With Tankapalooza in full effect, it’s time to look at how the roster of the Colorado Avalanche is going to look in both short and long term. The trade deadline (March 2nd) is still two-and-a-half months away, but there are rumblings around the league about potential comings and goings.
The Avs don’t have too many assets that other teams could consider dealing theirs for, but the team could make minor moves to free up space for some of the youngsters to get playing time.
There is going to be a pattern here, and this really highlights how management failed to build upon a successful season a year ago. When it was clear Paul Stastny wasn’t coming back, the subsequent moves made by Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy have yielded less than impressive results in 2014-2015. Last season may have fooled the front office and forced them into adding "veterans with experience" in an attempt to accelerate the rebuild process. It’s crazy how quickly a young and fast team can turn into a bad and slow one when you have a few injuries and add a couple of older players.
Here are five players that could be moved in the near future. Of course, all salary cap information is provided by the fine folks at spotrac.com
Giving up a second and sixth round picks is one thing, but to extend the 35-year-old’s contract before playing a game in Denver is another. Slowed by injuries in his first season here, Stuart has looked less than impressive even when on the ice. It’s almost always four-on-five offensively with Stuart, too. Recently off the IR list, Stuart has a chance to prove his worth over the next several weeks, and even if he does that I have reservations that anyone would want to trade for him. Any team would be on the hook for that $3.6 million over the next two years.
A great season with the Bruins last year earned Iginla a 3-year, $16 million with the Avalanche. And while the 37-year-old has contributed about as much as expected (18 points in 31 games), can we say he is in the long term future of the team? That rapid decline could occur any time; moving him now while still a viable forward might be the best outcome for the Avalanche. One of the factors in Iginla’s decision -- at least according to him -- is that he felt the team was close to being a contender. Will he attempt to hop to another one?
Briere has to be the first player that gets moved. Not necessarily because he’s been bad, but because he’s in the final year of his contract. It’s pretty obvious he steps up his game in the postseason (116 points in 124 playoff games), and a contender might bank on that. He’s another good depth piece for a team trying to win a championship. The trade involving P.A. Parenteau did maintain some salary cap flexibility for Colorado, and, with 13 points in 33 games in Montreal, the club didn’t invest a lot in bringing Briere here.
Yea it’s that guy again. For reasons we’ve discussed already, a trade involving O’Reilly at this point of the season appears unlikely. But the rumor mill continues to operate and his name will be brought up. Would a contender give up a top prospect and a first round pick for Radar? What should the Avalanche demand from other teams? His unique arbitration situation has put him in a position to be an expiring contract at a very young age (25).
Similar to Briere, Hejda (36) is in the last year of his contract and could provide an excellent option as a second or third pairing defenseman for a Stanley Cup contender. Hejda has been a good solider for the entirety of his contract, and it would be nice to see him move on to a team hoping to win a title.
Other ones to watch
What Calvin Pickard has done in his short stay with the big club is nothing short of outstanding. He was already posting a .920 save percentage in Lake Erie before being called up, so it’s not totally out of nowhere. I bring this up to merely float the idea that Semyon Varlamov -- feel free to mock me in the comments -- should be available for trade. Locked up through 2018/2019 at about six million per-year, that salary space could best be used in other areas, especially if a potential starting goalie exists in the organization. This is more of a trade idea for after the season anyway, but I wanted to bring it up as an option. When Colorado is out of contention for sure over the final month or two, Pickard should be back in Denver and getting a serious look. I know this is a longshot and not likely to happen. When you consider the Avs game up a second round pick for Reto Berra, they obviously didn’t have any faith Pickard was even close to ready to contribute at the NHL level.
Alex Tanguay is another aging veteran that is on a short-term contract, but given his ties to the organization and excellent production when healthy, the Avalanche are likely to hold onto him until at least the offseason.
Roy and Sakic gambled on adding short-term pieces and lost. Fortunately, none of these contracts are immovable, but it is an opportunity cost in terms of investing in younger players and allowing them to develop.
What do the fans want? Some second round picks to rebuild the farm system? What else?