By necessity, it is called the Eric Lindros trade. When one guy is moved for almost half a hockey team plus the equivalent of a club's entire payroll, the least they can do is name the deal after him. But in recent days, a new name has surfaced. It's being called the trade that won the Stanley Cup for the Colorado Avalanche.

Colorado hasn't won anything just yet, although it has looked scary good in moving within two victories of capturing the 79th NHL championship -- and no fewer than nine current Avalanche players are directly or indirectly linked to that June 1992 transaction. Colorado leads the Florida Panthers, two games to none, in the best-of-seven Cup finals heading into Game 3 here on Saturday night.

"It was an important trade, as you know," Avalanche General Manager Pierre Lacroix said the other day. "I mean, that turned things around, let's face it."

The Quebec Nordiques, now the Avalanche, were so bad that they got the top pick in the 1991 draft. They took the consensus choice, Lindros, but he refused to play in Quebec City. His rights were dealt to Philadelphia for six players, two No. 1 picks and $15 million.

Peter Forsberg, who scored a first-period hat trick in Colorado's 8-1 thumping of Florida on Thursday, was one of the six players -- and some hockey people believe that he alone is as good as Lindros, who won the 1995 Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player.

Lacroix wasn't around when the deal was struck. But the second-year general manager has made shrewd offshoot moves, using pieces of the trade to acquire, among others, goaltender Patrick Roy and right wing Claude Lemieux.

Of the six players, forwards Mike Ricci, Chris Simon and Forsberg are still around. Defensemen Steve Duchesne and Kerry Huffman, goaltender Ron Hextall and the two picks have been transformed into six other players. Besides Roy and Lemieux, they are forwards Adam Deadmarsh and Mike Keane and defensemen Uwe Krupp and Sylvain Lefebvre.

"They gave up a lot of players, but Eric is a really good player, a franchise player," said Forsberg, who has blossomed beyond expectations. Now 22, he has grown two inches and put on 20 pounds since the deal, to a powerful 6 feet, 190 pounds. Last season, he was the Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year. This season, he was fifth in the NHL with 116 points -- one point better than Lindros.

"I wouldn't say I'm even with Eric," said the mild-mannered Forsberg, who scored the gold-medal-winning goal for Sweden in a shootout in the 1994 Olympics. "He's a superstar and I don't think I'm that."

To be fair, the Flyers have turned 180 degrees since Lindros arrived. He rejuvenated a dormant franchise that this year finished first in the Eastern Conference before being upset by the Panthers in the second round of the playoffs.

"We got what the Flyers needed," said Philadelphia General Manager Bobby Clarke, who, like Lacroix, was not with his team at the time of the trade. "It's been really good for our club. It looks like it helped the Avalanche, but so did the five {early} first-round picks that they got -- they missed the playoffs five years in a row {1988-92}.

"I think Lindros did for our club probably what no other individual player could've done. He kept our building full. Everywhere we go people are watching our club and this year we finished on top of our conference. And he's still a young player, going to get better."

But is any one player worth what the Flyers paid? Succinctly, Clarke said, "He was."

The Panthers shut down Lindros in the playoffs, then handled Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in the next round. Those may be the three best players in the game today, but their supporting casts didn't provide enough help. What the Panthers have found out is that the Avalanche has what the Flyers and Penguins don't -- depth -- in large part because of the Lindros trade.

"It's not a game like basketball where one player can dominate," Simon said. "In hockey, we have 24 guys and there's a few of us who don't know whether we're going to play the next night." Still, said Simon: "I would've made that trade. {Lindros} going there rejuvenated that city."

Through Games 1 and 2, Forsberg has three goals and an assist, Ricci has a goal, Krupp has a goal and an assist, Deadmarsh has three assists. Keane and Lemieux, Cup winners in other cities, have brought leadership. Lefebvre and Krupp are stalwarts on a defense that has proven critics wrong.

"We had to change the spice in the recipe," said Lacroix. "We felt when we took over there was a lot of skill, but the mixture of spice was not the mixture we thought could win."

The piece de resistance was Roy. He arrived with Keane from Montreal in December, for forwards Andrei Kovalenko and Martin Rucinksy and goaltender Jocelyn Thibault. Thibault had been acquired with one of Philadelphia's draft picks. Not including Thibault in the Roy trade would've been a deal-breaker because Montreal demanded the young, French-Canadian goaltender.

And then there's that $15 million. "The money stayed in Quebec and we're in Colorado," countered Lacroix. Yes, it did, but not before the cash-strapped Nordiques re-signed Joe Sakic, the NHL's third-leading scorer this season and now the top playoff scorer.

So, is there any question who got the better of the "Lindros" trade?

"We're here in the finals, so we probably got the best of the trade," said Forsberg, smiling. "It was not a bad trade for the Flyers, though." CAPTION: Peter Forsberg, who scored hat trick in Game 2, was part of Eric Lindros trade.