Tony Granato returned as coach of the Colorado Avalanche yesterday, 4 years after he was demoted from the job.

Granato will take over from Joel Quenneville, who parted ways with the Avalanche 2 weeks ago by mutual agreement.

Granato was 72-33-17-11 when he led the team from 2002 to 2004. He has been an assistant coach since July 2004, when the Avs hired Quenneville.

"I'm excited about this challenge," said Granato, who played for 13 seasons with the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. "I know this team has a great mix of youth, experience, skill and speed. I'm looking forward to this new opportunity ahead."

Quenneville was 131-92-23 in three seasons with Colorado, but just 2-2 in playoff series.

Noteworthy

* Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault agreed to a contract extension through the 2009-10 season. Vigneault guided the Canucks to a 88-59-17 record in two seasons. The Canucks also announced assistant coaches Barry Smith and Mike Kelly were relieved of their duties.

* Retired NHL great Brett Hull and longtime executive Les Jackson signed 3-year contracts as co-general managers of the Dallas Stars, removing the interim tag they shared when owner Tom Hicks made the unusual move to hire them in November.

* Defensemen Mike Mottau and Sheldon Brookbank were re-signed by New Jersey. Terms were not disclosed.

* The Minnesota Wild signed defenseman Maxim Noreau to a multiyear deal. Terms were not disclosed.

* The Washington Capitals signed 2007 first-round draft pick Karl Alzner to a 3-year entry-level contract. The 19-year-old defenseman was the No. 5 overall pick in last year's draft. *