The Colorado Avalanche have traded winger and recently demoted Steve Downie to the Philadelphia Flyers for veteran and 2009 Stanley Cup Finals hero Maxime Talbot. While the timing is certainly peculiar, the Avalanche dipped into their deep pool of talented forwards in an attempt to bring in a veteran player with a long history of success and leadership.
In trading Downie, the Avalanche move on from a player whose time in Colorado was largely marked both by great play and terrible luck. His scoring and offensive chemistry with Matt Duchene will be one thing Avs fans will likely remember as well as his season-ending injuries his first two years in Denver. Downie is a guy with slightly better offensive numbers throughout his career than Talbot but is significantly weaker defensively and his playing style always teetered on the edge of self-destruction. This is the second trade in the last 4 months in which the Avs downgraded in talent but upgraded in reliable veteran-ness that won't hurt your team with stupefyingly selfish penalties (the O'Brien-Sarich swap being the other).
In acquiring Talbot, the Avalanche have brought in a veteran noted for his ability to play multiple positions and whose reliability and toughness will be key moving forward as the Avs look to turn their white-hot start into a legitimate playoff run. Talbot is a guy who will not score much, his career highs being 19 goals and 34 points in the 2011-2012 season, but will make the league's best PK even better and make the Avs 3rd line (which Downie was slated to join tomorrow night in Dallas) even better defensively. Talbot's history of winning and coming up big in spotlight games are the types of unquantifiable things that often can make the difference when you hit the postseason, something the Avs clearly have an eye on.
From a business standpoint, this makes plenty of sense for both clubs as the Flyers move on from a veteran who likely wasn't interested in being part of a rebuilding club and acquire a younger player with more offensive upside and an expiring contract to provide them additional salary cap flexibility moving forward. For the Avs, they bring in a guy on a cheap contract that extends for two more seasons after this one at a cap hit of just $1.75M, though the actual money paid to Talbot will be $1.25M and $1M over the next two years. All of those numbers are likely significantly less than what pending-FA Downie is going to get on the open market. For some, myself included, this implies the Avs are wisely still keeping an eye on their long-term salary cap situation and expecting a significant leap in money spent. Tying up a paltry amount of cap space on a player of Talbot's quality is a smart move when all it costs you is a player who may not have been in the team's long-term plans anyway.
The Avs dipped into their depth of quality forwards and came away with a veteran who is likely to play the Mike Keane role in the anticipated upcoming playoff runs. I won't be alone in wishing fan-favorite Steve Downie well in Philadelphia and beyond and thanking the hockey gods we didn't trade him to a team we have to play very often.
Good luck, Steve, and welcome, Max!