Thanks to his history of patience, Colorado Avalanche fans didn’t expect Joe Sakic to do much on NHL Trade deadline day. In the end, he pulled off one depth move for a veteran forward, and quite frankly it’s probably a more impactful trade than most expected.
While the trade for Derick Brassard will bring a slight boost to the lineup, it was the Central Division rivals that made some of the most noise on deadline day. Both the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators bought in a big way, while the Minnesota Wild found themselves on the wrong end of an ugly deal.
So with the rosters set for the final stretch on the season, here’s a look at how everything could impact the Avalanche.
What they did
With about a an hour and a half before the deadline, Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic pulled the trigger on his only trade of the day when he acquired veteran forward Derick Brassard from the Florida Panthers. The deal sees a 2020 third round pick go to Florida with a conditional sixth rounder the same year coming back to the Avs. The condition is based on whether or not Brassard re-signs with the Avalanche this summer. If they let him walk as an unrestricted free agent - the most likely scenario - the Avalanche will get the 2020 sixth round pick. It may not seem like much, but in recent years a lot of research has been done into the expected value of draft picks. Basically, after the top 25-ish picks, the difference in value is very low - meaning the value discrepancy in the third the Avalanche gave up and the sixth they get back is minuscule.
Basically, you are just as likely to find a future NHLer in the sixth round as you are in the third - something that was certainly pointed out to Sakic by the team’s analytics group.
In the end it was a very small price to play for a player that should provide a big boost to the lineup as they push towards a playoff berth.
Before Monday night’s game, Sakic explained what he thinks Brassard will bring to the team:
“He’s got a lot of experience, he’s a versatile player, he’s got skill, is a real smart two-way player. He can play center, left wing, penalty kill, power play, he can go up and down the lineup. There’s a lot of options with him. We’re really excited to have him on board. We really think he’s going to help with his experience with some of our younger kids. We can put him anywhere.”
Brassard went on to score his first goal midway through the third period of Colorado’s 4-3 overtime loss. Playing on the left side with Tyson Jost and Matt Calvert, Brassard brings a deeper feel to this Avalanche lineup.
What they didn’t do
Going into the deadline, it was a commonly held belief that the Avalanche would try to move out both Patrik Nemeth and Sven Andrighetto. Both need new contracts this summer and with the emergence of youngsters like Ryan Graves and J.T. Compher, there simply isn’t a role in the optimal lineup.
In the end, Joe Sakic held on to both. He probably set his price for both and held firm. No one was willing to pay for the depth players, and with both Colin Wilson and Ian Cole still working through injuries, it made sense to hold on to the extra skaters.
Speaking of holding on to players, Nikita Zadorov is still a member of the Avalanche. Both Montreal and Tampa Bay made a call in the final few hours, but in the end nothing came of it. Sakic will hold on to Zadorov until the summer at which point a move might be more plausible - especially if the two sides have different ideas when it comes to his contract extension.
Leading into the deadline, there was also a lot of talk connecting the Avalanche and the New York Rangers. In the end nothing came of it, but the team had strong interest in both Mats Zuccarello and Vladislav Namestnikov but the price was just too high.
Central Division Rivals
The trade deadline turned into a bit of an arms race for the top teams in the Western Conference with the two top teams in the Central playing a huge role.
The notoriously conservative Jets ended the day making more trades than anyone else. With six deals, Winnipeg made it clear that they’re loading up for a deep playoff run - despite their recent struggles.
For the most part, the deals Winnipeg made were depth moves. Par Lindholm is a versatile fourth liner and Nathan Beaulieu will do a good job of filling in until Josh Morrissey can return to the lineup.
The one big move for the Jets came early in the day when they decided to pull out of the bidding for Mark Stone. The Jets moved on to Plan B and made a move for Kevin Hayes.
To Winnipeg: Kevin Hayes
To New York: 2019 conditional 1st round pick (top-3 protected) + Brendan Lemiuex
By giving up their first round pick and a replacement level player, the Jets were able to bring in a big, strong center that will drastically strengthen the lineup. Hayes is a rental, so it’s definitely a win-now move and one that looks identical to the Paul Stastny deal from a year ago.
Nashville Predators & Minnesota Wild
The other team at the top of the Central only pulled off two trades, but they were both significant additions. At the last minute, the Predators agrees to send Ryan Hartman and a conditional draft pick to Philadelphia in exchange for Wayne Simmonds. The deal gives Nashville a much different look going into the playoffs. Simmonds isn’t nearly the player he used to be, but his style of game fits perfectly with the idea of “playoff hockey”. He’ll bring added size and toughness to a team that is going to be very tough to hang with over a seven game series.
Earlier in the day, the Preds made a deal that had a lot of people scratching their heads. Nashville picked up Mikael Granlund from the Wild for Kevin Fiala.
Fiala is a solid middle-six winger and he’s five years younger, but Granlund is a far superior player and a guy who will improve the Predators drastically. It was a great deal for David Poile and one that the Wild might end up regretting down the road.
The Wild save a lot of money as Granlund was due $5.75m next season, but the deal definitely hurt their lineup. Minnesota is definitely a lot weaker today than they were before the deadline, and that’s good news for an Avalanche team that is currently tied with them in the standings.
Chicago, St. Louis and Dallas
The Blackhawks did their heavy lifting earlier in the season and didn’t make a trade on deadline day.
The Blues added defenseman Michael Del Zotto for depth but it’s not a move it’s not a move that will swing the balance of power in a playoff run.
Dallas thought they got ahead of the game when they sent a couple of picks to New York for Mats Zuccarello two days before the deadline. The deal looked to pay immediate dividend when Zuccarello scored in his first game as a Star. Unfortunately, later in that game, he took a shot to the arm resulting in season-ending surgery. It was a tough break for Dallas, but one that helps Colorado’s chances as they sit only a point behind Dallas for the first Wild Card spot in the West.
Possible Playoff Opponents
If the Avalanche make the playoffs, it’s almost certainly going to be as a Wild Card team. With that in mind, it’s important to keep an eye on the Flames and Sharks as they are the two teams most likely to finish at the top of the West and draw a Wild Card team in the first round.
Monday morning, we got reports from TSN that the Flames had been “very close” to acquiring Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators late Sunday night, only to have things fall apart at the last second. Stone ended up in Vegas - with a nice $9.5m extension - and the Flames ended the day having done nothing of significance. They added Oscar Fantenberg as a depth defender from the Kings, but there were no real improvements to their lineup.
As for the Sharks, they were able to add Gustav Nyquist to their lineup in exchange for a pair of picks. The 29-year old rental is having a career year with 16 goals and 49 points during his 62 games with the Red Wings. He should add some more creativity and playmaking skills to a Sharks offense that already leads the Western Conference in goals scored this season.
When the dust settled, the NHL Trade Deadline turned into a day dominated by the Western Conference front runners.
Believed to be a seller, the Colorado Avalanche lineup came out of it all stronger than it was a day earlier - a sign that the front office has confidence in the direction of this team. Joe Sakic has now put the onus on his team to prove that December and January were an anomaly, and that they are good enough to make the playoffs for a second straight season.