Locking up one of their stars for several more seasons, the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday signed All-Star forward Peter Forsberg to a three-year, $30 million contract extension.
The deal, which begins next season, will pay Forsberg $8 million in the first year, $9 million the second year and $9.5 million the final year, according to sources close to the team. It also includes a $3.5 million bonus prorated over the three years.
The 25-year-old Forsberg, one of the NHL's top scorers and most imaginative skaters, is earning $6 million this season.
The new contract elevates Forsberg to a level just shy of the elite wage-earners in the NHL, such as Philadelphia's Eric Lindros, Phoenix's Keith Tkachuk and Florida's Pavel Bure, who are paid in the $10-$12 million range.
Forsberg shrugged off suggestions he might have been able to command more money by declaring for free agency this summer.
"I could have waited until after the season," Forsberg said, "but I decided to sign here because I like it here and I want to keep playing here. I've been having a great time since I got here. I didn't see any reason to wait until the summer.
"This organization has shown a commitment by signing long-term deals with Joe (Sakic), Patty (Patrick Roy) and Adam (Foote). We've got a good chance to go far in the playoffs this year, and we're going to be good in the future. I wanted to be a part of that."
This season, Forsberg has matched his career high in goals (30) and has a total of 97 points, his highest total since the 1995-96 season when he posted 116 points in helping lead the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup title.
His value to the Avalanche as a goal-scorer is evident in the club's 69-10-12 record over the last four seasons when he scores a goal. He was the NHL's rookie of the year in 1994-95 with the Quebec Nordiques, and has been an All-Star in each of the past four seasons since the franchise moved to Denver.
"I'm happy for Peter," Roy said. "For me, there's nothing better than that. I want to play the rest of my career with Peter in the lineup, and now I don't have to worry about that."
The next goal of Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix is to sign Theo Fleury, the high-scoring forward whom the team acquired in a trade with Calgary earlier this year.
"Peter is one of the best players in the game," Fleury said. "He's extremely skilled and he brings a lot to the table every night. I think it's great he signed. He deserved it.
"This is a real positive for the organization. They've got a nice nucleus of guys here.
"But I want to concentrate on hockey right now. The reason I came here is to help this team win a Stanley Cup. We don't need to be talking about whether I'm going to sign here or not. That will sort itself out. The future of this organization right now is the playoffs."
Lacroix gave no indcation he intended to reach an agreement with Fleury before the end of the season.
"Nothing has changed," he said.
As for Forsberg, Lacroix said Avalanche ownership "since we moved to Denver has always made the commitment that they were going to be supportive in order to keep an exciting product on the ice. This is further proof of that commitment. It clearly shows our ownership's intention of having a very competitive hockey club for the coming seasons in the Pepsi Center."
The new arena is scheduled to open in October.
Although Ascent Entertainment is looking to sell the franchise, Lacroix said he doubted the sale would affect any future negotiations.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed