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Kurri Opts to Leave Ducks; Hay Reemerges

Hockey: Avalanche signs veteran as free agent. Former Coyote coach gets a second look in Anaheim.


Jari Kurri, a step slower and no longer in the Mighty Ducks' plans, signed Friday with the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent. His one-year contract is worth $1.2 million.

"He did a decent job for us, but we're trying to do some other things and he couldn't wait," Duck General Manager Jack Ferreira said.

Meanwhile, the Ducks' interest in Don Hay apparently has been rekindled. Hay is expected to soon be hired as an assistant coach. Hay, fired after one season as the Phoenix Coyotes' coach, was a candidate to replace Ron Wilson, but fell out of contention after Pierre Page became available.

Ferreira hasn't spoken to Calgary General Manager Al Coates about compensation for hiring Page since Monday. But it's believed there will be more talks soon with a resolution possible by next week.

The league office could become involved in helping strike a compromise, but not until it resolves ownership issues regarding the New York Islanders.

"We'll wait and see," Ferreira said.

Kurri, 37, learned in May the Ducks would not exercise a $1.5-million option on him for next season. Now, Ferreira hopes to use the money to find a younger, more effective forward and perhaps a physical defenseman too.

It's likely he will have to swing a trade in order to accomplish that, however. So far, he's been shut out in the free agent derby.

Kurri needs four goals to become the eighth player in NHL history to score 600 in his career. He also is the leading European-born scorer in league history. He said Friday he is "anxious to go after my sixth Stanley Cup," having won five with the Edmonton Oilers.

Kurri also played with the Kings and New York Rangers in his 16-year NHL career.

"There were further discussions with the Ducks after they decided not to pick up the option, but in the end, the Colorado opportunity was an attractive one," said Don Baizley, Kurri's Winnipeg-based agent. "I know he wants to play one more year [in the NHL] and to play in the Olympics."

The Ducks signed Kurri last summer to bolster their leadership and scoring. They received leadership from Kurri, all right, but his scoring dipped considerably. They also hoped he would ignite the top line with Paul Kariya on left wing and Finnish countryman Teemu Selanne on right wing.

By season's end, Kurri had only 13 goals and 35 points and was playing on the second and third lines. Steve Rucchin instead centered the Kariya-Selanne line and emerged as the team's third-leading scorer with 19 goals and 67 points.

Kurri played with Kariya and Selanne only when Rucchin was sidelined by back spasms for the first three games of the Ducks' Western Conference quarterfinal playoff series against the Coyotes.

The Avalanche hopes Kurri provides scoring depth, something lacking in its playoff loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the conference finals.

Kurri essentially fills a void created when Mike Keane signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent. Keane had 10 goals and 27 points for the Avalanche last season.

"He is a tremendous leader and fierce competitor with invaluable championship experience," Colorado General Manager Pierre Lacroix said of Kurri.

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