After another loss last night, the Colorado Avalanche are win-less in their last eight games. Normally, this would send a team plummeting down the standings, but in this season’s Western Conference “turtle derby”, the Avs are tied for tenth-place in the West and just four points back of a wild card spot with a game in hand on the Minnesota Wild. Colorado doesn’t have the best odds of making the playoffs – The Athletic model puts them at 32% – but they certainly still have a chance. It puts GM Joe Sakic in a difficult position as the NHL Trade Deadline approaches; he knows that his team, which held a playoff spot for much of the first half, has the talent to make the postseason, but he also lacks the confidence in the current standings to be a true buyer. Sakic stated last week that he would not move first-round picks or top prospects at the deadline, but without a win since then, he may have ruled out giving up any trade capital of value for a rental.
Where a move does still make sense for the Avalanche is in acquiring a forward with term or team control. The lack of secondary scoring that has plagued the team this season is not going to magically correct itself next year, so it makes sense for Sakic to target forwards that could help down the stretch this year and moving forward. The best case scenario would be a deal where the Colorado does not have to give up futures to acquire such a player. Few of these opportunities exist, but the Avs are reportedly looking into one of them. Appearing on TSN 1050 in Toronto yesterday, Pierre LeBrun reported that the Avalanche are in on young Washington Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky. Burakovsky, 24, has fallen out of favor in Washington and has been on the trade block for much of the season. The talented winger is an impending restricted free agent this summer and due a qualifying offer of $3.25MM, but Colorado has both the cap space and the need for depth to accommodate a contract extension. Burakovsky, who is on pace for 24 points this season behind a drop-off in ice time and shooting percentage, has otherwise scored at a half point-per-game clip and logged strong possession numbers in his previous four years with the Caps. He could be the exact type of buy-low, high upside forwards that Sakic and company need. With a change of scenery, Burakovsky could make an impact this year and become a core piece for the Avs next season and beyond.
Yet, what makes Colorado and Washington ideal trade partners is what the Capitals want in return. Like many contenders who are willing to move a young roster player, Washington will need a replacement. According to The Athletic’s Scott Burnside, the asking price for Burakovsky is another top-nine forward who can out-perform him in his stead this season. Washington GM Brian MacLellan has very little cap room to work with at the deadline – approximately $1.1MM in salary – and is almost exclusively looking to upgrade via hockey trade as a result. The Capitals’ best chance of improving at the deadline is likely in their return for Burakovsky. So what do the Avalanche have to offer as the centerpiece of a package for Burakovsky? Colin Wilson, an impending free agent with a cap hit just under $4MM, makes a lot of sense. Wilson has out-produced Burakovsky this season and brings an added element of experience and a hard-working style that would be a major boost to the Capitals’ bottom six. Matthew Nieto is another option; the 26-year-old has similar numbers to Burakovsky albeit with less potential, but does carry a team-friendly $1.975MM hit through next season. If the Avs are really high on Burakovsky, they may even consider swapping out one of their own RFA scorers in Alexander Kerfoot or J.T. Compher. Perhaps the most intriguing option though, and one that could likely up the price on the Capitals’ side, is veteran forward Carl Soderberg. After two down years, Soderberg is again on pace for a 50-point season and would be a major addition for the Caps. He does have a $4.75MM cap hit through next season that would require some retention on the part of the Avalanche, but if MacLellan is willing to sweeten the offer beyond just Burakovsky, Sodeberg could be a difference maker for the team. With good potential fits on both sides and rumored mutual interest, a Burakovksy-to-the-Avs trade could be coming down the line in the next twelve days.