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Committed to youth movement, Avs allow veterans to become free agents

DENVER - The Colorado Avalanche won't stray from their strategy by taking a shortcut in free agency.

The plan is to build a contender from within the organization, an approach that Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman steadfastly believes in and backs.

No quick fixes.

The Avalanche were rather quiet on the opening day of free agency Thursday, electing to allow veterans Darcy Tucker, Brett Clark, Ruslan Salei, Stephane Yelle and Marek Svatos to become unrestricted free agents.

The stage is being set for the youngsters.

"I remain focused on that plan," Sherman said of the youth movement. "You see what we have put together here with a young group of enthusiastic, energetic, exciting players we have on our own club. I feel very strongly about the group of players we have."

The Avalanche hit the jackpot in the 2009 draft by taking Matt Duchene with the third overall pick and Ryan O'Reilly early in the second round. The talented duo helped the Avalanche surge back into the playoffs in 2009-10 after finishing last in the Western Conference the year before.

While that success may have been unexpected around the league, the Avalanche fully envisioned the resurgence. This is an organization with lofty standards, having won the Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001.

And this was just the first step in restoring respectability.

"We felt very confident in the group of players that were assembled," Sherman said.

That's why Colorado doesn't figure to wade too deep into free agency this summer.

Instead, the team will concentrate on getting deals done for some of its upstarts, players such as Chris Stewart, Brandon Yip, Kyle Quincey, Peter Mueller and Daniel Winnik, who was acquired Monday in a deal with Phoenix.

They all were tendered a qualifying offer, meaning Colorado has the right to match any deal or will be given draft-choice compensation should a player bolt.

Sherman wouldn't elaborate on how close he was to any potential deal with any of the players, saying "those conversations are ongoing."

"These are the type of players, the young group, that we are building within and building around," Sherman said.

With Clark and Salei hitting the free agent market, the Avalanche appear to be in need of a few more defencemen to join captain Adam Foote, Scott Hannan and John-Michael Liles in the back.

However, Sherman maintained the solution at defence could already be in the minor-league system, possibly a player such as Kevin Shattenkirk, the 14th overall pick in the 2007 draft.

"We certainly believe that our depth on the blue line is very strong," Sherman said. "As we look toward the future, we feel very confident about the young group we have, that we're going to build around."

NOTES—There have been overtures that former Avalanche great Joe Sakic wouldn't mind joining the organization in some capacity. Sherman said the team was open to the possibility.

"I think Joe was very clear a couple of weeks ago—he's in no rush," Sherman said. "At the appropriate time, Joe will reach out and indicate what he's looking to do with the franchise. ... When Joe's ready, those discussions will be had."



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