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I think I finally know what the Jehovah's Witness kids felt like around Christmas time. But since we have to go through with tomorrow, there's still the possibility things could work out well for the Avs. I went through a lot of deals a few weeks back, but I think it's worth taking a look at how I hope tomorrow will play out, because things have changed since I wrote about the trades a few weeks back. You can find my list of Avs available here and here.

Have there been any changes to that list? I don't think so. Ryan Smyth is a name that's been thrown out there, but he's not going anywhere unless Vancouver's offering Roberto Luongo. Since I don't see that happening let's just say Ryan Smyth will be wearing a unipron next season. Laperriere is more likely to be traded now than he was a few weeks ago.

Where things have really changed is on the goaltending fronts with a couple of legitimate (young) goaltenders moderately available. Kari Lehtonen 's name has been thrown around a little bit. The reason being that Ondrej Pavalec is expected to be the Thrashers goalie here very soon. I like the idea of going after him, but I'm not sure what the Avs have to give Atlanta. They are both sellers, so the Avs biggest trading chips (Leopold, Lappy) don't do them any good. The Avs 1st round pick is unavailable and a 2nd (even the Avs high second) probably isn't enough to pry Lehtonen away. One thing the Thrashers need are Centers, so you could see TJ Hensick packaged, possibly with a 2nd round pick and a prospect, for Kari Lehtonen.

If the Avs can't get Lehtonen the other possibility is Josh Harding of Minnesota. With todays news that Minnesota re-signed Nikolas Backstrom there's a very promising young, NHL goalie ready and probably available. The Wild are even battling for a playoff spot and have some assets that the Wild could find useful (Lappy, Leo, Salei). There's certainly a deal that could be made there. Would Minnesota be willing to deal to a division rival? What I'd like to see is the Avs deal Leopold for a second round pick and turn around and deal that pick back to Minnesota (maybe with another player.. Svatos?) for Harding. (I have to give a big thanks to matt, aka the doctor, for talking this guy up to me, which means I get to blame him when FG screws it up and crushes my hopes. Thanks matt)

Now it's not essential for the Avs to acquire either of these guys tomorrow. Both are Restricted Free Agents, so it's not out of the question that the Avs could deal for either of them come draft time. Failing those two, Scott Clemenson, who played well in New Jersey this season, is also available and the Devils said they will try and trade him. Clemenson would also be a good (cheap) addition and probably wouldn't cost the Avs too much.

The other thing the Avs desperatly need to do is drop overpaid players on contract for next season. I think this will be extremly difficult. The economic climate in the NHL is one of extreme caution. Most people project the cap to stay the same next season, and drop the following season. No one is going to want to take on a lot of salary under the current economic conditions, making guys the Avs would normally be able to get rid of, like Tucker, Clark and Salei, more difficult. (The Avs do not, I repeat do not, need to drop salary in order to stay afloat. Stan Kroenke's net worth $3.5B #105 on Forbes 400, is the owner. Oh yeah his wife, Anne Walton is rather loaded too, as in a Wal-Mart heiress. Just to give you an idea how much money that is, the couple is worth 4x as much as George Stenbrenner. )

But the Avs need to free up some salary cap for next season. If they can do this, they will have a good chance at rebounding and this entire season will be looked upon as an anomoly. If they can't the Avs are likely going to sit another season near the basement of the Western Conference. If this means not getting equal return on a guy like Brett Clark, then so be it. The cap space in return is almost worth it.

That's what I hope to see happen tomorrow. I'm not confident it will but at the very least the Avs should be able to snag a few decent picks/prospects for some of their expiring contracts, but the day will be a success if they can snag cap space or either Harding or Lehtonen.