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Tuesday, August 2, 2005
Updated: August 3, 9:10 AM ET
Foote's three-year deal reportedly worth $13.8 million

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Adam Foote, a defensive cornerstone of two Stanley Cup championship teams in Colorado, signed a three-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

Adam Foote

The 34-year-old Foote, the highest-profile player to sign with the 5-year-old Blue Jackets, was lured to Columbus by the promise that general manager Doug MacLean would improve the team.

"He said they'd do what they had to do to win," Foote said of MacLean. "It made me smile."

Columbus failed to reach the playoffs in its first four NHL seasons. Canadian television network TSN reported that Foote signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract Monday night. The team declined to confirm details of the contract.

The Blue Jackets have never made the playoffs, in large part because of a lack of dependable blue-liners. Columbus gave up 263 goals -- 50 more than it scored -- during the 2003-2004 season.

"This is definitely a big step," Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said. "We knew the team would get better, but to get a guy like Adam Foote, that's huge for our hockey club. He will push our players hard every night."

The offense is anchored by youngsters Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev. Nash tied for the NHL lead in goals with 41 during the last season before the lockout, while Zherdev joined the team in December 2003 and showed a wealth of talent.

Monday was the first day NHL teams were allowed to pursue unrestricted free agents under the collective bargaining agreement that ended the lockout on July 22. The labor fight wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.

Foote turned down a 4-year, $12 million offer from Colorado, the franchise with which he spent his entire 13-year career. He played four years with the team when it was located in Quebec and won Stanley Cup championships in 1996 and 2001 in Colorado.

The physical and sturdy defenseman is coming off two of his most productive seasons. Foote led his position with an average of 35.5 shifts per game in 2003-2004. He had career highs with 11 goals, 31 points, and a plus-30 rating in the previous season.

"He is the total package," MacLean said. "He is tremendously competitive, tough, smart, moves the puck very well and is the definition of the word winner. He is a terrific addition to our organization and will be a key component to our continued evolution as a franchise."

No Blue Jackets players had a plus rating during the 2003-2004 season. Foote was a plus-5 in four games against Columbus that year. He has registered 20 or more points five times, including in four of the past six seasons.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has also been a key figure for Canada in international competition the past decade. He won a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Foote and Nash have been selected to attend the Canadian orientation camp later this month in preparation for the 2006 Olympics in Turin.

Foote will likely anchor the Blue Jackets' top defensive pairing. Columbus already has Rostislav Klesla, Luke Richardson and Duvie Westcott, along with young prospect Aaron Johnson on the blue line.