducks, Kariya and Selanne became business partners on the open market. They joined the Avalanche in a package deal.

    "When we both became free agents, we made a hockey decision," Kariya said at a news conference. "We both said, `Forget about the money, where's the place we want to play?' And Colorado jumped out at both of us immediately. So we made things work monetarily."

    Kariya, who played with the Mighty Ducks last season, agreed to a $1.2 million contract, according to a source within the NHL who spoke Thursday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. He earned $10 million in his final season with Anaheim.

    Selanne, who declined his option at $6.5 million with the San Jose, agreed to a $5.8 million contract with Colorado, the source said. Selanne was traded by Anaheim in March 2001.

    Kariya's deal places him under the league average, which will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent again after next season. That price also helped Selanne and Kariya fit into the Avalanche's salary structure.

    "There is so much talent here," Kariya said. "To play with guys like Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg and Rob Blake and Adam Foote and guys like that, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

    The two paired up briefly at last season's All-Star game, the first in five years with an East against West format instead of North American players against the World.

    "It was automatic that we wanted to play together somewhere," Selanne said. "The first choice was Colorado right away. We were hoping the chance was available. This organization has a history of winning the Stanley Cup. That's why this is so thrilling."

    Avalanche general manage Pierre Lacroix said he was shocked when agent Don Baizley called to propose the package signing.

    "Over the last 36 hours, these two athletes expressed their strong desire to come to Denver and play for the Avalanche," Lacroix said. "Obviously, we were stunned.

    "We were able to do all of this without changing any of the (salary) structure that we have for the coming season."

    Baizley is also the agent for Forsberg and Sakic.

    The retirement of goaltender Patrick Roy and his $8.5 million salary gave the Avalanche room to sign the two free agents.

    Lacroix chuckled when it was suggested that Roy might now decide to unretire.

    "Patrick made his decision for personal reasons," Lacroix said. "I don't expect in any shape or form that Patrick will change his mind."

    Lacroix was the beneficiary of a similar package arrangement two years ago when Roy, Sakic and Blake all re-signed in unison.

    Kariya, a left wing, had six goals and six assists in 21 games this postseason, helping lead the Mighty Ducks to the NHL finals. Anaheim lost to New Jersey in seven games.

    The seven-time All-Star had played his entire career in Anaheim, where he was the team captain. He became an unrestricted free agent Monday night when the Ducks declined to make him a qualifying offer, refusing to match the $10 million he made last season.

    Kariya played in all 82 games for the second consecutive year, and had 25 goals and 56 points. He holds a string of team records, including most career goals (300) and assists (369).

    Selanne, a right wing, had 28 goals and 64 points last season, leading the Sharks in both categories while improving his two-way game and physical play. He was named the team's most valuable player.

    In declining his option, Selanne believed he could make more money on the free-agent market.

    He was one of the most attractive scorers available this summer, although it was unlikely he could get a lucrative long-term deal with the expiration of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement looming in September 2004.

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