Avalanche lock up defensemen Liles, Foote; Sakic undecided

Updated: June 30, 2008, 8:23 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

The free-agent defensemen pool, already shallow to begin with, is even more so after the Colorado Avalanche locked up blueliners John-Michael Liles and veteran Adam Foote.

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Joe Sakic's return is less certain.

The Avalanche are about to enter free agency not knowing if their captain who made nearly $7 million last season will return for a 20th season in the NHL or hang up his skates and start the countdown on his Hall of Fame induction.

General manager Francois Giguere, who said he last spoke to Sakic three weeks ago, isn't going to bug him for an answer but will await his call.

"The feeling I got from Joe is he needs more time. I think it's in our interests to give him the time. I think he's earned the time to make that decision and come to a place where he's 100 percent comfortable with that decision, either way," Giguere said.

"Because I think if he comes back and he's not 100 percent committed, then he's going to regret it. And if he leans toward retirement and he's not 100 percent committed, then he'll regret that, too. So, I want him to make the best decision," Giguere said.

The Avalanche announced the signings of Liles and Foote on Monday, and ESPN.com has confirmed that Liles' four-year deal will pay him an average of $4.2 million per season ($16.8 million total). Foote signed a two-year contract through the 2009-10 season.

When Foote was dealt back to Colorado by the Blue Jackets at the trade deadline, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Foote was demanding a two-year deal at $4 million a year and had turned down a two-year, $7 million offer.

The signings put pressure on teams like San Jose, New York, Atlanta and others that covet a puck-moving defenseman or physical blue-line presence. That will be good news for players such as soon-to-be free agents Brian Campbell, Wade Redden and Ron Hainsey.

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.