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Old 07-25-2006, 01:08 PM   #5413
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Boulder, CO
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Allen Iverson

EJ Hradek's blog about the Avs:

Do you ever get the feeling you walked into the room about five minutes too late? That's how new Avalanche GM Francois Giguere might feel.

The Avs, a league power since the mid-1990s, are transitioning into the salary cap era. Last summer, they waived goodbye to longtime stars Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote, who both bolted via free agency. This summer, Colorado lost Rob Blake, who signed a free-agent deal with the Kings. Veteran grinder Dan Hinote also skipped town, signing a three-year deal in St. Louis. In the pre-cap NHL, the Avs likely would have re-signed all four players.

Giguere's first major trade also had salary cap implications. On draft day, he sent high-scoring winger Alex Tanguay to the Flames for defenseman Jordan Leopold. The club just couldn't afford to pay Tanguay, who would've eventually followed other stars out of Denver. Fortunately, Leopold is a solid defender who'll help fill the void left by Blake's departure.

Captain Joe Sakic re-upped for another season. Barring something unforeseen, Sakic appears to be the only star from the club's glory days that will finish out his career with the Avs. Sakic, who turned 37 earlier in the month, still has game. In 2005-06, he was the team's leading scorer, posting 87 points while playing in all 82 games. In the playoffs, Sakic's strong play keyed the Avs' first-round upset of the Stars.

Despite the departure of Tanguay, the Avs still should be able to light the lamp. (Sorry about that cliché, but sometimes I just can't help it.) Right wings Milan Hejduk and Marek Svatos are very good in the offensive zone and veteran left wings Andrew Brunette and Steve Konowalchuk do a nice job below the dots. Brunette has a nose for the net, while Konowalchuk returns after missing most of the season with a wrist injury.

With a need for a second center, Giguere took a one-year ($950,000) flier on free-agent pivot Tyler Arnason. The 27-year-old Arnason was a bust with the Senators after the club acquired him from the Blackhawks at the trade deadline. Arnason enjoyed his best year during the 2003-04 season, scoring 22 goals and 55 points in Chicago. With his career on the line, Arnason will have to perform or spend a lot of time on a minor league. Perhaps, that's just the kind of urgency he needs.

Of course, Giguere's success or failure likely will rest on the shoulders of goaltender Jose Theodore. The former Habs star was acquired by longtime GM Pierre Lacroix -- who remains as club president -- just a day before the trade deadline. Can Theodore regain the form that helped him win the Hart and Vezina trophies in 2002? If he can, the Avs again will compete for a playoff spot. If he struggles, Giguere's first season as GM might coincide with the club's first season without a playoff berth since 1994.

Like I said, sometimes you feel like you walked in the room a little too late.
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