We are just one week away from the NHL trading deadline. Two weeks ago, the Avalanche were looking like sellers. Last week, a minor winning streak seemed to put the Avs back into more of a "fine-tuning" mode. Now, after two disappointing losses, Colorado seems to be firmly back on the seller side of things. So, what might the Avs be doing next Wednesday?
There's been some talk around the RSS circuit that the A) the Avs need to rebuild and B) they need to shed payroll. Neither is accurate. The Avalanche have a pretty good nucleus of players up front - Stastny, Wolski, Stewart, Hejduk, Smyth - and on defense - Hannan, Foote, Liles, Salei. There's obviously work to be done, but the team isn't that far from respectability or even playoff contentio without taking a wrecking ball to everything. And if GM Francois Giguere has been instructed to cut payroll, it hasn't been announced publicly. The Avalanche have about $43 million committed to 13 players next year, which is high, but shouldn't have the team in a full-out salary sell-off. Plus, the Avs are struggling to put asses in the seats (just 6 sellouts) and need to keep fans moderately interested.
With the playoffs now out of the picture, the Avalanche won't be looking for anything for this season at the deadline. For next year, they should be looking for scoring depth, a big shot on the power play, a puck moving defenseman and a bona fide, #1 goalie. Most of those fruits don't grow on trees and are usually at a premium at the deadline. However, there may be some goalies on the market (Manny Fernandez? Cristobal Huet?) and it wouldn't shock me to see Giguere take the opportunity to make a goalie move now rather than wait until summer, nor would it surprise me to see him add a player or two instead of focusing on acquiring draft pick.s
Who will Avalanche be shopping? Here's my take on who is available (and who isn't) on the roster:
Peter Budaj ($700k, RFA this summer). I believe the Avalanche brass have lost faith in Budaj and will be actively seeking a number 1 either at the deadline or this offseason. Budaj's cheap salary, positive demeanor and studious approach to the game could make him an attractive target for a team looking for depth, but I don't think the Avs will move him unless they acquire that #1 now.
|2008 - Peter Budaj||43||2498||16||24||1||4||124||2.98||1197||1073||.896||1|
Andrew Raycroft ($800k, UFA): Razor has done better than expected in the backup role this year, but probably doesn't figure prominently in the team's future plans. The Avalanche could trade Raycroft and give Tyler Weiman (playing well in the AHL) the backup job...if the Avs can find any takers.
|2008 - Andrew Raycroft||21||1182||12||8||0||2||59||2.99||579||520||.898||0|
Adam Foote ($3m, signed through next year): Foote has a NTC and will not be going anywhere.
|2008 - Adam Foote||35||1||5||6||-5||24||0||0||1||0||16||6.3|
Scott Hannan ($4.5m, 2 more years): No Movement Clause for Hannan. While he may be amenable to waiving that, I don't believe the Avalanche have any desire to move him.
|2008 - Scott Hannan||60||0||5||5||-8||22||0||0||0||0||44||0.0|
John-Michael Liles ($4.2m, 3 years): Liles has a Limited Trade Clause. I don't know which teams are on his "ok" list, but I could picture JML agreeing to waive it to go to a Cup contender. Liles is our best offensive threat from the blueline, but the potential return for his services might be too tempting for Giguere to turn down.
|2008 - John-Michael Liles||55||7||21||28||-10||23||4||0||0||0||105||6.7|
Ruslan Salei ($3.0m, 1 year): Salei's name has been mentioned quite a bit in rumors this year and that surprises me. He's played well (after a slow start) and often seems to be the only Avalanche blueliner not allergic to physical content. Not untouchable, I suppose, but I think Giguere would rather move other defensemen.
|2008 - Ruslan Salei||59||4||14||18||-5||60||1||0||0||0||81||4.9|
Brett Clark ($3.5m, 1 year): This would be one of the "other" defensemen listed above. Unfortunately, with his contract and inconsistent performance this year, his trade value is lower than it should be. Clark has the potentital to be an excellent deadline acquisition. Seriously. The trick will be getting another GM to buy into that.
|2008 - Brett Clark||61||2||11||13||-1||32||0||0||1||0||76||2.6|
Jordan Leopold ($1.5m, UFA): Probably the big fish. Teams always are looking to add a puck moving defenseman at the deadline. Leopold is competent in his own end and has good offensive skills (the numbers are a bit deceiving, as the Avs do a terrible job involving their blueliners offensively). Plus, he's dirt cheap this year and becomes a free agent this summer. Every time I turn on WEEI out of Boston...well, they are talking about pretty much anything but hockey. But when they do mention hockey, Jordan Leopold's name invariably comes up and I'd guess that's a similar situation in any number of hockey cities. With any luck, Giguere will be able to get a few teams involved in a bidding war and really maximize his return. I will be absolutely stunned if Leopold isn't moved.
|2008 - Jordan Leopold||61||6||14||20||-10||18||1||0||1||1||77||7.8|
Daniel Tjarnqvist ($750k, UFA): Tjarmin Ultra has been a solid pickup. He's accepted his 7th defenseman role professionally and has played well when needed. While it would make sense to deal Tjarmin to a team in need of depth for the stretch run, the Avs don't have a ton of NHL-ready talent in Cleveland. If the Avalanche do move a couple of defensemen, Tjarnqvist could stick around - a direct impact of the Kyle Cumiskey injury.
|2008 - Daniel Tjarnqvist||30||2||1||3||-1||6||0||0||0||1||16||12.5|
That concludes my look at the goalies and the blueliners (I'll examine the forwards a little later in a separate post). To summarize, I think it's a given that Jordan Leopold will be moved, with Brett Clark, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Ruslan Salei and John-Michael Liles also potentially moveable (in order from most-likely to least-likely to move). I don't really expect either goalie to move, but it's not beyond the the realm of possibility.