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Looking Left

Could the Avs be thinking about acquiring someone like Zach Parise soon?
Could the Avs be thinking about acquiring someone like Zach Parise soon?

In hockey, there are 4 positions that need to be solidified before teams can succeed:  Goalie, Defense, Center and Wing.  The Avs are pretty well set in 3 of these 4 areas.  Center is taken care of with Duchene, Stastny, O'Reilly, McClement, and prospects Malone and Hishon.  Varly and Giggy are a solid goaltending tandem, and they're backed up by 5 different very promising youngsters that will be ready to go in just a few years.  Our blueline is pretty strong as well, and our defensive prospect depth is one of the best in the league.  

However, wingers are a problem.  Especailly those of the Top 6 Left Wing variety.  

With Mueller, Hishon, and Olver sidelined due to post-concussion symptoms and their futures in question, the Avs need to start looking at other options for their Top 6.  Lindstrom and Kobasew are okay for now, but if they don't start scoring on a more regular basis, something might have to change.  Some internal shuffling might take place, but short of moving one of our centers to wing or splitting up the Thirst Line, I'm just not sure how we're going to fix that problem without making a trade.

So, if the Avs decided to make a trade, who might they be looking at?  

I went through a list of all the current non-rookie LWers in the league and started deleting names based on criteria I'll explain after the jump.  I ended up with 21 names.  Now, these may not mean anything since the Avs' front office is a very sneaky bunch.  Trying to guess what they'll do next is near impossible.  But who knows?  I might luck out and call the move like I did with the Hejda signing this summer.  Either way, it's an interesting conundrum to think about. lists 161 non-rookie Left Wings currently in the NHL. Here's how I refined that list:

* I deleted anyone over 29. The Avs are looking to build a young core.  Yes, they did bring in Hejda and Giggy ths summer (both of whom are over 30), but we have lots of prospects in those areas to take their place in a few years.  Such is not the case with wingers.  So, I'm guessing that the Avs will be looking to bring in someone still fairly young who can be a part of that core for years to come.

* Anyone who plays for COL (we aren't trading for our own players), DET or VAN were taken out. I doubt we'll be making a trade with our division rivals anytime soon, and we still just don't like Detriot. It's going to be a while before our clubs are on good enough terms with each other to make trades.

* Depth charts were then considered. I edited out players that were either sent back to minors and not on the list.  4th liners (with one notable exception) were also cut out. 3rd liners stayed in because the Avs have shown on more than one occasion that they like to snatch up under preforming 3rd liners and give them a second chance in the Top 6 here. However, it would take a very special player to jump from the 4th line to a 1st, so for the sake of this argument, most of them were cut.

* Contracts were also considered. Anyone with a contract that was WAY too large/too long or a NMC/NTC of any kind were left out, unless their name has been mentioned quite heavily in recent trade talk (but more on Bourque later).

* Unsavory players (like Steve Ott) were also eliminated. Since this organization heavily values Character, I doubt they'd go after a player like that.  Besides, anyone that could be severely Shanabanned after one bad hit is probably not the best option. 

After all of this deleting, I was left with a list of 21 names:

(" /S" means per season - it is the sum of a player's numbers in that area divided by the number of seasons played.  Since it takes into account rookie numbers, expect the average to be a bit lower than what they would actually produce.  "Pos" is short for "possession" or the difference between takeaways vs giveaways - basically, it's how well a player maintains possession of the puck.  For example, O'Reilly has a very high Pos/S score (+46), whereas most of our defensemen don't (Quincey is a -21 which means lots of turnovers).  Height "HT" is given in inches, and "Wt" is given in pounds.  "Cont. Years" stands for "contract years" or how many seasons (including '11-'12) they have left on their current contract.)

