The Colorado Avalanche were at a crossroads last season much earlier than the trade deadline. President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic and Head Coach Patrick Roy had been discussing many holes in the team, and mulling over the band-aid fixes they thought could be reasonably attained.
Obviously the biggest departure from last season's squad, Stastny, now resides in St. Louis. He received a $400,000 raise from last season, despite having roughly two years (including his contract year) where he earned his $6.6 million. Don't kid yourself, Sakic and Roy knew how much Paul was going to command on the open market before the season even started. A defensive forward with offensive upside, leadership abilities, and entering his prime? That equals somebody overpaying, and that's before you take into account the dearth of high quality centers on the market this past summer.
Clearly, according to the media, he had to be traded. It was an uncomfortable idea for many fans, he said he wanted to stay in Colorado and he was producing, but he was too valuable an asset to let walk for nothing. Sakic and Roy likely never engaged in a trade talk with much substance, however. This is not to say they did not gauge the market for Paul, but rather that they clearly did not like what was available in return. Aside from Ryan Miller, the 2014 trade deadline was a buyer's market. Gaborik, Vanek, Robidas, even Moulson went for way less than expected, and many GMs felt the heat for it.
What fans expected for Stastny and what the Avs could have gotten were very different. The obvious thought was to get a serviceable defenceman, someone who could play on the second pair or even first. But the market was slim, and the uproar over pulling the trigger for another Brad Stuart type defenceman would have been markedly worse than keeping Paul and rolling the dice of Free Agency.
So Stastny was treated like a rental player. They knew he would more than likely walk, but what if he was coming over from another team? His defensive game was paramount down the stretch, and this team had a vaunted locker room in part because of Paul. Had he been a rental player, his goals in game one, heroics in game two, and role throughout the playoffs would have lead to his acquisition being touted as Roy's best move.
Do the Avs miss Stastny, especially now that MacKinnon so clearly misses his playmaking ability? Absolutely. But do the Avs miss previous versions of Paul, who was an offensive disaster when paired with linemates not drafted in the top three? No. Obviously a solid defensive center would be welcomed on this years squad, yet he had no place on the team in three years. So best to make the transition now, when the team isn't ready to take the next step just yet, than in three years when they very well could be.
What had most fans hot and bothered was that Stastny said he would take a hometown discount, but as to how much, who knows? He garnered $7 million annually in the open market, so who's to say where the Avs saw his starting point and subsequent discount? Based on his point totals and two-way ability, Paul was out of the Avs price range before the Avs were out of the playoffs. Roy and Sakic saw this coming at the deadline, and they also knew that he was the asset they would be looking for, had they not already had him.
The Avs came into free agency hopeful, but they knew numbers would never work out. Had they traded Paul, who knows what they would be paying to his replacement. Keeping Paul and letting his contract expire opened up money for the likes of Jarome Iginla, Jesse Winchester and Zach Redmond. Their combined salaries are $6,983,333 according to CapGeek, or slightly under one resigned Paul Stastny.
So what has been criticized as a blunder by Avs management, could very well be exactly as Sakic and Roy planned it. Teams all have a plan in place and unfortunately for Avalanche fans, our media members do little to uncover that plan. Are there perplexing actions *cough* Stuart extension *cough* that don't seem to be beneficial long term? Sure, but the climb from the cellar wasn't supposed to be easy. While it hurts to lose Stastny now, it couldn't have worked out much better given the circumstances.