As the Colorado Avalanche gear up for the postseason one major hurdle is left to cross and that is what has been on everyone’s mind — the trade deadline. While the Avalanche kicked off the festivities and got the bulk of their shopping done one week prior to the deadline with the Josh Manson and Nico Sturm acquisitions the staff looked at what else may be in store by Monday afternoon.
Wish lists can be long but what is the one most important area to address at the trade deadline?
Luke: With Byram sidelined with another concussion, finding a defenseman to play with Sam Girard should be on top of Sakic’s list. Rounding out the top 4 defensive core will do wonders for this team. While Jack Johnson, Erik Johnson and when available Ryan Murray have been okay in stints, they need a true top 4 defenseman to round everything out. That way they can lower Makar and Toews minutes a little bit and Bednar can be comfortable sending out a second d unit for 20 minutes a night.
Evan: My original answer was the defense, simple as that. But the recent move to acquire Josh Manson has put those worries to rest for now. Let’s keep an eye on the Girard injury or any other issues that may pop up in the final few days. For now, I think improving the bottom six would be good. A guy like Andrew Copp would be at the top of my list but he just got hurt thanks to a high hit from the Minnesota Wild’s Jordan Greenway which is something else to keep an eye on too.
Jackie: What I would love to see is a youngish forward with either term or RFA years left brought into the fold as a move that helps both the playoff run and rebuild the middle six moving forward. Names such as Jake DeBrusk, Lawson Crouse and Maxime Comtois have all been out there as available and each bring a physical type power forward element that the Avalanche lack and have been trying to find for years. All three have several years of NHL experience, shown an ability to score goals and wouldn’t break the bank in both acquisition cost and in cap hit moving forward.
Call your shot now, predict what other moves will the Avalanche make at the trade deadline.
Luke: I think the Avs make 3 moves. 1) Mark Giordano from Seattle for a 2023 3rd and Tyson Jost. I feel Giordano has the right value for a player they are targeting and brings the puck moving ability the Avalanche want while bringing some nasty to the net front, something they need. 2) Paul Stastny from Winnipeg for Shane Bowers. Stastny, a familiar face to the organization can be a swiss army knife type player for them and can still win key faceoffs when needed. He can play wing or center and still is a great playmaker. 3) Ryan Carpenter & Brandon Hagel from Chicago for 2023 2nd, Drew Helleson & J.T. Compher. With Jost in Seattle, Carpenter will slot in as 4C, someone they actively tried to get a couple of years ago. He’s a typical 4C, and for a million bucks cap hit. Hagel, former Red Deer Rebel is signed for 2 more years at 1.5m and is having himself a solid season. The cheap couple of years is the big selling point here and he looks to be more of a goal scorer as well. He will fit nicely next to Newhook down the stretch moving Logan O’Conor down to the 4th line where he will be better served. While the Avalanche seem to be in on all the big name free agent rental players, I do think they will go the route of value this time around. While just missing out on some of the big names. Also with Jost and Compher not on the books, that gives them 5 extra million next year to spend.
Evan: I think the Avs will only make one more move but it’ll be dependent on injuries. If it’s possible, I think Andrew Copp will come to Colorado from the Winnipeg Jets for J.T. Compher and a 2023 third round pick. The Avs have become more invested and interested in Copp becoming a part of the bottom six. It seemed more and more likely as the days go on that Copp will come to the Avs.
If Copp is hurt and unable to join Colorado before the trade deadline, I honestly think Claude Giroux will join the Avs after his 1,000th NHL game with the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. It’ll cost J.T. Compher, Martin Kaut/Shane Bowers and a 2023 third round pick but I think it might just be possible. He will join the top six and push down someone from that second line down to the bottom six and improve it from there. It would be the blockbuster deal that Joe Sakic has been linked with doing time-and-time again. This is the best opportunity to make it happen.
Jackie: I also suspect the Avalanche will kick the tires on some bigger named forwards but ultimately settle on a depth piece. Joe Sakic has already executed a deal with Ron Francis and the Seattle Kraken have a lot of expiring contracts. Maybe Martin Kaut and a 2023 mid-round pick will suffice for Marcus Johansson which will upgrade the third line. As Evan mentioned if Andrew Copp is available he might be of interest as well. No deadline shopping spree can contain enough veteran leadership and penalty kill help so Andrew Cogliano could help fit the bill. Perhaps Kaut gets shipped out in that move so he can reunite with Nicolas Meloche on the San Jose Sharks.
What do the Avalanche need to do over the last 40 days of the regular season?
Jackie: Finding consistent focus and motivation will be key through the last stretch of games. I would like to see improvement to both special teams units. The power play is still leaving potential on the table and the penalty kill isn’t close to good enough to win a championship. Though Colorado’s road record is still good due to their overall regular season success it pales in comparison to what they have accomplished at home and needs some consideration.
Luke: Stay healthy, find some chemistry and identity in the bottom 6. Going into the playoffs as healthy as you can will be key. Bednar is already giving players nights off and rotating players in and out to see how they fit in different line combinations. So getting that extra rest is important down the stretch. Finding some sort of chemistry and identity for the bottom 6 has been a season long problem. While Newhook has been great since his return, he can’t carry two wings just yet. NAK has cooled off and only plays at 5v5. LOC looks like he has hit a wall. JTC has been a bit underwhelming and Jost game has not taken a step forward. They need an identity and for someone to step up not named Newhook.
Evan: The Avs need to stay healthy, survive the rest of the regular season without Gabriel Landeskog, and get a streak going before going into the playoffs. Some wishes that would be great is to find a good combination within that bottom six. As Luke suggests, if they can find some sort of chemistry with a mix-up, perhaps maybe splitting up that second line to do so, would work wonders come playoff time.
Where will Colorado finish in the standings and with how many points?
Luke: The Avalanche will finish, 1st in the Central, 1st in the West and 2nd overall, as Florida takes over in points and wins the Presidents Trophy. The Avalanche finish with a record of 56-18-8 for 120 points
Evan: If you don’t think the Avalanche will finish 1st in the Central, I don’t know what to tell you other than you’re a lunatic. They’ll cruise to the Central Division win and the Presidents Trophy once again. I think it’ll take some time to adjust to life without Landeskog for a couple of games, hence they won’t reach the 120 point mark. I predict a modest 55-20-6 with 118 points.
Jackie: I feel like this year’s version of the Avalanche are just a bit better than the 2020-21 team which at 82 points was on pace for 120 in a regular 82 game season. So I’ll put my guess down for 122 points, which is a 58-18-6 record. That should win the Western Conference but one of the teams in the east could surpass the Avalanche for the President’s Trophy,