 Player Exp. Age Draft Year Rank Cur. HT Wt Avg GP/S Avg G/S Avg A/S Avg Pts/S  +/- Avg PIM/S Avg Hits/S Avg Pos/S Avg SOG/S S% TOI Cont. Years Cap Hit
 Magnus Paajarvi 1 20 '09 10 EDM 75 200 80 15 19 34 -13 16 23 -10 185 8.30 15:23 2 1.525
 Evander Kane 2 20 '09 4 WPG 74 195 70 17 18 35 -10 77 148 11 213 9.14 16:01 1 3.1
 Jamie Benn 2 22 '07 129 DAL 74 208 76 22 27 49 -6 53 168 36 195 12.26 16:12 1 0.822
 Michael Frolik 3 23 '06 10 CHI 73 198 80 18 24 42 8 32 58 15 214 8.44 15:58 3 2.333
 James Neal 3 24 '05 33 PIT 74 208 78 24 21 46 -9 63 185 34 204 12.52 17:11 1 2.875
 Nikolai Kulemin 3 25 '06 44 TOR 73 225 78 20 21 41 -1 21 109 12 157 13.65 15:54 1 2.35
 Ville Leino 3 27 '08 - BUF 73 190 50 10 14 24 11 21 31 2 116 14.22 14:38 6 4.5
 Milan Lucic 4 23 '06 50 BOS 76 220 70 16 22 38 36 115 222 -1 127 14.88 14:31 2 4.083
 Sergei Kostitsyn 4 24 '05 200 NSH 72 207 58 12 18 30 20 51 60 -4 97 17.09 14:32 1 2.5
 Matt Moulson 4 27 '03 263 NYI 73 205 48 17 11 28 -13 20 90 23 206 13.79 16:59 3 3.133
 Blake Comeau 5 25 '04 47 NYI 72 195 49 11 13 24 -35 46 129 10 154 12.15 15:46 1 2.5
 ClarkeMacArthur 5 26 '03 74 TOR 72 191 58 13 17 30 -16 47 89 -12 130 14.19 14:46 2 3.25
 Alexander Semin 5 27 '02 13 WSH 74 208 68 33 33 66 58 86 32 -6 271 14.76 18:22 1 6.7
 Andrei Kostitsyn 6 26 '03 10 MTL 72 214 54 15 17 31 16 39 126 -14 177 12.36 15:18 1 3.25
 Milan Michalek 6 26 '03 6 OTT 74 217 75 22 25 47 24 45 65 7 200 11.90 17:30 3 4.333
 Thomas Vanek 6 27 '03 5 BUF 74 205 78 34 30 64 41 50 36 -28 229 15.55 16:35 3 7.143
 Zach Parise 6 27 '03 17 NJD 71 195 70 27 30 57 62 28 61 14 275 11.59 17:31 1 6
 Jussi Jokinen 6 28 '01 192 CAR 71 198 76 17 31 48 -8 28 33 -9 136 13.62 15:10 3 3
 Ryane Clowe 6 29 '01 175 SJS 74 225 53 14 22 36 22 101 149 -17 171 12.65 16:12 2 3.625
 Dustin Penner 6 29 '04 - LAK 76 242 71 21 19 41 -10 51 84 -16 186 13.28 16:24 1 4.25
 Rene Bourque 6 29 '04 - CGY 74 213 66 18 19 37 13 70 104 8 197 11.40 16:33 5 3.333

So let's start with the most obvious: Zach Parise. He'd be absolutely perfect. Captain material, very much a Top 6 player, has a known chemistry with Stastny, has a knack for getting the puck in the net.... he would be the ultimate addition to this team. Unfortunately, there's no way the Avs are ever going to get their hands on him. Even with the 1 year contract that expires this July, he's NJ's brand-new Captain. I doubt they'll be willing to move him. Maybe the Avs could swing a Stastny = Parise trade since the Devils are hurting so badly for Centers, but I doubt either team is ready to give those players up. Unless we drastically overpay for him and completely sell the farm, I don't think Parise will be Wearing the A with Pride any time soon (much to my dismay, I might add.)

But there are other options. Rene Bourque's name's been floating around recently. He does have a modified NTC and a hefty 5 year $3.33 mil cap hit, but he would bring a physical and veteran presence to our top lines.  And even though he plays in our division, post-realignment, that may not be the case.  

