Despite big losses, Avalanche see sunny days ahead
Posted: Monday August 15, 2005 3:13PM; Updated: Monday August 15, 2005 3:48PM
Joe Sakic (above) and Rob Blake account for nearly one-third of the Avs' salary cap.
David E. Klutho/SI
There are an annual average of 300 days of sunshine in Denver, apparently half of it the munificence of Mother Nature and the rest courtesy of Father Pete -- a nickname of Colorado Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix, who always sees his Stanley Cup as more than half full.
Caught between a rock and a hard cap, Lacroix, with only $3 million at his disposal, was unable to make any offer to his free-agent cornerstone, Peter Forsberg, and only a middling one to Adam Foote, which the defenseman spurned for more money -- and one less year -- in Columbus. To fill the chasm created by the loss of two of hockey's hardest players, Lacroix divvied up that $3 million between two of the softest: defenseman Patrice Brisebois, who was virtually hooted out of Montreal, and erstwhile star center Pierre Turgeon, a Dallas discard whose five-year, $25.5 million contract was an albatross for the Stars before the ink had dried in 2001.
Yet Lacroix, whose optimism would make Dr. Pangloss blush, says, "The sentiment outside these walls was we were in a tight situation; we weren't. It's unanimous in our hockey department that we have a chance to win the Cup [in 2006]. Not taking anything away from Adam Foote or Peter Forsberg, but there's more overall depth than we've had in our 11 years here.
"There's no better player in the offensive zone with the puck behind the net than Turgeon. And Brisebois' play went down with the pressure [in Montreal], but with a new start here and the new open-hockey environment in the NHL, they should do well."
Of course, Lacroix can spin better than Linda Blair's head in The Exorcist. In his noble pursuit of titles prior to the lockout, Lacroix -- who, since the franchise's move from Quebec to Denver before the championship 1995--96 season, has been blessed with a big budget and the inherent advantage of operating in a city with sporting sex appeal and fans who have sold out its games since Nov. 9, 1995 -- seems to have been blindsided by the onset of the cap age.
With Forsberg's desire to sign for just two years, and CBA rules prohibiting more than a 100 percent annual raise, the system precluded the center's return; he would have had to play for $7 million less than the $11.5 million Philadelphia offered. Foote, who signed a three-year, $13.8 million deal with the Blue Jackets, also wanted to stay in Colorado but would not accept a $1.5 million salary, one almost on par with knockabout winger Ian Lapèrriere and some $5 million less than defenseman Rob Blake.
"There wasn't room to keep everybody, but we could have about $30 million of space next year," said Lacroix, who has only four players signed for 2006-07, plus options on Blake and captain Joe Sakic, who is now the last Avalanche player from the Nordiques era. "We'll be cap-free for 100 years to come."
That's a lot of money for lollipops and rainbows -- to go with the sunshine.