Why did the Avalanche add Talbot for Downie?

Ken Campbell
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Part of my job here at The Hockey News, particularly when analyzing trades, is to provide some perspective and some reasoning behind why a move was made. Well, here we go on the Colorado Avalanche’s decision to trade Steve Downie to the Philadelphia Flyers for Max Talbot.

OK. That’s it. Tapped out. Truth be told, I have not got a clue why the Colorado Avalanche is making this move, other than I have to believe they hate being the league’s best team. That’s probably not true, but how else do you explain it? There has to be something more here than meets the eye because as far as a hockey trade was concerned, Paul Holmgren fleeced Joe Sakic on this one.

Sakic’s first trade as the head of the Avs hockey department – getting Alex Tanguay and Cory Sarich from Calgary in exchange for David Jones and Shane O’Brien – has turned out better than most people expected. The prediction from this corner is this one will not.

We do know this. Downie is an impending unrestricted free agent who makes $2.65 million a year and is in line to make significantly more than that next season. We also know that Talbot makes just $1.75 million on a contract that has two more years after this one. We also know that Talbot is 29 and Downie is 26 and with the exception of penalty killing, Downie is a far superior player to Talbot in every aspect of the game.

There’s a lot of speculation that this was purely a financial decision, that the Avalanche realized it couldn’t afford Downie in the long-term and decided to move him. Downie’s agent, Rick Curran, said he hadn’t even discussed a contract extension with the Avalanche yet and didn’t expect to until the new year. And even if they had and the Avs determined he was too expensive, why make the move when you’re 10-1-0 and Downie has been a huge component of your success?

Sakic justified the deal by saying that Talbot is a proven winner and gritty player. Hmm, so is Downie. Anyone who watched the world juniors in Vancouver in 2006 knows how well Downie can play in big games. And anyone who watches the games also knows that Talbot was playing on the fourth line for one of the worst teams in the NHL at the time of the trade.

And if it were a question of money, it’s not as though the Avalanche has to move a contract to get under the salary cap or anything. They’re the third-lowest spending team in the league at $51.7 million and with the salary cap almost certainly rising significantly next season, the Avs are going to have to at least get to the floor.

And if they’re going to make moves like this just to save some bucks, what’s the point of even competing in the NHL in the first place? It was budget moves that got the Avalanche in this trouble in the first place and had them mired in the dregs of the NHL for a lot of years.

Max Talbot is a good citizen and a hard worker who will undoubtedly be welcomed in the Avs dressing room. But there is no way he even comes close to replacing what Steve Downie brought to the team. Unless there’s an underlying factor we’re unaware of, Sakic’s second trade is a clunker.