However, the most interesting name on this list doesn't seem all that interesting at first glance.  It's Evander Kane.  He was picked right after Matt Duchene in 2009, and seems to have found himself in a bit of a doghouse.  His minutes have been dropping steadily since the beginning of the year (he started at 16:06 in his first game, but played only 10:34 in his most recent), and he's listed as the 4th line LW on a number of depth charts.  It may just be a slump, but with Winnipeg struggling to win games and hurting in more than one area, the Avs may become a desirable trading partner if they offer the right player.  He fits in perfectly with the young, rebuilding core and has his Entry Level contract due up at the end of the year.  

Another intersting thing to note:  Andrei Kostitsyn is reportedly being shopped.  The Habs are in desperate need of a blueliner to help out their defensive woes.  However, they're not the only ones looking.  Steve Yzerman and the Bolts need help too, although I'm not exactly sure who the Avs would target in a deal with them (Stamkos for Hunwick anyone? lol).  The only player I could see realistically coming back from a trade with them would be RW Steve Downie, although he seems to be lacking in the character department that the Avs seem to highly value.  Either way, if there's one area the Avs are deep in, it's defense.  I'm just not sure Sherman and Co. will want to touch our blueline structure since it's seems to be working out well so far.  

A couple other teams may be looking to make a change too.  Columbus is struggling to say the least, but they're not exactly a great place to look for Top 6 forwards.  But Ottawa, on the other hand, has Colin Greening.  He's listed as a center (which is why he's not on the original list), but is playing 3rd line LW this year.  This 25-year-old is in his sophomore season since he went the NCAA route.  He only played 24 games last year, but managed 13pts (.542 PPG) and already has 4pts this year (and on the Senator's team, that's saying something).  He also hits (56 last season, which is 2.33 per game) and was Cornell University's captain for two years after being the youngest alternate captain under their current coach.  He also never missed a game in his 4 years there.  He was just signed to a contract extension, but his cap hit is insanely cheap at $.816 mil for 3 years.  It looks like he brings Skill, Character, and Compete while being injury resistant and extremely affordable.... yeah, I wouldn't mind making a play for this guy.  (As in SHERMAN, PLEASE MAKE THIS HAPPEN!)

There are a lot of other names on this list that I could go into, but that would take too much time.  So we'll just say there are some that we'd be more likely to get than others.  If the Avs do make a move, it will also be interesting to see if they go for a young guy just coming into his own in the NHL (like Jamie Benn from Dallas - there's some potential there) or an older, more veteran player (such as Jussi Jokinen).  The Avs also seem to like to get 3rd line centers and turn them into wingers, so they may make a play for someone not on this list at all (like Greening).  

But who would we trade to make these wings come to Colorado?  Well, we have a few options.  There's always our prospects.  Even with Olver, Hishon, and Desjardins out with injuries, we still have Malone, Gaunce, Barrie, Elliott, Siemens, Pickard, Aittokallio, Millan, and Patterson as desirable prospects.  Stoa may even prove to be an asset - maybe some other team can turn him into a legit NHL player.  And as far as roster players go, practically all of our defense save Johnson can be moved (although the current Top 6 are unlikely to be touched unless Elliott/Barrie/Gaunce push them out of a spot), and Hunwick, McClement, Lindstrom, McLeod, Porter, Kobasew, Yip, and Winnik could be potentially as well.  I think Galiardi is also a very valuable asset - he's shown he can play Top 6 minutes, although a different team might be needed for him to stick there long term (for whatever reason, he's not clicking here so far this season).  Our lack of a first rounder this year makes things more difficult, so we might have to give up a prospect or roster player if we want a wing. And like we learned from last season's blockbuster trade, you have to give up talent in order to get some back, so a player we might never expect could head the other way in order to secure us a solid winger.  (Please not O'Reilly, please not O'Reilly!)

But any way it shakes out, the Avs still have one glaring organizational need.  If we can find two solid Left Wings either within our depth charts or via trade, this club could be extremely dangerous this year.  It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.