DENVER (AP) – The Colorado Avalanche prepared for the potential loss of several key front-line players, signing former San Jose Sharks captain Vincent Damphousse to a one-year, $2 million contract Wednesday.

Damphousse, San Jose’s leading scorer during a surprising playoff run last year, gives Colorado a solid scoring threat in what could be a difficult offseason.

Star forward Peter Forsberg hasn’t decided if he’ll return to the NHL or end his career at home in Sweden, and the Avalanche also could lose speedy forward Paul Kariya. Teemu Selanne, who signed with Kariya on the same day before last season, isn’t expected to return after one disappointing season in Denver.

“Vincent Damphousse provides us with quality forward depth,” Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix said in a statement. “His versatility and experience will definitely contribute to the future success of our club.”

Of course, whether he or anyone else plays this season remains to be seen.

The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association expires Sept. 15 and not much progress has been made.

But if the players don’t get locked out, the Avalanche will add a durable goal scorer who has shown he still has something left at 36.

The four-time All-Star ended his career in San Jose by playing in 247 straight games and was the Sharks’ fifth-leading scorer during the regular season with 12 goals and 29 assists. He was even better in the playoffs, scoring a team-high seven goals with seven assists to help San Jose reach the conference finals for the first time.

Damphousse joins one of San Jose’s biggest rivals, a team that has won two Stanley Cups and beaten the Sharks in the playoffs twice. San Jose knocked Colorado out of the playoffs last season, holding the Avalanche to seven goals in the six-game second-round series.

“I’m excited and extremely enthusiastic about joining the Avalanche, a club that has already established a winning tradition in Denver,” said Damphousse, who made $4 million with the Sharks last season. “I’m looking forward to playing in such a great hockey environment.”

Damphousse has played 18 seasons in the NHL with stops in Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal and the last six with the Sharks. He is 38th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,205 points and is 30th in assists with 773. Damphousse, who won a Stanley Cup title with Montreal in 1993, also is 59th on the all-time list with 432 goals.

Even if Forsberg and Kariya don’t return, Damphousse would join a team that includes scorers Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay.

AP-ES-08-18-04 1946EDT