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Sakic Keeps Future In Focus

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding /

The National Hockey League's annual Trade Deadline came and went on Wednesday and things didn't change as much as many might have expected for the Colorado Avalanche.

Sitting in last place in the league, rumors about the possibility of trading away a piece of Colorado's core have been running rampant for months. But the thing is, Avalanche executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic didn't enter the day of furious activity expecting to do anything other than build a stronger future for his club.

There was no need to make a deal merely for the sake of change.

"I don't have to make any major moves, I think that's the big thing. I like my players," Sakic said during a conference call with members of the media. "I've always stated that if there's something that's going to help our organization long term, that's something that we'll look to do.

"There's no guarantees on any trade. Obviously, we're going to do what's best for our organization long term. We want to get younger, that's what we're looking to do. This offseason we free up some cap space and we're going to try to keep getting younger, and younger and faster. That's what we're going to do."

LISTEN: Sakic addresses the media following the deadline

When the clock struck 1 p.m. in Denver and the deadline had officially passed, Colorado's moves on the day reflected this mindset.

The franchise started by making two minor-league trades to suit organizational need, dealing San Antonio Rampage captain Joe Whitney for forward Brendan Ranford of the Tucson Roadrunners and moving defenseman Cody Corbett for netminder Joe Cannata of the Hershey Bears. Both players will be reporting to the Rampage, the Avalanche's American Hockey League affiliate.

The next thing the Avs did was send 39-year-old forward Jarome Iginla to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2018. The move reunites the veteran with his former Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter and gives him a chance to help the Kings push for a playoff berth and a shot at the Stanley Cup.

"I like what we did for Jarome Iginla, gets him an opportunity to go try to compete for a Stanley Cup. It's something we felt was the right thing to do for Jarome," Sakic said. "We moved Jarome Iginla, gave him an opportunity to go to a great place in L.A. and compete to try to make the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup for himself. We thought that was the right thing to do for him. It was the place that Jarome, after talking with him and his agent Don Meehan, a place that he wanted to go and we gave him that opportunity."

This transaction was important to Sakic as well.

"It's a respect thing. It's respect for Jarome Iginla. It's respect for him as a person, him as a hockey player," he said. "He's a Hall of Fame hockey player for his career and discussing with him, we wanted to give him an opportunity in a great place where he wanted to go. Obviously, he has a relationship with their coach, and it was a place that he wanted to go. And I wanted to afford him that opportunity."

The last move of the day came when Norwegian forward Andreas Martinsen was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens in return for Swiss forward Sven Andrighetto. The move gives the Avs a different offensive tool in the lineup.

"Traded Andreas Martinsen for Sven Andrighetto, a young skilled forward looking for more of an opportunity," Sakic said. "We feel with his speed and hockey sense and skill, he can help our power play."

Video: Lauren Gardner on Colorado's moves

Sakic later elaborated on the trade when discussing it on Altitude Sports Radio AM950 with Julie Browman and Marc Moser.

"He's going to be up [with the Avalanche]," Sakic told the hosts. "He's a guy we're going to give an opportunity to see what he can do. He's a real fast player, a real headsy player. He's got a lot of skill. We lack goals and our power play hasn't been very good, and we think he can help in both areas."

Although other deadline discussions occurred throughout the day, nothing else came to fruition for the Avs.

"I had conversations about a lot of guys, but I'm not going to get into any [specifics] that I've had with other GM's or about other players. I've got too much respect for players around the league and other GM's," Sakic said on the conference call. "I had a lot of conversations with different teams about different players, and a couple teams had decided to stand pat or go a different direction."

Another factor impacting the day, not just for Colorado but around the entire league, was the looming expansion draft. The Vegas Golden Knights officially joined the NHL on Wednesday and the potential for losing players to the new team made navigating the Trade Deadline an even trickier game of chess.

"I think as you saw this week and today, obviously everybody is looking at expansion. Everybody has to get ready for it. You have to have your protection list figured out," Sakic admitted to the media. "Obviously, every team has to face it. It's a unique year. We have an expansion draft that everybody has to get ready for and focus on. There's going to be potential trades with different teams around that time."

Tweet from @Altitude950: LISTEN: @Avalanche GM Joe Sakic joined @RadioMoser and @JulieBrowman1 to discuss the moves he decided to make today:

He added during his radio interview: "Obviously, some teams are going to look to maybe move somebody so they don't lose them in the expansion draft. Those are the teams that if they're in it this year, they're not going to do anything. They're going to try and go for it this year. I think what you saw today was caution. Teams weren't going to move somebody or try and acquire somebody for a pick and then they're going to lose another player at the expansion draft or possibly lose somebody. So they weren't going to do that type of deal."

Now, the Avalanche will play out the remainder of the season with most of the team--and all of its core--still intact. This is a group that can challenge itself and build for the future, not just next season but beyond.

"I like my players. The guys are signed. They're good hockey players," Sakic said. "We know we're trying to get younger, and this offseason we free up cap space where we can bring in some of our younger players that we think are ready and be a little younger, faster and more competitive."

One such player is forward J.T. Compher, who was recalled Wednesday in order to support the team as it prepares to take on the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

"We expect the players to compete and try and win every hockey game," Sakic said. "If you're talking about some of our better players, we already know who they are. They're real good players, but now going down the stretch we're going to get a good look at J.T. Compher and give him a taste. We have an opportunity to see different players if we feel that's all we want to do."

There is also the possibility of seeing other prospects in the NHL lineup before the season concludes on April 9 in St. Louis.

"We're going to be in discussions as the year goes on which players we want to see," Sakic told the media. "So as we move forward, different guys will probably get an opportunity.

"My focus is on our organization, and we're going to do whatever we think is best for us longterm."

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