Every year before the trade deadline, I try to post a little look at the contract situation for the Avalanche for the following season and see if I can predict what might or might not happen on February 27th. This will probably be long enough to fill many leather-bound books, so I'll give you the cliff notes in the opening paragraph. I don't believe the Avalanche are going to be very active at the deadline. 17% of you can stop reading now. And yes, I know Andi did pretty much the same thing 2 hours ago...no one says we can't beat a topic to death here, right?
For the other 83%, here's my rationale. The Avalanche have 6 games remaining until the deadline. As long as they win a couple of those 6, they will likely still be in the hunt. So, very little chance that they would be major sellers at the deadline. On the flip side, I don't see them as buyers either. As you know, they are a tad short on high draft picks next year. And honestly, they don't have a ton in the way of desirable prospects in the minors. To add injury to insult, the Avs seem to be focused on remaining on the cap floor (remember, with all those deals last year the Avalanche didn't add any salary). With
Pierre Lacroix *cough* Greg Sherman in charge, there's always the chance of a big Johnson-Stewart-Shattenkirk type deal, but I don't think that's in the cards this year. More on that in a bit. First, let's take a look at next year based on position. Oh, and I'm not bothering to spend much time talking about cap numbers here; salary is not an issue with this cheap *cough* fiscally conservative club.
This one's pretty straight forward. Both Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere are under contract next year. Varly isn't going anywhere. I would not be surprised if other GMs were calling to ask about Giguere, but he's such a key component on so many levels it would take an overwhelming offer to pry him away and I don't think that's going to happen.
The Avalanche also have Calvin Pickard, Cedrick Desjardins and Trevor Cann under contract. Pickard will make the jump to the AHL next year. Desjardins and Cann are both free agents this summer, but neither would be highly sought after at the deadline.
This is an area that could be interesting. On the veterans side, Jan Hejda and Ryan O'Byrne are both under contract next year. Erik Johnson, Ryan Wilson and Kyle Quincey are all RFAs. Matt Hunwick and Shane O'Brien are both UFAs on July 1st.
Clearly, Erik Johnson is not going anywhere. Jan Hejda has been the Avs' best defender; there's very little reason for him to be moved. I know O'Brien has been mentioned as potential trade bait due to his UFA status, but I think O'Brien has been extremely valuable to the Avs both on and off the ice. I can't see them parting with him.
The other four? Probably available. While neither Stefan Elliott or Tyson Barrie have shown yet that they absolutely have to be in the lineup, the Avalanche have enough depth here to move one or two blueliners without doing too much damage. Kyle Quincey is probably the most desirable of the bunch and probably the one the Avs would most like to move; his $3.25 million salary is fairly reasonable for October Quincey but is a huge overpayment for March Quincey. I think Ryan Wilson might be another guy the Avalanche would listen to offers for; he is a big hitter and has been, at times, a defensive beast. He's also maddeningly inconsistent. While the Avs anyone who hits like him, they have several others now who are better defenders. It would not shock me to see him moved. It would surprise me to see Ryan O'Byrne moved - I think he's quietly had a very solid season - but I don't believe he is as untouchable as Johnson, Hejda and O'Brien. Finally, I feel very badly for Matt Hunwick. He's a better player than we've seen with the Avs, but he can't crack the lineup which will severely hamper his chance to be moved to a team that has a spot for him.
My gut feeling is that Quincey moves at the deadline for a forward, Hunwick escapes via free agency this summer and O'Brien (UFA) and Wilson (RFA) re-sign with the clube leaving a core squad next year of: Hejda, Johnson, O'Brien, O'Byrne, Wilson, Elliott and Barrie. Also under contract next year: Duncan Siemens, Cameron Gaunce (maybe the one LEM player I could see the Avs trading at the deadline) and Joel Chouinard.
As of today, the Avalanche have three players under contract next year: Paul Stastny, Gabriel Landeskog and Chuck Kobasew. More or less the holy trinity, right? Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene are both RFAs who will certainly be back. Peter Mueller is also an RFA; I'd say he's a safe bet to come back...but if he suffers another setback before this summer, the Avalanche just might get cold feet. T.J. Galiardi is an RFA who would probably get a QO (at $700,000 salary, worth the low investment). Kevin Porter, however, would appear to be an unlikely tender at this point.
With Stastny, a trade has been imminently imminent since last summer but has strangely not happened yet. I don't think he's going anywhere. I believe the Avalanche still consider him a cornerstone player and the move of Matt Duchene to wing relieves some of the pressure to move a core center. His $6.6 million salary is no issue for the Avs (guffaw), but teams who actually try to be competitive would probably need to clear room to add him. And while he's playing better lately, his productivity has dropped 3 years in a row and the Avs would definitely be selling low here if they did make a move. I don't think he's going anywhere.
Along with Porter, the Avs have a bunch of UFAs this summer. Milan Hejduk and David Jones are the two most prominent names. Hejduk is the one player on the Avs with a no-trade clause. I have a feeling this might be it for Milan (36 tomorrow), but you never know. I do know that if he wanted to go to a contender for one last Cup run, he probably would have been moved a year ago, which makes me fairly confident that Hejduk will finish out his career in an Avalanche uniform. Jones is an intriguing case. Despite flashes, he hasn't proven to be consistent top 6 talent and his time with the Avs may be nearing and end. But the Avs need offense and Jones has shown signs of heating up. I have a hard time picturing another team offering a ton for Jones, and I suspect the Avs will ride out the season with him and evaluate his future with the team this summer.
Other UFAs: Jay McClement, Dan Winnik, Cody McLeod and David van der Gulik. Playoff teams could use a guy like McClement or Winnik or even McLeod in certain situations. But since the Avs aren't really sellers right now, they probably are holding on to all of them.
Bottom line, no one player stands out as being clearly on the block. The few guys that could be available are valuable enough to the Avs that a trade isn't highly likely. As for next year, count on starting with Stastny, Duchene, O'Reilly, Landeskog, probably Galiardi and Mueller with a hopefully-healthy Joey Hishon in the mix (Brad Malone and Luke Walker are also under contract). Beyond that, I think we may see some new faces in the lower half of the depth chart...but I don't foresee large changes here at the deadline.
Well, there you have it. As it looks now, it seems to boil down to moving Kyle Quincey for the scoring help the team didn't add via free agency in the offseason. There have certainly been surprises in the past, but I think this deadline is going to be fairly quiet from an Avalanche perspective.