Everybody knows what has occurred by now. Stastny to St. Louis for $28M for 4 years. Iginla to the Avs for $16M over 3. To me there are a couple of situations here to examine to break down how things got to this point, and I will try and do so below.
To me, there was never an optimal time to trade Paul Stastny, outside of the 2013 draft. Before that time, the Avs had Duchene cemented as a long term center. O'Reilly also looked to be a long term answer at center, but became a question mark with his refusal to sign a bridge deal which made Stastny an important commodity for the Avs to hold on to. When the decision was made to draft MacKinnon, Stastny should have been traded in retrospect. Stastny has stated on the record that he was unwilling to sign an extension with the Avs until after this year as he wanted to see the direction of the team so signing him at that point was not an option.
Once the Avs showed that they were not going to falter this year, Sakic had a decision to make. Potentially sacrifice a chance at getting into the second round by trading Stastny or chance losing him for nothing. We will never know what exactly the Avs could have garnered in a trade at the deadline, but history will show that hanging on to Stastny helped the Avs to win the Central division with the injury to Matt Duchene.
So basically the Avs prioritized winning last year over a potential return for Stastny. It's hard to argue with that as I think a lot of internet blood would have been spilled here if Stastny would have been traded so close to a nice playoff run. Add in the fact that I do not think Colorado would have received much for a rental, and I can live with the decision. I don't begrudge Stastny for choosing more money to go to St. Louis. He earned that right and I wish him all the best.
Once the Avs lost Stastny, they had to make a move to finalize their top 6. Iginla was the guy who made sense positionally and I do think he will prove to be a valuable asset for Colorado for a couple years. I know some people don't like the price tag, but it doesn't bug me too much. If we were going to pay a guy $7M to be a third line center in 2-3 years, Iginla at $5.33M isn't the worst. Certainly prefer this route to Vanek or Moulson as he gives the Avs a finishing touch they lack along with great durability, even for a player his age (8 games missed since age 30) and a great leader/locker room guy.
What about Briere?
I don't know. This one stumps me still and I can only think of a couple reasons to do the deal. The Avs must have known with some certainty that they would either retain Stastny or sign Iginla. PA Parenteau is a quality hockey player, but he very much has to play a top 6 role in order to succeed. The same can be said of Briere however, which makes me think that the organization values that $4M in cap space saved in the deal in 2 years. It might not work out, but I view the deal much in the same vein as the O'Brien-Sarich portion of the trade from last year. Stay about the same, maybe get a little worse talent wise but get out from a contract that you don't want.
Are the Avs any better today than they were last year?
Maybe, but if so, not much. I think Iginla will help score goals on a team with only 1 or 2 pure goal scorers. I think Brad Stuart is an upgrade over Nate Guenin. I think Zach Redmond could surprise us all and be next year's Holden. I also think that the Avs have cleared some space to hopefully go to O'Reilly with a larger deal than expected next year. Whether it works or not is yet to be seen, but I see some of the money saved from Parenteau potentially going towards a larger bonus for him. The Avs need to get creative in re-signing him, and that is one way to go about it.
The Avs will miss Paul Stastny but I believe Landeskog and O'Reilly are quality enough defensive players in a man to man system to help offset his loss. I don't share the same fears of many about MacKinnon's impending doom playing center. He will improve there and frankly, he's going to have the puck most of the time so it won't matter all that much.
One reason for optimism that I do have is the front office addressed the bottom line today. Winchester is an upgrade over Bordeleau, Cliche, or McCleod. I do think Briere slots in with McGinn and Mitchell on the third line for what it's worth which pushes the 4th line to Bordy-Talbot-Winchester which is an improvement. The defense still has to improve before the Avs can be serious contenders, but I think Bigras is a part of that. He takes over for either Stuart or Hejda in 2 years with the other replacement being either Siemens or another replacement level guy. Not ideal, but if EJ can sustain his good play and Barrie continues to improve, your top 4 should be decent for some time.
Rosterbation is one of my favorite things, so one last time (this summer) this is how I see the Avs starting next season, 13th forward spot is up for grabs:
Overall, the Avs could have overpaid for Niskanen which would have been the only huge upgrade possible defensively. Offensively, I think they will be ok with MacKinnon and Duchene at center (sarcasm, those 2 are your centers for the next 10 years and I wouldn't take anybody in the league over them outside of Sid and Geno.) As I said before, I think the Avs more or less ran in place the last couple days while saving a bit of money over the next two years, hopefully it will be used to continue to improve the team. I do expect them to regress next year (inevitable and shooting/save %based) and be right on the playoff cusp, especially since their division improved for the most part.
PS - No more bitching about the Avs being cheap, they will be within 3M of the cap next year.