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The McLeod trade is great for the Avalanche. Here’s why

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Burgundy colored goggles firmly in place. Let’s break it down.

San Jose Sharks v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Avs fans are all a little torn at least. Cody McLeod may have gone downhill the last few years—strange what all that fighting might do for a guy’s hands—and he was certainly made redundant by Andreas Martinsen being serviceable most of the time. But like it or not, ideal or not, Cody has been synonymous with The A longer than anyone else on the current roster (that’s Matt Duchene’s honor now), bled for it more times than I can count, and never left a bit on the ice even when the games didn’t effectively matter. Which they didn’t terrifyingly often. He played with Sakic, and with Forsberg, and he played with Arnason, and with Zanon. The dude has been through everything we have in the last decade. You can’t not feel at least a little bit here.

Unless you have absolutely no sense of sentiment at all, in which case, hi robot overlord. You’ve picked a really illogical team to follow!

We yelled about his lack of offensive contribution, his penalties, his eventual refusal to play the puck when the body was remotely an option, and his obligatory fights with Chris Thorburn:

like a billion hits for “mcleod thorburn” on Youtube
Seriously. What?

But finally his biggest issue wasn’t his fault at all. It was his contract. $1.3 million? All right, that’s not a LOT a lot, but that term most certainly was. To quote myself in the comments of our article on the signing at the time:

Why extend literally your most replaceable forward for three years

We were a little distracted, because the Brad Stuart extension (may it rest in peace) happened then too, but we noticed.

Cody McLeod is certainly not alone in his struggles this season among Avs forwards. John Mitchell has 1 point and 9 in like the last calendar year. Joe Colborne had a hat trick in game 1 and 1 assist in games 2-39. Jarome Iginla no longer passes the eye test and is shooting a mere 5.9%—his career average being 13.1% and his worst full season 8.4%, nineteen years ago. He’s a hall of fame instalock but on pace for his worst season by fully 10 points (which was the only time he’s ever not scored 40 and also was 19 years ago). So why is Cody, who also makes less than all those guys, a priority move?

The Kids are the Answer

I’ve wanted to free AJ Greer since he was sent down. It’s also exciting to imagine the awesomeness of JT Compher. Tyson Jost is likely an absolute baller and the Avs are very likely to pick top-2 in this draft. But it’s impossible to bring them up if the team isn’t willing to expose NHL guys to waivers, which risks devaluing or outright losing an asset. There just isn’t room to play them (and Jost is still kind of in school lol). This summer the contracts expire on Rene Bourque, Martinsen, Iginla, and Mitchell, and honestly they might keep Martinsen if he wants. Colborne’s deal doesn’t end until 2019, and presumably they think he’s better than he’s shown this season if they signed him for $2.5x3, so it’s definitely fair to give him a chance with better linemates. (Not top linemates, not Duchene, let’s not go crazy here.)

McLeod’s deal lasting through next year puts the brakes on bringing up The Kids. That’s a roster spot that you’d like to give to a Compher or a Jost if he declares, and you for sure want to improve your forward depth in general, which losing McLeod allows the Avs to do.

That’s why it’s not just important that he was moved: It’s important that he was moved for an expiring contract.

The San Antonio-bound Felix Girard is 22. This is his 3rd pro season, and the last year of his entry level deal. He makes $65,000 in the AHL, as opposed to McLeod’s $1,250,000 one way (cap hit 1.3 mil). Even if you buried McLeod he would count $383,333 toward the cap this year (that’s a full season number; it would be prorated and therefore higher) and probably $308,333 next year.

So what’s Girard cost next year? His qualifying offer would be some 110% of his current salary, but potentially, he could cost nothing. The Avs could choose not to qualify the guy, who’s only 22, true, but has been in the AHL for 3 years. He’s scored 20 points once (5-16-21 last year) and only has 8 so far this year. Hell, even in the QMJHL his best season was 61 points in 58 games as a 19 year old. He underperformed that his age 20 year.

They could not qualify Girard and still choose to re-sign him to an AHL deal, or he could just outright walk, you guys. In effect, that would be two trades in my head.

  1. NSH get 40 games of 2016-17 McLeod at 40% off, COL get half an AHL season of Felix Gerard and a $533,333 cap hit, which is... eh, prorating roughly, $400,000 of cap savings and just over $300,000 in real savings.
  2. NSH get 2017-18 McLeod at 40% off, COL get a $533,333 cap hit, saving $800,000 cap and ish-$700,000 salary.

Now yet another roster spot is open, with a cap opening that fits an ELC nicely. Greer or Compher or Jost or Nolan Patrick can walk right in and earn it next season. And Cody McLeod can get far, far away from this stupid team, throw his lot in with Smashville who will love him by the way, and have some shots at the playoffs. Sakic did right by his club and by his player with this one.

It’s an awesome deal and an encouraging sign as the good ship Avs sails farther into the darkness. We could do with a few more of those.