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Avs aren't cheering -- yet -- trade that brought in Blake

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001


There is no downside to the Rob Blake trade, right? I mean, how could anyone involved with the Avalanche fret over bringing in the NHL's best defenseman for a run at the Stanley Cup?

But amid the clamor and excitement that this may be Colorado's year, there were murmurs of discouragement at the trade with the Kings. Well, maybe not discouragement, but caution.

Avalanche players pride themselves on the talent and chemistry that exists in their locker room. The team had the most points and was everybody's favorite to win the Cup. Why add an unknown, not to mention subtracting Adam Deadmarsh and Aaron Miller, to an already well-oiled machine?

"I heard some rumors but I didn't know," said Avalanche center Peter Forsberg, one of Deadmarsh's closest friends. "It's kind of a shock. Blake has been a Norris Trophy winner (1998) and he's a real good player. We'll see how it goes."

"It's different because we're at the top of the league and a lot of people wouldn't disrupt that," forward Chris Drury said. "But no matter how good you are, if you get a guy like Rob Blake, he's going to make you better."

He also won't be making the Stars better or the Red Wings or the Sharks, or any other team that could get in the Avalanche's way. And after falling short the past two seasons in the Western Conference final, general manager Pierre Lacroix is not taking any chances, even if Blake turns out to be a rent-a-star.

Blake, 31, who could become an unrestricted free agent after the season, can score and play a bruising brand of defense.

"There is never a good time for a trade, none, it doesn't exist," Lacroix said. "I know that after everybody is settled in and understands the whole dimension of the transaction, nobody -- I am convinced 100 percent -- will disagree in what this organization is trying to accomplish."

It is the same thing Lacroix tried to accomplish in 1998-99, when he rented Theo Fleury, and last season, when he acquired Ray Bourque.

"Everything you do here is for the Stanley Cup and playoffs," Blake said. "So I am going to come here, I am going to fit into that role and I am going to go ahead and do what I can."

DOLLARS AND SENSE: If Bourque wins his first Stanley Cup in his 22nd season, he could retire. That would free a large chunk of change to help Colorado sign Blake to the five-year, $45-million contract he wants, which prompted his trade.

"I want to take care of business on the ice and get everything done there, and when that's done, we will do other things," Blake said.

FYI: Why did the Eric Lindros trade fall through? Because the Flyers didn't like the medical report on Maple Leafs defenseman Danny Markov, who has a back injury, and substituted defenseman Tomas Kaberle into the deal.

"I don't like the way things went down," Toronto general manager Pat Quinn said. "It was constantly a moving target, and every time we moved to their position, it moved again."

Said Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke: "(Quinn) said Markov and Kaberle were equal in his mind, so we said, "Let's take the healthy guy.' What did he think I would do with the medical reports, take them to the bathroom?"

ODDS AND ENDS: In the first four games after Sabres owner John Rigas proclaimed that goaltender Dominik Hasek is off the trading block, Hasek went 4-0 as part of a 7-1 streak with a 1.36 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage. Hasek will make $9-million next season. ... The Sabres want to keep forward Doug Gilmour (three goals) for the playoffs, but the Sharks are interested. Gilmour, 37, said he is retiring at the end of the season. ... When the Flames signed Ron Sutter, 37, it meant a Sutter brother has played in the NHL for 26 consecutive seasons. ... Stars forward Joe Nieuwendyk finished Wednesday's game against the Wild with 901 career points and as the 73rd player to reach 900.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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