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Numbers Game: Flyers send Talbot to Avs for Downie

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Scott Cullen
10/31/2013 2:56:34 PM
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The Colorado Avalanche, rolling along with a 10-1 record, traded a winger who had spent the season on their first line, in exchange for a veteran checker.

Numbers Game looks at the Steve Downie-Maxime Talbot trade.

The Flyers Get: RW Steve Downie.

Downie, 26, missed nearly all of last season after suffering a torn ACL in the second game of the season, but he's proven to be healthy this year, playing 16:43 per game through the first 11 games of the season, contributing one goal, seven points and a plus-4 rating for the Avalanche.

While those numbers look like a positive start to the season for Downie, digging deeper can reveal some reason to have more modest expectations. For one thing, while Downie has fine possession stats, it wouldn't be right to ignore the contributions of Matt Duchene, especially since Duchene drives play more consistently and has been one of the league's top players early in the season.

Downie does offer a rare blend of talent and ability to wreak havoc on the ice. From 2009-2010 through 2011-2012, there were three players to score 40 goals and register at least 400 penalty minutes: Downie, Steve Ott and Scott Hartnell, who is going to be Downie's teammate in Philadelphia.

Returning to Philadelphia, where Downie played 38 games before he was traded early in the 2008 season, certainly puts Downie in a top-nine role, but there's going to be competition for playing time among the other Flyers wingers.

Based on Philadelphia's line combinations last game, it would be easy enough to slot Downie in for rookie Michael Raffl, alongside Claude Giroux and Vincent Lecavalier on the top line, but Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Matt Read are among those competing for ice time on the wings and it's easy enough to see how Downie could still end up playing in a third-line role for the Flyers.

If he does end up playing with Giroux and Lecavalier, that is a good opportunity for Downie to put up points, maybe even challenge his career-high 46 points that he had with Tampa Bay in 2009-2010.

Downie, who comes with a cap hit of $2.65-million, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Given the Flyers' depth up front, they don't have to make a commitment to anything long-term but, given the Flyers' history when it comes to handing out contracts, who would be surprised to see Downie land a multi-year extension?

The Avalanche Get: LW Max Talbot.

Talbot is a 29-year-old who has surprisingly strong puck possession numbers, even though he played a decidedly defensive role -- C Sean Couturier was the only non-fourth-liner with a higher percentage of defensive zone starts for the Flyers this season.

Talbot scored a career-high 19 goals and 34 points for Philadelphia in 2011-2012, but dropped to 10 points in 35 games last season and has two points in 11 games this year. He's not a gifted offensive player but, with the Avalanche, he doesn't have to be. Talbot can slide into a third-line role and be the defensive conscience on the wing with rookie centre Nathan MacKinnon.

Part of Talbot's appeal, in addition to championship experience gained in Pittsburgh's 2009 Stanley Cup win, is that he has versatility and can play centre as well as either wing.

The immediate beneficiary in the Colorado lineup is PA Parenteau, who had already moved up to skate on right wing with Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly in practice this week. Parenteau and Duchene played together for the most part last season, so there is a familiarity there and Parenteau upgrades the skill level of the trio.

Talbot is under contract for two more years, after the current season, at a cap hit of $1.75-million, though his actual salary over the final two years totals $2.25-million, so he comes at something of a bargain relative to his cap hit.

In total, Downie is likely to make more of an impact than Talbot, but there's no guarantee where that contribution will be happening beyond this season, so there is some asset management at work here for the Avalanche.

While the Flyers might be confident that Downie will be part of their future, it's possible that the Avalanche weren't so assured. If that's the case, securing the services of a reliable veteran, who has 39 points in 77 career playoff games, who is under contract for a few more seasons may provide long-term value that helps mitigate the potential loss incurred by trading away a younger, more skilled player.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Maxime Talbot (Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
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