Foote, who missed 12 games earlier this season because of a heel injury, left Thursday night's game against San Jose when Nolan slammed into him midway through the second period. Nolan played with Foote for four seasons before being traded by Colorado in 1995.
No penalty was called on the play, which came seconds after Foote tangled with Sharks forward Mike Ricci, another former teammate.
Foote was placed on injured reserve and is scheduled to have surgery next week.
"This is a routine procedure, and we will be expecting nothing short of a complete recovery," Avalanche trainer Pat Karns said.
Foote, who teamed with Ray Bourque to form Colorado's top defensive tandem, has three goals and 12 assists with a plus-10 rating in 28 games.
Known for his physical play, Foote has struggled to stay healthy the past two seasons.
He missed 22 games in 1999-00 because of rib, shoulder and groin injuries and was sidelined for one game of the Western Conference finals because a fractured orbital bone.
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