Purely looking at the trade alone, the Avalanche gave up way too much for Semyon Varlamov. Let's start by just getting that out of the way. The trade wasn't the best move by Avalanche GM Greg Sherman.
The trade of John-Michael Liles to the Maple Leafs wasn't a stellar one either - I'm sure we can all agree that we should have at least got a player back for Liles in the trade along with the pick.
However, these trades are being examined and scrutinized alone and on a case-by- case basis, and the thing that frustrates me is that they need to be looked less at in terms of "What did we get?!" and more in terms of "How does this fit into the overall plan?"
Hear me out a bit here - after the jump.
On the day of the draft, the Avalanche traded JM Liles to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2nd round pick in 2012, the one that originally belonged to Boston. Alone, this deal isn't very solid. But let's put it into a bit of context. The Avs were moving towards a bigger, badder nature of defense, which has been highlighted by the acquisition of Ryan O'Byrne in the middle of the season and Erik Johnson before the trade deadline.
Today, the Avalanche inked big defenseman Jan Hejda to a four year deal totaling $13 million. Liles, as suggested by his rumored moving at the deadline and as highlighted by this trade, did not fit into that mold going forward (and the presence of Stephan Elliott and Tyson Barrie didn't help, either).
In retrospect, the Avs shipping Liles off makes a bit more sense, doesn't it?
In a more widely scrutinized trade, the Avalanche sent to Washington their 1st round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (!) and their 2nd round pick in either the 2012 or the 2013 draft (Washington's choice) to acquire unproven goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Once again, this provided for a huge amount of backlash from the Avalanche faithful.
It wasn't a great deal. It was, really, a bad one.
But let me offer up this for Avalanche GM Greg Sherman, and I hope that maybe you all will see another side to this trade.
Again, we have to look at where this fits into the overall plan.
We just solidified a defensive corps that include Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda, Kyle Quincey, Ryan O'Byrne, and Stephan Elliott and Tyson Barrie on the way. Not to mention, we just drafted the big Duncan Siemens with the 11th overall pick. (Let's ignore Hunwick, I still have no idea why we ever got him in the first place and he doesn't fit into any sort of plan whatsoever, from what I can see. Same goes for Cumiskey's re-signing) So, Varlamov is going to be protected by four defensemen that are over 6'0" tall and over 200 lbs. That's a pretty good situation for a 23 year-old netminder with big upside.
Move on to later in the day, the Avalanche then sign veteran netminder JS Giguere to, one can only assume, mentor the young Varlamov while pushing him so that he doesn't get too comfortable in the starting role. Giguere has taken his team to two Stanley Cups, won one, and received the Conn Smythe trophy in the other. In terms of experience, especially playoff experience, he's worth his weight in gold.
The Avalanche then, for their last signing of the day, drew up a contract for former Minnesota Wild player and Av-killer Chuck Kobasew, a move that will undoubtedly help the Avs' penalty kill significantly.
So, the Avalanche acquired a young netminder with great potential, in a move that is the textbook definition of "high risk, high reward," but also solidified the defense in front of him, put an experienced netminder behind him, and signed someone to help him during his greatest time of need: the penalty kill. Sherman wanted to make him comfortable in net as well, and the lack of a logjam in net like there was in Washington also helps him in that aspect.
Of course, we still cannot overlook the huge amount we gave up for him. The simple fact is, if this team doesn't pan out over the next year, we could be looking at two picks in the top 35 of the draft...for Washington.
The thing you have to look at here is not that potential for disaster, it's the fact that Sherman would have never given up those kind of resources for this player. A lottery pick is absurd to give up for a guy that played 27 games last season - the highest games played total of his career. The only explanation here is that Greg Sherman has the confidence that his team will do well enough this season that the picks given up for Varlamov will not be lottery picks, hopefully in the 16 or later range, and that his upside will be worth that price. Which, if it Varlamov pans out, would be (in my opinion).
Also, let's face it - the Avs have had two lottery picks in the last three seasons, have a good corps of young players, and not having a pick in the first round next year won't cripple the team's future.
Now, let's say the Avs finish in the bottom five in the league next year? It should cost Sherman his job. There's no doubt about this.
However, I like the idea of a GM who thinks of a plan, does what it takes to put the pieces in place and pulls the trigger on significant deals, and bets, with his job on the line (and he knows it, believe me) that it's going to work. Sherman isn't thinking "Well, if we're bad next year...," he's putting his money where his mouth is and assuming that his plan will produce success. Say what you will about him, but that attitude is a very good business attitude to have.
These deals, alone, are crap. But in context, they make sense.
And when it comes down to it, the Colorado Avalanche today are a significantly better team, and I believe this team can certainly contend for a playoff spot. So does Greg Sherman.
And if it all comes together as planned, he deserves a ton of credit.