Two phone calls later, Avalanche captain Joe Sakic convinced left winger Ryan Smyth and defenceman Scott Hannan to join the team.
Hannan agreed to an US$18-million, four-year contract Sunday. A few hours later, Smyth signed a five-year deal worth $31.25 million.
Both credited calls from Sakic for persuading them to play for Colorado. Sakic should be in line for commission checks.
“You could hear it (the confidence) in Joe’s voice. To have that sold me in a lot of ways,” said Smyth, who joined Hannan on Monday for an introductory news conference. “He’s well respected, a future Hall of Famer, a guy who will do whatever it takes for the team to win.”
Including placing phone calls on Sunday, the first day of the free-agency period.
“We made sure he was available,” Giguere said. “I said, ‘You’re the best ambassador I have.’ If he talks to them and shows how much he believes in the team, it has to help.”
It didn’t take much selling.
Colorado missed the playoffs in 2007 for the first time in 11 seasons in Denver. However, the Avalanche were one of the hottest teams down the stretch, going 15-2-2 over their final 19 games and narrowly missing a playoff spot.
Hannan said the Avalanche’s dedication to winning was one of the reasons he signed. That and hearing from Sakic. Both Hannan and Smyth have grown to admire Sakic by playing with him on the Canadian national team.
“Anytime you get a chance to play with a leader of his ability, it’s great. He’s such a great guy,” said Hannan, who’s played his eight NHL seasons with San Jose. “He’s a great salesman.”
Giguere couldn’t have imagined signing both Hannan and Smyth. There was even a point when he thought he’d lost out on both after not hearing back from either for a while.
“With the (salary) cap going up so much, you had a lot of teams out there looking at those guys,” Giguere said. “To get two was unbelievable. Both Scott and Ryan bring a lot of what we’re looking for.”
Giguere is fulfilling a promise he made to Sakic in April when the captain signed a one-year deal. Giguere said he’d do everything in his power to return Colorado to its winning ways.
“Joe sent the message he believed in this team,” Giguere said of Sakic’s signing. “What these guys are saying by signing here is they believe.”
Smyth weighed his options carefully before deciding on Colorado. Smyth is fully aware of the sacrifices the New York Islanders made last season when they acquired him in February from the Edmonton Oilers. The Islanders surrendered two former first-round picks and this year’s No. 1 selection to get him just before the trading deadline. It was a hefty fee as the Islanders were eliminated from the playoffs by Buffalo in the first round.
“They gave us every opportunity to want to come back there,” said Smyth, known as “Captain Canada” for his experience on the national teams. “They (the Islanders) were right there at the bitter end. I hope nothing but the best for them. They have a bright future.”
Giguere said after signing Hannan and Smyth, the team is going to sit back and let the market settle down.
“We’re at a point where we’re looking at complement players rather than impact players for our team,” he said.
Yet Giguere feels like the team basically added another key component in Jordan Leopold, who missed most of the season with an assortment of injuries, including a broken wrist that sidelined him for Colorado’s final 25 games. He could be a solid pairing with Hannan on defence.
“I see Jordan as a total new player that we’re adding to our team,” Giguere said.
Giguere is leery of adding too many new pieces to the team.
“We have great chemistry and I don’t want to do too many changes,” he said.
Hannan, 28, is an aggressive, hard-hitting defenceman cut from the same mold as former Colorado player Adam Foote.
“That’s a great comparison,” Hannan said. “I’d like to be named in the same breath as Adam. I see myself being that type of player. I hope to bring that to the Avalanche.”
Smyth, 31, is coming off a season in which he scored 36 goals for the Islanders and Oilers. He’s looking forward to playing on the same line as Sakic.
When asked if Smyth would wear the captain’s “C” on his sweater once Sakic retired, Smyth just grinned.
“Joe’s going to be playing a little bit longer than everybody thinks,” Smyth said. “I’ll be pressuring him every single year. That guy, the way he played last year, he’s got another 10 years left.”