The date was February 18, 2011. The Avs had dropped off the face of the earth, busily tanking to the bottom of the league. Four days earlier, they had just suffered their worst defeat in team history, allowing 9 goals between two goalies. Clearly, it was time for a change. By mid-morning, Sherman had pulled a trigger on a trade that no one was surprised to see. The struggling Craig Anderson was shipped off to Ottawa in return for the equally down-on-his-luck Brian Elliott. And by mid-afternoon, the Post had already run a number of stories on the move, complete with Andy's now-former teammates opinions of the trade. None of them were really surprised by it. In fact, in one of these articles, Avs right winger Chris Stewart said, "When you lose this many in a row, there are going to be changes. It's part of the business."
He had no idea how right he was. By 2AM the next morning, it was official: The Avalanche had shipped out Stewart, rookie defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, and a conditional 2nd round pick in exchange for defenseman Erik Johnson, defensive-minded center Jay McClement and a conditional 1st rounder.
Unlike the Anderson trade, this one shocked the hockey world. Any trade that involves a first round pick is at least somewhat exciting news, but this trade featured 4 (Johnson, Stewart, Shattenkirk and the pick), plus 2 second-rounders (McClement and the other pick). On top of that, it was only the 5th time since 1995 that a first overall pick had been traded. All but one of the players from the trade were extremely young as well - McClement was the only one that had been drafted before the lockout. It was a risky trade, a trade based on potential. Both teams were interested in building for the future and weren't afraid to make a bold move to do so.
Initially, it seemed as if the Avs had lost both trades. However, a lot has happened in the past year. After the jump, I'll take a look at where each of the players are now and if perceptions on the trades has changed at all over the last 12 months.
Craig Anderson is doing just fine in Ottawa. He's the clear #1 goalie for them, and is 27-19-6 with 2 shutouts in 54 games. His save percentage, which was a detestable .897 with the Avs prior to the trade, has returned to its normal .910. The Senators, who finished 26th in the league last year, are currently sitting in 12th and the 7th Eastern Conference playoff spot. Andy is doing fine for himself as well - he signed a 4-year $12.75 million contract last summer that takes him through the 2014-15 season. The trade seems to have worked out rather well for the Sens - they got the starting goaltender they desperately needed.
The Blues also seem to happy with the way Kevin Shattenkirk has been playing. He has 26 points in 57 games (including 7 goals) and is a +24. He's been instrumental on the power play as well - he averages almost 3 minutes of PP TOI a night and has 3 PP goals. Shattenkirk is also second on the team in Average TOI, clocking in at 21:15 a game. He's a big part of their blueline and will be for years to come.
However, his teammate Chris Stewart seems to be in a bit of a bind. When he first joined the team, he was lighting it up, scoring 15 goals in his first 26 games with the Blues to close out the '10-'11 season. But this year, over 55 games, he's only managed to post 11. His PIM numbers are also up even though he's only been in 3 fights, the same number he had last year. However, he's only won one of those fight this year and has also managed to incur a 3 game Shanaban for an illegal hit from behind. His shooting percentage has tanked into the single digits (8.7%) and there is plenty of trade talk swirling around him once again. Obviously, his tenancy to disappear for games at a time isn't sitting too well with new head coach Ken Hitchcock.
Ty Rattie, the player that St. Louis chose with the Avs #32 overall pick, is having a pretty darn good year in the WHL. In 54 games, he has 45G/47A/92P for the Portland Winterhawks, good for 2nd in the league in scoring. The 6'-0" 167lb right winger was originally ranked 17th by the ISS, but fell into the second round probably due to concerns over his physical strength. He could easily turn out to be a very good player in a few years, but he has a lot of filling out to do before he'll see any NHL icetime.
We'll start with the Av that is an Av no longer. Brian Elliott was not retained when he went RFA this summer and ended up following Stewart and Shattenkirk to the Blues instead. However, he left a major mark on our franchise in the short 12 games he played for us - his 3.83 GAA, .891 Sv% and 2-8-1 record was terrible enough for us to draft #2 overall. He may now be an All-Star in St. Louis (who would have guessed?), but we have a bright and shiny Swedish rookie to show for his time here. It certainly would have been nice if he had played well when he had a big burgundy A on his chest, but I can't complain too much about the side effects of his tanking.
On the other hand, Erik Johnson is doing quite well for the Avs right now. He had a rocky start to the season, going -14 in his first 23 games. During that time, his name was mentioned a lot in the ongoing captain debate and he struggled to find chemistry with his defensive partner. However, by late November, Milan Hejduk was wearing the C and the defensive pairings had been changed. In his 30 games since that mark, EJ has quietly became a force on the blueline. He went back to basics and began to concentrate on his defensive responsibilities instead of trying to do everything at once. As a result, he's +9 since the beginning of December. The bad turnovers have practically disappeared, and his play with the puck has gotten much sharper and simpler. He's also started making incredible stops around his net, bailing out his teammates left and right. Now that his defensive game has been solidified, it seems as if the offense is beginning to return as well. He's currently on a 3-game goal streak (not just point streak) and has done so without sacrificing any of his defensive responsibilities. He's becoming the franchise defenseman we were promised. If he can continue to play like he has been, he'll likely establish himself as one of the elite defenseman in the league.
Jay McClement seems to be finding his groove as well. During the final 26 games he played with us last season, he just didn't seem to fit on our team. We already had a defensive center in O'Reilly and McClement just seemed redundant. However, O'Reilly seems to have turned a corner and become a true Top 6 player this year, and Duchene switched from center to wing early in the season. Both of these moves opened up the 3rd line center role for McClement. He's fit there extremely well and even has 7 goals this year to show for it. However, his presence has really been felt on our penalty kill. Last year, the PK was effective only 76.1% of the time, good for dead last in the league. But this year, that number has jumped to 82.2%, 14th in the league. The improved blueline probably has something to do with the change, but the pairing of McClement and Winnik on the first unit is one of the biggest reasons for the turnaround. And perhaps most importantly, the emergence of Ryan O'Reilly may never have happened if it we didn't have Jay McClement to take over his defensive role. Overall, McClement has quietly played a major role on the team this year.
The future looks bright for Duncan Siemens as well. The 18-year-old was the result of the #11 overall pick that the Avs acquired in the trade. The 6'-3" 200lb defensive defenseman is currently sidelined with a concussion, but prior to that, he was serving as the Captain of the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL and was +11 through 51 games. He also happened to be the long-time partner of 2009 Avalanche draftee Stefan Elliott, and was one of the major reasons why Elliott (the 2011 WHL Defenseman of the Year) was able to rack up 201 points and a +123 rating when they skated together. Siemens is still very raw, but has a nasty mean streak and plenty of potential. It will be a few years before he's able to crack our roster, but he projects as a #2 defensive defenseman and possibly EJ's long-term partner on the top pair.
Analysis of the Trades
At the one year mark, it's still pretty clear we lost the Anderson trade. Ottawa got a #1 goalie while we didn't even retain ours for a full season. However, the trade had a clear impact on our draft position last year. Andy's hotstreak at the end of the year moved Ottawa up in the standings while Elliott's Tank run helped cement our #2 draft status. The trade may not have worked out as we had hoped, but I for one am more than fine with Gabriel Landeskog as a consolation prize.
The winner of the Blockbuster trade is a bit murkier at the moment. Even though it was pretty clear St. Louis won in the short term, that perception has started to swing back into Colorado's favor. Stewart has not preformed like expected while both EJ and McClement have. The final verdict may rest with the success or failure of Rattie and Siemens, but as of right now, it's looking to be a very good move from the Avs' standpoint.