The Colorado Avalanche announced on Friday that they had signed captain Milan Hejduk to a one-year deal. Hejduk’s production has slowed dramatically in recent years, but this move likely ensures that Milan will retire an Avalanche. Colorado took a similar approach to re-signing former captain Joe Sakic to one-year deals until his retirement.
Hejduk considered retirement at the end of a disappointing 2011-2012 Season. The Avalanche narrowly missed making the playoffs, but did drastically improve over a 2010-2011 campaign that saw them finish ahead of only Edmonton at the bottom of the Western Conference.
The Avalanche are, of course, stacked with young talent. That makes veteran players like Hejduk a necessary compliment as Colorado attempts to return to perennial contender status. Instead of bringing in an unknown commodity at left wing, the Avs will stick with their smooth-skating captain – who has never played for any other organization.
Milan was drafted in 1994 by the Quebec Nordiques just before their move to Denver. He was a 4th round pick (87th overall) but has outplayed his pre-draft billing. Hejduk is a three-time All Star, won two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche, and ranks 4th in team history for both points (794) and goals (371).
Perhaps most important to Milan is that he and his family will stay at home in Denver, hopefully for the remaining one or two years of his career. Said Hejduk through a team press release, “My family and I are very excited to continue my career here in Denver.”
For the Avalanche this means a re-commitment to the young team that nearly edged into the playoffs this season. Colorado fell apart in the final two weeks, but very easily could have supplanted the Los Angeles Kings at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff field. The Kings – another club stocked with young talent – are one win shy of a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Certainly, the Avs must believe that they are not so far off from charting a similar course through the wide-open West playoffs.
“Over the years, Milan has been an instrumental part of our organization’s success,” said Avalanche General Manager/Executive Vice President Greg Sherman. “He has represented this franchise with class and will continue to complement the young nucleus of players we have been building this team around.”
The announcement of Hejduk’s return came just a day after the Denver Broncos honored one of their own established heroes. Receiver Rod Smith – who went undrafted and played his entire career in Denver – will be elevated to the Ring of Fame this fall.