Colorado Avalanche sign forward Milan Hejduk to one-year deal through 2011-12

DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche signed forward Milan Hejduk, one of the top scorers in franchise history, to a one-year contract Wednesday.

Hejduk, 35, scored 22 goals and had 56 points last season, his 12th with the Avalanche. He tied Joe Sakic’s franchise record by scoring 20 or more goals for the 11th straight season.

The Czech Republic native entertained thoughts of possibly calling it a career after the 2010-11 season. But now he’s eager to return for another go-round following a frustrating year in which the Avalanche won their fewest games (30) and tallied their fewest points in the standings (68) since relocating from Quebec to Denver in 1995.

“It was a bad season last year, but I think this team has quite a potential if everybody gets healthy. I think it’s going to be a different story. I’m still pretty positive for next year,” Hejduk said in a conference call. “It was always my intention to play for the Avalanche as long as I can and as long as they’re interested.”

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The Denver Post reported the deal was worth US$2.6 million with incentives that could push it to $3 million, which is what he made last season.

Hejduk is one of the team’s most prolific scorers, ranking fourth in franchise history in goals (357) and points (757).

“Milan has been a big part of our organization throughout the past 12 seasons,” Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman said. “He’s been one of the top goal scorers in the NHL over the last decade and we look forward to having him back.”

With longtime defenceman Adam Foote’s retirement, Hejduk becomes the elder statesman on a squad filled with youngsters.

“There’s nobody near my age group,” Hejduk said, chuckling.

A three-time Olympian, Hejduk won a gold medal with the Czech Republic at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, and a bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy.