<
>

Avs add depth and grit

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche were busy again at the trade deadline Tuesday, adding goalie Tommy Salo and center Chris Gratton in deals with Edmonton and Phoenix.

The Avalanche sent defenseman Derek Morris and unsigned defenseman Keith Ballard to the Coyotes for Gratton, defenseman Ossi Vaananen and a 2004 second-round draft pick.

Salo, a two-time NHL All-Star, was sent to Colorado with a 2005 sixth-round draft pick for unsigned prospect defenseman Tom Gilbert.

Colorado also added gritty forward Matthew Barnaby in a trade with New York late Monday, sending defensemen Chris McAllister and David Liffiton along with a 2004 second-round draft pick to the Rangers.

The last-minute dealing is nothing new to the Avalanche, who have added such players as Ray Bourque, Rob Blake, Theo Fleury and Bryan Marchment in recent years to provide a boost for the playoff run.

``I've said all along that when we do trades, it's like an old record: If we could do something that's going to improve the situation, we'll do the trades we need to do, because this is the goal of this organization, to try and be there in June every year,'' Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix said from Vancouver. ``No different was this year.''

Salo will give the Avalanche a veteran backup to David Aebischer, who's played well in place of retired Patrick Roy, but has never started a playoff game.

Salo, drafted by the New York Islanders in 1993, is 209-222-72 with a 2.56 goals-against average in 521 games, and has played in 21 playoff games. He was 17-18-6 with a 2.58 goals-against average and three shutouts for the Oilers this season.

He should be a better alternative than Phil Sauve, who was sent to Colorado's AHL affiliate in Hershey on Tuesday to get more seasoning. The rookie goalie has struggled most of the season and allowed 16 goals his last three starts.

``We felt at this stage entering the playoff run nothing was wrong with us to have an experienced goaltender,'' Lacroix said. ``Injury may happen or anything else may happen.''

Adding Gratton and Barnaby fits into the approach Colorado took at last year's trade deadline: adding grit to go with skilled players Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk.

Gratton is a bruiser at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds who can also score. He had 11 goals and 18 assists in 68 games with Phoenix, and has 172 goals and 295 assists in 838 career games.

Gratton also has playoff experience, with eight goals and eight assists in 29 postseason games.

Barnaby isn't as big, but has a knack for agitating opponents -- 2,200 penalty minutes in 12 NHL seasons. He's also shown a surprising scoring touch with 12 goals and 32 points this season.

``I think that's a great pick up for us,'' Avalanche captain Joe Sakic said of Barnaby. ``He brings a spark and adds a lot of life, goes up and down and goes to the net. I know he's going to do
whatever it takes to help us win.''

The Gratton deal comes at the expense of Morris, a promising young defenseman who came to Colorado in a trade from Calgary before the 2002 season.

Morris had career highs in goals (11) and points (48) last season, but has been inconsistent this year with just two goals the past 43 games.

Vaananen is a 6-4, 215-pound stay-at-home defenseman who hits hard. He's also two years younger than the 25-year-old Morris, who's making $3.5 million this year and will be a restricted free agent on July 1.

Colordo also acquired forward Chris Bala from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for forward Jordan Krestanovich and sent forward Travis Brigley to Hershey on a conditioning assignment.