Avalanche Sign Two Key Free Agents

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Patrick Roy may be gone, but the Colorado Avalanche have reunited Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne for the 2003-04 season.

In a stunning free agent splash, the Avalanche signed the pair of All-Star wingers to one-year contracts and will probably flank them on a line with Peter Forsberg, the NHL Hart Trophy winner as Most Valuable Player this past season, or Joe Sakic.

"We are stunned and very excited to have both of these players,"
said Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix at a Thursday
afternoon news conference. "Over the last 36 hours, they both
expressed a strong desire to come here and play for the

Kariya and Selanne were linemates for parts of six seasons with
the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, but never played with skilled centers such as Forsberg and Joe Sakic. In Colorado, they will have that opportunity.

Both were willing to sign one-year contracts to seize that chance.

"This is our best chance to win the Stanley Cup and that is why we did it," said Kariya, who reportedly settled for a deal worth just $1.2 million after earning $10 million last year with Anaheim.

When the Mighty Ducks decided not to make a qualifying offer to Kariya for $10 million in 2003-04, the seven-time All-Star left wing became an unrestricted free agent.

By accepting a contract worth less than the league average, Kariya is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent again after the upcoming season.

Kariya, 28, had spent his entire nine-year career with the Mighty Ducks and led them to their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals this past season. He had 25 goals and 81 points during the regular season and six goals and six assists in 21 playoff games.

Selanne celebrated his 33rd birthday by signing with Colorado. He declined an option with the San Jose Sharks worth $6.5 million and accepted less with Colorado. Although terms were not disclosed, Selanne reportedly received $5.8 million from the Avalanche.

"Me and Paul wanted to go to the best place and we think this is it," said Selanne via satellite from his homeland of Finland. An eight-time All-Star right wing in an 11-year NHL career, Selanne has played for Winnipeg, Anaheim and San Jose. He had 28 goals and 64 points this past season for the Sharks. The Kariya-Selanne partnership ended for financial reasons when Anaheim traded Selanne to San Jose in March 2001.

The fourth overall pick in the 1993 draft, Kariya is Anaheim's all-time leader with 300 goals and 669 points. He set career-highs with 50 goals and 108 points with Selanne as his linemate for the second half of the season in 1995-96.

Selanne won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year after recording 76 goals and 132 points in 1992-93 for Winnipeg. In parts of six seasons with Anaheim, he had 225 goals and 257 assists, including a pair of 50-goal campaigns.