Avalanche acquire Salo, Gratton

The Colorado Avalanche were thought to be interested in Washington Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig, but in a surprise move, they picked up Edmonton Oilers netminder Tommy Salo instead.

The Avs acquired Salo and a sixth-round draft pick in 2004 from the Oilers in exchange for defenceman Tom Gilbert.

The Salo trade wasn't the only one Colorado general manager Pierre Lacroix pulled off on Tuesday's NHL trade deadline.

He also shipped promising defenceman Derek Morris and blue-line prospect Keith Ballard to the Phoenix Coyotes in return for centre Chris Gratton, defenceman Ossi Vaananen and the Coyotes' second-round draft choice in the 2005 NHL entry draft.

Salo gives the Avalanche an experienced netminder to complement the team's current starter David Aebischer. Aebischer, who assumed the role as Colorado's No. 1 goalie when Patrick Roy retired, has played only two NHL playoff games in his four-year career.

The 33-year-old Swede is likely a rental player. His contract calls for either a one-year club option at $4.15 million US or a two-year club option at $4.35 million both seasons. It's expected that the Avs will decline both and make him an unrestricted free agent.

Salo, who has been plagued by inconsistency since allowing the infamous goal against Belarus at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, was 17-18-6 with the Oilers this season with a 2.58 goals-against average and three shutouts.

Salo, a two-time NHL all-star, has played 521 games, posting a 209-222-72 record, a 2.59 GAA and 37 career shutouts in his 11-year career.

Gilbert, who is currently playing NCAA hockey at University of Wisconsin, is seen as a strong blue-line prospect for the Oilers.

The six-foot-three-inch defenceman from Minneapolis has six goals and 13 assists in 34 games with the Badgers this season. He was Colorado's fifth selection in the 2002 NHL entry draft.

The Morris trade was also seen as somewhat of a surprise, since the 25-year-old Edmonton native ranked fourth on the Avalanche in average ice time at almost 21 minutes per game.

But Morris's contract – along with the opportunity to pick up a sizeable centre in Gratton – may have been part of the issue. Morris is earning $3.5 million US this season, but will become a restricted free agent July 1, which would require a qualifying offer of the same amount.

The six-foot, 220-pound defenceman has played in all 69 games for the Avalanche and had six goals, 22 assists and 47 penalty minutes.

Ballard currently plays with the University of Minnesota where he has 11 goals and 20 assists in 31 games.

Gratton had 11 goals, 18 assists and 93 penalty minutes in 66 games for the Coyotes this season. The 28-year-old comes at a relatively cheap price of $2.2 million this season and $2.4 million next year.

The six-foot-four-inch, 221-pound centre has played 836 career NHL games with Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Phoenix. The Coyotes acquired him from Buffalo at the trade deadline last season in exchange for young centre Daniel Briere.

Vaananen, 23, has two goals, four assists and 87 penalty minutes in 67 games with the Coyotes this season. He was the Coyotes' second-round draft pick in 1998. He has 10 goals and 35 assists in 291 career games with Phoenix.

with files from Canadian Press