August 2, 2005

Foote joins Columbus, free-agent market speeds up

TORONTO (Reuters) - After a quiet start the NHL free-agent
market swung into high gear Tuesday with a flurry of signings,
highlighted by all-star defenseman Adam Foote's move from the
Colorado Avalanche to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In other moves, the Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman
agreed to a 22nd season with the team by signing a one-year
contract while the Philadelphia Flyers signed experienced
defensemen in Derian Hatcher, Mike Rathje and Chris Therien.

The Atlanta Thrashers also added some offensive punch by
signing Bobby Holik to an attack that already includes Dany
Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Foote had spent his entire 13-year career with the
Avalanche winning Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001 and helped
anchor Canada to a gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter

Foote, who agreed to a reported three-year $13.5 million
contract, joins a team that has never made the post-season in
its five-year history and in dire need of defensive help having
conceded more goals than they scored during the 2003-2004

"Adam Foote is the consummate pro and has been one of the
premier defensemen in the National Hockey League for the past
10 years," said Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean. "He
is the total package.

"He is tremendously competitive, tough, smart, moves the
puck very well and is the definition of the word winner."


The Flyers also added experience muscle and size signing
Hatcher, Rathje and Therien - who are all over 6-foot, 5-inches
and 230-pounds.

Hatcher, who missed most of last season with the Red Wings
because of a knee injury but was still considered one of the
top free agents available, agreed to a four-year deal worth a
reported $14 million.

He helped guide the Dallas Stars to the 1999 Stanley Cup
under coach Ken Hitchcock, who now works for the Flyers.

Holik had his contract bought out by the New York Rangers
last week after deciding they could not afford him under the
new salary cap brought in by a new collective bargaining

He also brings Stanley Cup experience to the Thrashers
having won championships in 1995 and 2000 with the New Jersey

Despite earning a reputation as one of the league's
premiere defensive centers, Holik has scored at least 20 goals
nine times in 14 seasons.

After missing a season due to the NHL lockout, the
40-year-old Yzerman had been expected to retire but the NHL's
sixth all-time leading scorer decided to return for one more
season for a reported $1.5 million.

A 10-time all-star, Yzerman has 678 goals and 1,034 assists
for 1,721 points in 1,453 career games.