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Jones or MacKinnon?

Lyle Richardson
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Josh Kroenke President and Governor of the Colorado Avalanche, Patrick Roy the new Head Coach/Vice President of Hockey Operations and Joe Sakic Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Jones or MacKinnon?

Lyle Richardson
By:

In the weeks since the Colorado Avalanche were awarded the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft lottery, it was assumed they would select Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones, ranked by NHL Central Scouting back in April as this year's top prospect.

On May 20, however, the Denver Post's Adrian Dater wrote that Avalanche chief scout Rick Pracey suggested selecting Jones wasn't a certainty.

Pracey cited the depth in young talent available in this year's draft, which includes Halifax Mooseheads forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.

“The number one spot, it's open,” Pracey told Dater. “It's by far not a slam dunk. It's not one player running away with this thing.”

Dater still believes the Avalanche will select Jones, citing their need for a skilled blueliner. They're also deep at center with Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and Paul Stastny in place.

Still, Dater suggested MacKinnon might be too good for the Avs to pass up, though drafting him would mean shipping out one of their current centers.

They cannot trade O'Reilly until next Feb. 28, one year from the date they matched an offer sheet from the Calgary Flames.

Stastny's unrestricted free agent status next summer makes him a logical trade candidate, but he carries a $6.6 million cap hit. With the salary cap dropping to $64.3 million next season, moving him could prove difficult.

The 22-year-old Duchene's affordable contract ($3.5 million) and considerable potential would attract the best return, but the Avs would be reluctant to trade him.

MacKinnon's MVP performance at the 2013 Memorial Cup pushed him ahead of Jones in the recent International Scouting Services (ISS) rankings, further heightening speculation over which player the Avs will select on draft day.

Adding to the intrigue were comments made by new Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy, who said they would consider all options, including trading their pick. Executive VP of hockey operations Joe Sakic echoed Roy's comments.

Why consider shopping a pick that favors landing a future superstar? On the surface, it doesn't make sense, until one considers Sakic witnessed a somewhat similar situation early in his playing career, when the Avalanche were still the Quebec Nordiques.

In 1991, the Nordiques selected Eric Lindros with the first overall pick, but he refused to report and returned to junior hockey. The Nordiques eventually dealt him to the Philadelphia Flyers for a package of players, prospects and draft picks.

In that package were Mike Ricci, Chris Simon and a promising young Swede named Peter Forsberg, all of whom helped the Avalanche win their first Stanley Cup in 1996. Forsberg also went on to become a superstar in his own right with the Avalanche.

One of the draft picks the Avs received in that package was used to select goalie Jocelyn Thibault. He became part of the package shipped to the Montreal Canadiens in December 1995 for Patrick Roy, who continued his Hall of Fame career in Colorado, backstopping them to two Cup championships.

The far-reaching impact of the Lindros trade probably wasn't lost on Sakic, who was a rising young NHL star with the Nordiques when that famous deal went down.

Trading this year's first overall pick won't land a return equal to the Lindros trade, but it could fetch a young NHL defenseman, goaltender or scoring winger who could help the Avalanche now and for years to come.

That doesn't mean the Avalanche will definitely move the pick. Their asking price will be expensive, which will turn off some potential suitors.

Still, by publicly stating their willingness to listen to offers, Roy and Sakic may ignite a bidding war that results in an offer too good to pass up.

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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Jones or MacKinnon?