The Colorado Avalanche have traded center Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for defenseman Kevin Connauton and Arizona’s 2020 third-round
puck pick. The trade comes days before the July 1st free agency period where the Avalanche will be able to sign Unrestricted Free Agents as well as offer sheet Restricted Free Agents from around the league.
There’s a lot to unpack with this trade, so let’s go through it in steps.
First and foremost, the Avalanche were able to clear $3.375 million in cap space off their books for next season in the swap between Soderberg ($4.75 million) and Connauton ($1.375 million). Both players were on contracts with one year left in them and are primed to become UFAs in 2020, so this was a straight-up money deal.
The second question is why. The Avalanche had the most cap space in the entire NHL BEFORE this deal was made ($35.5 million, now $38.9 million). Even if you account for the contracts to Mikko Rantanen, JT Compher, Alexander Kerfoot, and Nikita Zadorov, the Avs had upwards of $15 million to spend on a handful of players. Now they have even more space, which doesn’t hurt unless you account for the significant loss in talent between Soderberg and Connauton.
Regardless of whether the team could’ve acquired a big name with a big contract before this trade, they definitely can (and should) now. And by should I mean “have to” because the Avalanche are under the salary cap floor by $17.6 million. They should be fine to get to the floor (this year it’s $60.2 million) with all the RFAs they have to sign, but a playoff team should be a lot closer to the ceiling if they have any serious inclinations to win.
After trading Soderberg to Arizona for Connauton & a 3rd RD pick, the Colorado #Avalanches now have $38,900,239 in projected cap space, with a roster of 13 (5F/7D/1G)— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) June 25, 2019
Notable Unsigned RFA's:
F Mikko Rantanen
F Alex Kerfoot
F J.T. Compher
D Nikita Zadorovhttps://t.co/tAnIavJX4m pic.twitter.com/W3bjpGir67
The cost of buying this space was high, but the market has seemed especially high this summer. It started with the PK Subban trade from the Nashville Predators to the New Jersey Devils at the draft that saw the Preds clear the entire $9 million cap hit from Subban’s contract without anything retained. They only got two second-round picks and a pair of replacement-level forwards in return for the Norris-caliber defenseman with three years left on his contract, but it seemed the most important asset they got was the space needed to sign someone in free agency (many think this is Matt Duchene).
There were offers from other teams who had better packages, but they were all asking Nashville to take money back, which is why they went through. Apparently Toronto had a massive offer on the table, but they asked Nashville to retain $3 million on Subban and that was never going to fly for them.
So, yes, in a vacuum, this trade looks awful. It is, but that’s the cost of cap space in this league.
TRADE— dom luszczyszyn (@domluszczyszyn) June 25, 2019
Coyotes: Carl Soderberg
Avalanche: Kevin Connauton, 3rd
Coyotes add another mediocre forward because they didn't have enough of them. Avalanche clear cap space, because they didn't have enough of that either. pic.twitter.com/6kgcDGEIYs
Another thing this trade does is open a second-line center spot on the roster. Whether or not you think Soderberg was a good 2C or not, he was the best the team had and he did his best in a role that wasn’t suited for him. In Arizona, he’ll get to play on the third line behind Derek Stepan and Alex Galchenyuk and be a matchup center, one the Avalanche desperately need.
Joe Sakic made it public that he’s ready to let said Soderberg replacement come up from within the team and organization, but it would be a high-risk, low-reward move for a team trying to win. The quote he gave The Athletic below is mostly just cover for the bigger move that will come.
Joe Sakic on the trade: "This trade allows some of our young centermen to have a chance to play a more prominent role on our team while adding an experienced defenseman to our roster.”— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) June 25, 2019
i.e.: Players like J.T. Compher and Tyson Jost are going to get more time. #Avs
So, free agents, who are we talking about? Let’s look at the UFAs available this summer. Artemi Panarin? Well, he’s all but put pen to paper in Florida to play for his former coach Joel Quenneville. Matt Duchene? Lol, I’m sorry, I won’t bring him up ever again, I promise. Joe Pavelski? Possible, very possible. Anders Lee? I’m a big fan of snakes.
These are all good names, and they would all make amazing additions to the top-six, but the most expensive ones aren’t coming here and the lesser ones (Pavelski, Lee) probably won’t break the bank. So who are we talking about being worth a contract upwards of the $10 million the Avalanche have saved up for this summer?
Restricted Free Agents. Brayden Point, Sebastian Aho, Mitchell Marner. Sign one of these 22-year-old phenoms to a contract worth $10.5 million or more on a five-year term, give up the four first-round picks, and swim around in your sea of young, elite talent.
If there was any summer to do it, this would be the one. Aho’s Carolina Hurricanes have a lot of cap space and money under new owner Tom Dundon, so they might not be in the picture, but Point and Marner would be very get-able players for the Avalanche. The Tampa Bay Lightning have $10.6 million in cap space to sign seven players, including Point and likely another defenseman. The math doesn’t add up there unless Point takes a massive discount on a bridge. An offer sheet for max value could pull him out of that city and watch a desperate team scramble to augment an aging forward corps.
We’ve all seen the headlines surrounding Mitch Marner’s contract negotiation. He’s been giving Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs headaches for months and the number on his deal seems to just keep going up. There will come a time when the Leafs will have to make a choice on what’s more valuable; another overpaid star or cap space and picks.
There’s a window here for Joe Sakic. Can he hit the home run ball? It would be an incredible summer if he did.
Defense and Injuries
Apart from the 2020 third-round pick that the Avalanche lacked (they traded their 2020 third to Florida for Derick Brassard), the Avalanche also got a defenseman named Kevin Connauton. The 29-year-old left-handed defenseman should fit nicely on the third pair, complementing the plethora of RHD the team already have.
With the trade for Connauton, the Avalanche are all but certain to close the door on Patrik Nemeth's time in Denver. Here is how the two compare over the previous three seasons pic.twitter.com/iP5e8ZUvLY— Mile High Byram (@MileHighHockey) June 25, 2019
Kevin Connauton has family in Colorado, so this is a homecoming for him of sorts. Hope things work out for him here.— Mile High Byram (@MileHighHockey) June 25, 2019
Erik Johnson and Ian Cole are both expected to miss significant time at the beginning of the regular season, so having a higher-end third-pair defenseman that could move up to the second pair during the first few months seems like a smart move.
Another reasons #Avs got Kevin Connauton is that Erik Johnson is still recovering from a shoulder injury and Ian Cole had hip surgery on both hips, per source.— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) June 25, 2019
Both players still need time to recover.
So, what do you think of the trade to begin all trades? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
At first, I was very sour on this deal, but after spending some time talking to you all on Twitter, I warmed to the idea. The Avalanche had the space to get a guy, but it was just a few million too tight. Now, they look like a serious threat and other teams know it.