With the trade deadline now just a few days away, we continue our closer look at the situation for each team. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs? Next up is a look at the Colorado Avalanche.
Well, it’s been a great run for the Colorado Avalanche this season. Really, who could have expected that the worst team in the NHL in 2016-17 would have still been competing for a playoff spot in February? The team has nothing to be disappointed in: they got a great return for Matt Duchene earlier this year, watched Nathan MacKinnon embrace his superstar role, and exceeded expectations as a group all year long. However, they were never supposed to be a playoff team this quickly and, barring a miraculous stretch run, they won’t be. Colorado has quickly fallen behind in the Western Conference playoff race in recent weeks. Since their ten-game win streak ended in January, the Avs are 5-7-2 and just barely sticking around the conversation for a playoff spot. They are sixth in the Central Division, with teams ahead of them like the Minnesota Wild and the Dallas Stars getting hot at the right time, making it difficult to see Colorado winning a divisional berth. Over in the Pacific, the resurgence of the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, on top of the Stars, Wild and St. Louis Blues, also puts a wild card spot nearly out of reach. While it may not be the storybook ending some hoped for, it’s time for the Avalanche to cut ties with their rental players, if the right deal comes along, and move on, with eyes towards taking another step forward next year.
32-23-5, sixth in the Central Division
Deadline Cap Space
$37,680,931 in deadline cap space
44/50 contracts per CapFriendly
2018: COL 1st, COL 2nd, NSH 2nd, COL 3rd, COL 4th, COL 5th, COL 6th, COL 7th
2019: OTT 1st, COL 1st, COL 2nd, OTT 3rd, COL 3rd, COL 5th, COL 6th, COL 7th
Even if GM Joe Sakic and company decided they still wanted to keep pushing for a playoff spot, their deadline plans would be more or less the same. Colorado does not have a firm enough seat in the Western playoff race to warrant buying, but there is little difference between standing pat and “selling”. The team has only a few impending unrestricted free agents and Sakic will move them if the right deal comes along. If not, he will likely be happy to keep them as the Avs’ own “rentals” and, in some case, may even have extension talks. Headlining the group of available Avs are goaltenders Jonathan Bernier and Andrew Hammond, either of which could be expendable whether Colorado is a traditional “seller” or not. Bernier, who is currently sidelined with an injury but expected back soon, has been a great value addition to the team this season, outplaying incumbent starter Semyon Varlamov and forcing a near-even split in net. Bernier, if healthy, could be an attractive addition for a team in need of a more reliable backup goalie for the postseason. He could always re-sign in Colorado even if he is dealt. Hammond, on the other hand, has not seen any NHL action this season, but could be affordable added insurance for a playoff-bound squad. Blake Comeau, a former 20-goal scorer and consistent bottom-six contributor, will likely get the most attention as the deadline draws closer. Comeau would be a nice depth addition for any number of contenders. To a much lesser extent, Gabriel Bourque and Joe Colborne could also draw some interest. Colin Wilson has been a huge disappointment in Denver, but if the team is willing to eat some of his near-$4MM salary in 2019, they could easily trade the veteran forward away less than a year after acquiring him from Nashville.
1) Picks and prospects
Again, the success that this team has achieved is a total surprise. They are still very much in a rebuild and, like all rebuilding teams, simply need to stock up on draft picks and prospects. The team got a great return for Duchene earlier this year, including a first-round pick and player selected with a first-round pick last year, and simply want to continue to accumulate those franchise building blocks. Given the pieces they’re willing to move, the Avs won’t be getting much back outside of mid-round picks and middling prospects anyway. If the Avalanche walk away from the trade deadline with some combination of third- and fourth-round picks and a prospect scoring winger or two, it will be a major success.