What if … Avalanche never matched Joe Sakic offer sheet? (NHL Alternate History)

(Ed. Note: It’s the NHL Alternate History project! We’ve asked fans and bloggers from 31 teams to pick one turning point in their franchise’s history and ask ‘what if things had gone differently?’ Trades, hirings, firings, wins, losses, injuries … all of it. How would one different outcome change the course of history for an NHL team? Today: The incomparable Jibblescribbits on the Colorado Avalanche! Enjoy!)

By Jibblescribbits

I toyed with several “What-ifs” here

What if Ray Bourque’s post-shot goes in in the dying seconds of the 2000 WCF? What if Ryan O’Reilly offer sheet isn’t matched? What if Lindros stays with the Nordiques/Avs? What if Steve Moore’s neck doesn’t break on the Bertuzzi Ambush?

Here’s one I hate thinking about, but I think it would have the biggest impact:

What if Colorado doesn’t match the Ranger’s offer sheet for Joe Sakic?

To refresh: In Summer 1997, in an effort to replace the now-Vancouver Canuck Mark Messier, the New York Rangers made an unprecedented contract offer to RFA Joe Sakic for three years and $21 million.

The compensation, had the Avs not matched, was a whopping five first-round picks.

The Rangers would have benefited from this, because they absolutely butchered their next five first-round picks.

1998: Manny Malhotra

1999: Jaime Lundmark

2000: Traded away to move up and take Pavel Brendl

2001: Dan Blackburn

2002: Traded in package for Pavel Bure.

The thing is that the Avs already had acquired four No. 1 draft picks in the 1998 draft, in the 12-20 range. Pierre Lacroix tried desperately to package all four picks to go No. 1 overall and take Vinny Lecavalier. Maybe a No. 7 overall pick, instead of No. 20 overall, is enough to sweeten the pot for Tampa.

So, in theory, the Avs lose Joe Sakic and get Vinny Lecavalier. (Also, they lose Alex Tanguay in the package deal to Tampa).

If we’re counting, that’s three franchises who now have vastly different futures.

Plugging Lecavalier into the Avs for Sakic and Tanguay probably isn’t that huge a drop off. More importantly, over the next four seasons is when Pierre Lacroix went all “GM’ing is just like the EA NHL series games.”

Without five New York Rangers first-round picks, Pierre Lacroix managed to trade for: Rob Blake, Ray Bourque, Theo Fleury, Dale Hunter, Brian Rolston and many other players.

(Lacroix also traded Sandis Ozolinsh to move up and take Vaclav Nederost.)

With those first-round picks, Lacroix no doubt would have used them to bolster his lineup. Other players traded in this time span: Vincent Damphousse, Trevor Linden, Rod Brind’Amour, Roberto Luongo, Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk are just a few players on the move over the next few years. With five extra first-round picks, the wily Lacroix will definitely poach a couple of those players over to the Avs.

Joe Sakic goes onto the Rangers. Tampa toils in mediocrity. Maybe those five draft picks open the door and the Avs win another cup (or two!).

Imagine, for one second, the Avs use on or two of those No. 1s and outbid Detroit for Chelios. The Avs could have had a defense that looked like:




Good lord that would have been something to see.

All that said, a Stanley Cup in the hand is worth two in the bush. Vinny got a Cup in Tampa. Joe got another Cup in here in Colorado, for Ray Bourque no less.

The way it worked out was probably best for everyone involved.

Except the Rangers. In reality, the Rangers were the big losers. Dan Blackburn? Really?

Jibblescribbits is a self-proclaimed ‘smart-ass Avs fan’ whose blog is


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