'Tis the Season for Colorado Avalanche Trade Rumors

James CriderCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2009

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 5: Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the Atlanta Thrashers warms up prior to the game against the Florida Panthers on December 5, 2009 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

It's the time of year everyone loves: trade rumor time.

Now that teams are showing whether they're contenders or pretenders, media outlets have begun reporting "rumors" of which players may or may not be traded away (which generally involves the latter sending all of their best players to the former).

If you missed last year's trade rumor frenzy, I'll recap: the Avs sent Hejduk to Pittsburgh for Ryan Whitney, Brett Clark was traded to Montreal (probably for Jaroslav Halak and a second round pick), Ryan Smyth was dealt to any Canadian team still in the playoff race, and Jordan Leopold was traded back to Calgary.

Well, one out of four ain't bad.

This year, Colorado finds itself in a different position. Leading its division 39 games into the season, and with only $28.3 million committed to next year's roster, a lot of big names are being linked to the Avalanche.

Colorado Is Interested in Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell

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This one was reported in Adrian Dater's blog. Dater talks about a rumored deal of Hartnell and Carter for O'Reilly, Wilson, and Liles.

Dater is adamant that this is nothing more than a rumor, and he's right, but for the wrong reasons.

Jeff Carter, 24, is coming off of a 46-goal season and Hartnell is 27 and coming off of a 30-goal campaign. I believe it'll cost more than a couple of rookies and an overpaid defenseman to haul in two players good enough to be on the Avalanche's first line.

Carter in particular makes no sense, with Colorado having Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, and TJ Galiardi down the middle.

Hartnell, on the other hand, is interesting. He's a guy who would add some sand paper and goal scoring to Colorado, and he'd also be improving the position at which Colorado has the worst depth (left wing). The Flyers might have incentive to trade him because of the cap space he'll provide ($4.2 million per season), allowing them to try to re-sign other players like Braydon Coburn.

Colorado Is Shopping Liles

This has been reported by various websites, and I chimed in about it a little while ago.

There's not much else I can add to this other than that I believe, if dealt, it'll be to Buffalo. Liles and Sabres goalie Ryan Miller are great friends, the Avs only play the Sabres once a year, and Buffalo needs another puck-moving defensemen as much as anyone has ever needed one.

The Avalanche Are "Aggressively Pursuing" Kovalchuk

This one comes from Bruce "Malkin to LA" Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, who believes Colorado is one of the many teams interested in Kovalchuk.

While I have a hard time fathoming the Canadian writer has inside knowledge of what goes in in Atlanta or Colorado, I can fathom Kovalchuk donning the Avalanche sweater by the time next season rolls around.

Assuming he doesn't re-sign in Atlanta, the only teams who will be able to afford the $8 million-plus Kovalchuk will command per season without making drastic roster overhauls are the New York Islanders, the Phoenix Coyotes, and the Colorado Avalanche (it comes as no surprise that all three teams were at the bottom of the standings last season, and thus, had cut salary).

Of those three teams, Colorado makes the most sense.

The Islanders are having trouble getting a new arena and likely won't want to commit themselves to a player who will command so much money. Phoenix doesn't even have an owner, and it's doubtful Kovalchuk would have interest in signing there because the hockey market is small, which is possibly the reason he may not re-sign in Atlanta.

As for Colorado, it has one of the wealthiest owners in pro sports, Stan Kroenke, and the Avalanche has a lot of salary cap room with which to work. The team also leads its division, and appears to have a promising future ahead of them. 

From the Avalanche's stand point, the only risk is trading valuable players for Kovalchuk at the trade deadline, only to see him sign with another team in the summer. It's a big risk, but would have potential to pay off if the Avalanche were able to sign the franchise player to a long term contract.

Personally, I'm all for it.

Kovalchuk will cost a lot, but he's better than any player on the Avalanche is, and better than any of its prospects will ever be. As long as the package Colorado sent to Atlanta wasn't too excessive, who could say no to watching a line of Kovalchuk, Stastny, and Stewart every night?


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