First, allow me to explain where I'm coming from. My mindset is wanting to see the Cup in Colorado. I don't want to just see incremental growth or low round playoff spots, I want the Cup. Since this is the goal, I realize that it's not going to happen overnight. It's going to take time to get it right, and I've accepted that patience is the best course of action.
The Avs aren't going to get anywhere near that goal until we have a Cup worthy #2 defenseman with EJ. This new player is going to be a part of our core, and he's not going to come cheap. Acquiry through UFA is unlikely since players of this caliber rarely hit the market and cost too much when they do. A signing of this magnitude would severely limit our ability to keep the rest of our core or assemble a decent team around them. A trade is more possible, but to get someone this good, it's going to take a core player in return. Do we really have a core player we can spare right now? Even if we trade O'Reilly, we're just shifting our issue laterally from defense to forward. It's still not enough.
That brings us to the last option: the draft. And Look! We have Bigras on his way. Siemens and Geertsen are longshots for that upside, but we have them too. I hate putting so much faith in Bigras, but he or our top 10 pick in this year's draft are probably our only assets capable of getting us even close to what we need. We can either develop or trade them, but they're our best options when it comes to adding a piece to our core.
Unless something drastic and opportunistic comes up, providing a proper development cycle for Bigras is our best plan of action. They only way to accomplish this is to buy him a bit more time to develop. It would be lovely if he was in the AHL for a bit next year, but even if he makes the opening night roster, dropping a rookie onto EJ-like usage is a terrible idea. So, if not Bigras, who is going to serve on our top pairing next year? Stuart, Holden, Guenin, and Redmond are all under contract again. Even if the goal is to win the Cup, playoffs would be nice, and that's DEFINITELY not going to happen if any of them skate with Johnson. The best way to keep these guys AND Bigras off our top pairing is to sign a UFA.
Who's available? This individual would need to be able to play tough minutes, serve as the #3 D on our depth chart behind Johnson and Barrie, and agree to a cheap 1-year deal in Colorado as to not stand in the way of Bigras if he does earn top pairing minutes as the year progresses.
This is where we get to today. In my opinion, the UFA most likely to do that is Jan Hejda. Would snagging some picks for him today have been nice? Sure. And could he have still signed with the Avs after the fact? That's his right. But if he's in our plans as a stop-gap next year, keeping him in Denver and getting him locked up before anyone else can talk to him makes sense. He's likely to come much cheaper that way, and that probably means more than the magic beans pick we were offered for him.
If it comes out that a GM offered us a 2nd or even a 1st for Hejda, I'll join everyone in outrage. But for a 36-year-old rental player who might retire at the end of the season, it's very likely that the Avs determined that he was more valuable to us here than the intrest they received. In the long run, his stop-gap service will probably provide more to the team than something like a late 3rd lotto ticket that may never make the NHL. And if he leaves UFA or retires, then, well, it was a bad choice in hindsight to pass up the deal. But as of today, this moment, I'm okay with the Avs choosing to attempt to re-sign Hejda. Is it poor asset management? Maybe, and it does bear some similarities to the Stastny situation. But what do we really lose if we lose Jan Hejda? The answer probably is "not much". Not enough to get me all that worked up, at least.
There were certainly other moves we could have made today that would have incrementally improved the team, but nothing would have had a drastic impact on the overall goal of bringing a Cup to Colorado. I am upset Briere wasn't traded, but he does likely have a NMC, and there may or may not have been any interest for him. A late round pick would have been better than nothing, but I still can't get all that angry about it since it probably would've had zero impact on the overall goal anyway.
Roy has made it clear that he wants to reshape our depth, and I believe that's what he took a step towards doing today. We added some prospects that still have some room to grow. We also moved out two older players and one prospect that were unlikely to have a future in the organization anyway. Maybe my feelings will change as I learn more about the prospects we just acquired, but I think today was a good day. Creating a strong AHL affiliate is only going to benefit the parent club, and the possibility of more NHL depth players or solid injury-call up options is a nice bonus. With any luck, that's exactly what Caron, Clark, and Hamilton will provide. If they diversify the types of skills we have in our system, then that's even better.
Deadline deals are a terrible time to look to radically alter the course of your core anyway - they're more about contenders loading up for runs. If we are going to do anything substantial, I expect it to be near the draft. However, when prospects, development, and the future of this franchise are considered, today was likely a step forward. Maybe we could have done more, but overall, I'm content.