With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching, we are into the portion of the season where teams have to decide whether they are going to be a buyer, a seller or if they’re going to stand pat. Over the next week, we are going to look at where the Avalanche stand and I’ll build an argument for each of the three options.
The Avalanche are in the unenviable spot of playing bad hockey, but still being within striking distance of the playoffs. Over the next three weeks, Joe Sakic and his front office team are going to have to decide whether or not it’s a good idea to push for the playoffs this season or if they should take a step back in their build and wait until next year.
Why the Avalanche should be buyers
Going into last season, the belief in Denver was that the Colorado Avalanche were beginning a slow build out of the pit that was the 2016-17 season. After being one of the worst teams in NHL history, the Avs were looking for positive progress with a young team.
Then the Matt Duchene trade happened and the team took off. From Last November on, the Avalanche looked like a completely different team - leading them to 95 points and a playoff birth. It was ahead of schedule, but the season was a huge step for the re-building team.
Now, regardless of how it pertains to the original timeline, missing the playoffs will be perceived as a step backwards - especially by the players. To wit, the front office is likely going to look at the next three weeks as an opportunity to add to the team in order to take advantage of a Central Division that has been a huge disappointment this season.
With the Avalanche plying like one of the worst teams in the NHL for the past two months, it’s easy to forget how good they were through October and November. An addition to the lineup could be enough to spark the team into correcting their path. All it would take is league-average goaltending to get back into a playoff spot and contend for one of the top-3 spots in the Central.
This year’s Western Conference is an absolute disaster, so it wouldn’t take a lot for the Avalanche to climb a few spots in the standings and make an impact in the playoffs.
What should they looking for?
At last one middle-6 forward, preferably two.
We all know that the strength of this team is the elite trio of All-Stars that make up the first line. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen are the best line in hockey and have been the driving force behind every good thing the team has done over the past two seasons. We also know that having one elite line isn’t nearly enough.
There has been a call for secondary scoring all season. Some believed that Alex Kerfoot and Tyson Jost could take a step in their development and provide the support the top line needed - but that hasn’t happened. Aside from Carl Soderberg, no one has been able to consistently provide assistance to the top line and it’s costing the team games.
Bringing in a legitimate second line forward - whether it be a center or a winger - is absolutely essential. A second line that can drive play and create scoring chances would force opponents to create a game plan beyond shutting down the top line.
The team really needs two middle-6 wingers, but adding one would be a good start.
Potential rentals: Artemi Panarin (LW), Wayne Simmonds (RW), Michael Ferland (LW), Mats Zuccarello (RW), Gustav Nyqvist (RW), Kevin Hayes (C), Jakub Silverberg (RW), Ryan Dzingel (LW), Derick Brassard (C)
Longer term additions: Vlad Namestnikov (LW), Charlie Coyle (C), Brayden Schenn (C), Jeff Carter(C), Andre Burakovsky (LW), Chris Kreider (LW), Jesse Puljujarvi (RW)
A veteran defender
At the the beginning of the season, the Avalanche looked at their defense as one of the strengths of the team. The addition of Ian Cole gave the group a veteran presence that could help the provide support for the younger players like Sam Girard and Nikita Zadorov.
Unfortunately, things haven't gone according to plan. The team’s 3.25 goals against per game is the third worst in the conference and while a lot of that has to do with sub-par goaltending, the Avalanche give up a lot of high-danger shot attempts against.
The team would be wise to look for a replacement for Patrik Nemeth and a guy who could alleviate some of the big minutes being thrust upon Ian Cole and Erik Johnson. The Avalanche have been connected to some of the bigger name defensemen on the trade market and there is a growing belief that Sakic is actively seeking someone who can be put into the lineup in a second pairing role.
Potential rentals: Alex Edler (LD), Jay Bouwmeester (LD), Adam McQuaid (RD)
Longer term additions: Nathan Beaulieu (LD), Alec Martinez (RD), Cody Ceci (RD), Duncan Keith (LD)
This one isn’t as likely as the first two, even though it might be the biggest need for the Avalanche. Semyon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer simply haven't been good enough for a team that has playoff aspirations. With Varlamov and Pavel Francouz heading towards unrestricted free agency and Grubauer underwhelming, the team is going to have to re-asses their goaltending depth chart this summer. It’s not out of the question that Sakic decides to get a jump on that process and make a move before the deadline - whether it be for a short term stopgap or a longer term solution between the pipes.
No they won’t be trading for Sergei Bobrovsky.
Potential rentals: Jimmy Howard, Cam Talbot, Keith Kinkaid
Longer term additions: Trisan Jarry, Eric Comrie, Jack Campbell, James Reimer