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Breaking Down the Hunwick Trade: More Questions Than Answers

The Colorado Avalanche today traded D Colby Cohen to the Boston Bruins for D Matt Hunwick. The news has elicited a large number of comments here at MHH - some positive, some negative and some falling into the wait-and-see category. I've had a couple of hours to mull this one over and, frankly, I still don't quite get it.

In a nutshell, the Avalanche traded a promising young defenseman for a more established young defenseman. The book on Matt Hunwick seems to place him as a smallish d-man with some puck moving ability but a little shaky in his own zone. Sort of a poor-man's John-Michael Liles, if you will. And, last I checked, we had the rich-man's John-Michael Liles. We also have a similar player in Lake Erie: Jonas Holos, who seems at risk to become the latest in a recent stretch of European players who didn't get a fair shot with the Avalanche.

To get Hunwick, the Avalanche moved Colby Cohen, a bigger player with a booming righthanded shot (or so we've been told). Cohen was the Avs 2nd round pick in the 2007 draft. While that relatively high draft status in no way guarantees that Cohen will be a star in this league, he's just 21 years old with just 20 professional under his belt. Could the Avalanche brass already deemed Cohen expendable after such a short audition? To my eyes, Cohen's potential is a pretty steep cost for what appears to be a solid-but-unspectacular middle pairing defenseman, especially when your trading partner is desperate to clear cap space. It seems to me that Avalanche are either really high on Hunwick or were really low on Cohen (or both). To Hunwick's credit, he did play for the Avs' 2nd favorite college team: Michigan (where he played with Kevin Porter, T.J. Hensick and Billy Sauer), so it's likely the Avalanche are familiar with his skillset. (Oh, and stick tap to Captain Arby's for calling this 2 years ago)

Either way, it still seems like a strange time to make a move. The Avalanche now have 9 NHL defensemen on their roster and only 1 - Kevin Shattenkirk - can be sent to Lake Erie without clearing waivers. Kyle Cumiskey remains out for the foreseeable future with a concussion, but Adam Foote is expected back soon. When that happens, who plays and who sits? I can't even begin to sort that one out.

It's been postulated that the Avalanche are maneuvering to move a defenseman between now and the deadline for a forward. This makes some sense...but why not just make that move now? Injuries and Kyle Brodziak's thick skull have depleted the Avs' depth at forward. Perhaps this move will become clearer in the coming weeks (we scratched our head at the Ryan O'Byrne trade as well). For now, though, this trade just seems...odd.