So you may have heard the Colorado Avalanche have some young, talented forwards on the trade block. That’s great! So have we! Quite a bit, in fact! We pretty much never stop hearing about it.
Turns out being on pace for a franchise-worst season will drive your team’s front office to explore all kinds of possibilities to improve, including trading two of its best players, and that’s some gourmet chum-in-the-water for other NHL general managers. Sources tell me arenas have been filling Zambonis with the drool emitting from the likes of Marc Bergevin, Ron Francis and Don Sweeney. Good for the environment? Sure, but it’s pretty obnoxious for those of us enduring your local media’s rumor mill. “Maybe if we give them all of our mediocre, overpaid players, they’ll give us their 26-year-old multiple-time all-star and Olympian!” Or, “let’s trade a handful of C-level prospects for a 24-year-old bona fide top-line power forward!”
Let’s get this straight right now: this isn’t how it’s going to go down.
General manager Joe Sakic may be driven to rebuild this team around a younger core, but that doesn’t mean he’s suddenly feeling philanthropic. If you want Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog on your team, it’s going to cost a fair amount—likely more than you think it should. Why? Like I said above, these two players are young and good, but they’re also cost-controlled—at dollar amounts that make sense after the last NHL work stoppage. In short: they’re valuable.
“But Joe has made stupid moves before!” you say. Yes—yes, he has. But that was the old Joe. Now he has assistant general manager Chris MacFarland whispering in his ear, making sure he doesn’t sign any more Brad Stuarts or Jarome Iginlas to long-term contracts. He also has a team of statistics whizzes crunching numbers and making sure the organization isn’t stuck in the middle-ages of analytics. Despite the circus on the ice, Colorado’s front office has slowly been getting much more competent.
So what can we expect then?
I’m glad you asked! Turns out there’s some established precedent teams and their fans should be paying more attention to: the Ryan O’Reilly trade. “The one where, according to the national media, they got fleeced,” you ask? Yup, that’s the one—but no, they didn’t get fleeced. In fact, it’s likely quite the opposite. Let’s review:
- Ryan O’Reilly — a center earning $7,500,000 per year to score about 60 points a season
- Jamie McGinn — an expiring contract who left in free agency
- Nikita Zadorov — 21-year-old NHL defenseman showing signs up top-pairing ability
- Mikhail Grigorenko — 22-year-old NHL middle-six forward, uh, vacillating production
- JT Compher — 21-year-old center on pace to score 20 goals in his first AHL season
- AJ Greer — 20-year-old power forward, the No. 31-turned-No. 39 pick received in return, who made the AHL all-star team as a rookie. (This trade also yielded 2016 2nd and 6th round picks, Cam Morrison and Nate Clurman.)
So, what do we have here exactly? Well, the blue-chip defenseman they targeted (Zadorov), but also three highly-drafted forwards who should be shoring up Colorado’s non-existant forward depth for years to come. As much as media sources want to portray Joe Sakic’s trade intentions of being strictly “offense-for-defense,” unless you have a Seth Jones in your back pocket, I don’t believe anything being discussed will be so singularly focused. Turns out, Colorado’s forward depth is bad too, and if your team wants to deal for Duchene or Landeskog, prepare to have Compher/Greer-level prospects coming back as well.
What the Avalanche aren’t looking for
It’s clear the front office is trying to line up players at a similar development and age to their 21-and-under core of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Zadorov, Compher, and Greer, as well as Tyson Jost, Chris Bigras and what is almost certain to be a top-three pick this summer’s draft. If the players you hope to to send in exchange for a Duchene or Landeskog don’t fit this mold, then you’re not speculating correctly. Jake Muzzin? Fantastic player on, perhaps, the league’s best contract. Clearly someone who would be a fair return for one of Colorado’s top forwards. But he’s also 27-year-old and has just three more seasons of control before being able to declare unrestricted free agency—not what the Avalanche are looking for.
“But the Avalanche have had scouts at all of our games!” Yeah, they have. And they also have a glut full of “gritty, veteran” players they’re trying to unload from their roster not named Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. If you get the feeling Colorado is scouting your C-level prospects, it’s because they’re trying to trade you Jarome Iginla or Rene Bourque for your impending playoff run, not one of the faces of their franchise. “But we don’t NEED any bottom-six forwards. If anything, they’ll pick up a defenseman before the deadline!” Ah, in that case, let me introduce you to Fedor Tyutin! Or better yet, Francois Beauchemin. Have we mentioned we’ll pick up 40% of his contract next year? You can’t put a value on that kind of leadership.
We certainly don’t mean to sound condescending. It’s just that it’s what it feels like every time you cruise over to Hockey’s Future and throw out some nonsense this team neither wants nor needs. No, we don’t want “Bozak and a 2nd,” and chances are your trade proposal isn’t good enough to land Duchene and Landeskog either. Think higher—and then think higher again.
Sakic isn’t in any hurry.