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Is the Soderberg-Connauton trade nothing more than a salary dump?

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

As the offseason continues to roll along, the Avalanche’s roster tweaking also moves forward. Last week, Joe Sakic used the team’s two first-round draft picks on Bowen Byram and Alex Newhook, a defenseman and forward who should be mainstays in Colorado for years to come. And now, the general manager is making moves aimed at making a more immediate impact.

Today, it was announced the the Avs were sending Carl Soderberg to Arizona in exchange for Kevin Connauton and a third-round pick in 2020. It’s an intriguing trade, but does it make Colorado better in 2019?

The 33-year-old Soderberg is coming off of his best season in the NHL, having scored a career-high 23 goals en route to 49 points. But the center was slated to earn $4 million this coming season, with a $4.75 million cap hit. That’s a lot of money for a third-line center.

Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Connauton is coming off of a ho-hum season with the Coyotes. In 50 games, the defenseman scored one goal and posted seven assists for a paltry eight points. But his salary is more in line with a third-line player, as he’ll earn $1.5 million in 2019 and count $1.375 against the cap this season.

Perhaps this is a move to free up salary cap room, as Sakic looks to re-sign the Avalanche’s own free agents (with Mikko Rantanen and J.T. Compher atop the list) and perhaps pursue others on the open market. If it’s to create space for a player like Artemis Panarin, few in Colorado will complain.

However, if the trade is simply to cut costs, it’s a hard move to justify. Soderberg is a better player than Connauton, there’s no other way to spin it. And the center would’ve clearly brought more to the table this season for the Avalanche than the journeyman defenseman.

The next few weeks will demonstrate what Sakic is really up to with this trade. Putting the $3.4 million in added cap space to use is what every Colorado fan should be hoping for, with the Avs making a move to build upon last year’s second-round playoff appearance.