Colorado acts fast to replace star forward

Updated: October 23, 2003, 1:51 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche acquired left winger Steve Konowalchuk from the Washington Capitals on Wednesday after learning Paul Kariya will be out indefinitely with a sprained right wrist.

Kariya was injured midway through Colorado's 4-1 loss to Boston on Tuesday night. Test results Wednesday didn't show any broken bones.

To fill the hole left by the high-scoring left wing, Colorado sent forward Bates Battaglia and the rights to forward prospect Jonas Johansson to Washington for Konowalchuk and a third-round pick in next year's draft.

Colorado also recalled left wing Brad Larsen from Hershey of the AHL.

Wed., Oct. 22
The Capitals traded a heart-and-soul player. Though Steve Konowalchuk is limited offensively, he still had nine more goals than Bates Battaglia did last season and is defensively accountable, which was huge for a team that has a gaping void on the defensive side of the blue line.

The trade helps the Avalanche, as they upgrade their offense a bit and their commitment to defense a lot. Battaglia has struggled offensively since his run with the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup finals in 2002.

The Capitals? Coach Bruce Cassidy needs another veteran defenseman in their lineup, not a change of gritty forwards. The key to the trade for them likely will be prospect Jonas Johansson, who was the 28th overall pick by the Avs in the 2002 draft. Johansson is a winger who can play both sides and averaged over a point a game last year in Kamloops of the Western Hockey League.

The bottom line in Washington? There is too much money tied into Jaromir Jagr and not enough available to acquire depth on the blue line for this team to get to the 92 points they had last year.
``Steve Konowalchuk is a reliable, experienced forward capable of playing at both ends of the ice,'' Michel Goulet, the Avalanche's vice president of player personnel, said in a statement. ``He can play in a variety of roles, and we are pleased to add a quality player like Steve to our roster.''

Konowalchuk has shown a good scoring touch for someone who has mostly played on checking lines in 11 seasons with Washington. He has 146 goals and 196 assists in 693 career games, and his best season was 2000-01, when he had 24 goals, 47 points and played in every game.

Konowalchuk has one assist and was minus-5 this season for the Capitals (1-4-1).

Battaglia came to Colorado in a trade deadline deal last season that sent forward Radim Vrbata to Carolina.

Battaglia had 21 goals and 25 assists in helping the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup finals in 2001-02, but struggled last season. He had five goals and 14 assists in 70 games with Carolina, and one goal and five assists in 13 games with the Avalanche.

Battaglia had one assist in four games this season, giving him 64 goals and 93 assists in 419 NHL games.

Kariya signed with Colorado this offseason in a package deal with Teemu Selanne that instantly made the Avalanche a favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

The friends and former linemates for five seasons in Anaheim decided they wanted to play together again and took pay cuts to sign with Colorado on the same day.

Kariya, who agreed to a one-year, $1.2 million contract, had a goal and two assists in his Colorado debut and has added two more goals since.

The Avalanche have gotten off to a disappointing 2-3 start. The players called a team meeting Tuesday night following Tuesday's loss.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press