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MHH Roundtable: Trade Deadline Aftermath

Initial reactions now that the Colorado Avalanche roster is set.

St Louis Blues v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Now that the 2023 NHL trade deadline has passed where do the Colorado Avalanche stand? Our writers conducted a five-hour podcast during the festivities and now sound off upon reflection.

Best move Chris MacFrland made in first trade deadline at the helm as GM?

Evan: I am still a fan of his very first move as a GM: bringing in Matt Nieto. Nieto has been in the system before and has worked really well in the Avs bottom six to give them some much-needed familiarity and depth. Hopefully, he can continue to produce and get better for the rest of the season.

Jackie: Denis Malgin for Dryden Hunt might be the best move and isn’t given a ton of consideration because it was made before the calendar year flipped over. Hunt was moved again to the Calgary Flames, his fourth team this season, after spending time in the AHL. Malgin has showed a touch of offensive pop separating him from the rest of the fill-ins. Considering he is a RFA at the end of the season the trade could have some longer term impact as well.

Casey: I think Nieto/Merkley for Kaut/MacDonald was some great business by Chris MacFarland. Nieto is dirt cheap depth that already knows the systems, and has provided some excellent third line minutes for the Avs so far, while Ryan Merkley is a former first round defenseman that the Avs can attempt to develop into what he was drafted to be, although I personally don’t expect to ever see Merkley with the Avs. Jacob MacDonald had run his course in Colorado and was beginning to become a negative whenever he was in the lineup, and Martin Kaut was never going to amount to his draft status in Colorado. MacFarland did right by Kaut while simutaneously making the team better.

Ezra: He didn’t do much on the actual deadline, and clearly Evan and Jackie went with older trades. I’m going to say not reaching for a misfit player just to add someone, or in other words avoiding subtraction by addition. Guys like Max Domi and John Klingberg went for affordable prices so some folks are upset the Avs didn’t bring them in, but they’re not fits for what this team actually needs stylistically or in the locker room and I like him dodging those bullets.

Jacob: It hasn’t been the greatest start, but I like the Lars Eller addition. The Avs desperately needed another center who can take key faceoffs other than J.T. Compher, and he is a big bodied physical player who knows how to play in the post-season. His advanced metrics might not make him look like the most impactful player, but when the playoffs start and the whistles retreat to the refs pockets, physical grinders like him tend to stand out more than they do during the regular season when the play is more open. Making him the big deadline addition also seems to indicate they believe Gabriel Landeskog will be back.

Did the Avalanche do enough?

Evan: I think for what they had available, yes. I’m glad they did not trade away their first-round pick for the NHL Draft and can utilize it still. Of course, the big splash would’ve been nice alongside putting Erik Johnson on LTIR to make things more available, but it ultimately was just a challenge to get any other big-name players into the organization.

Jackie: The fixation will be that Colorado didn’t make a big move but the reality is they made six trades, which is very active! Long term team building usually doesn’t happen at the deadline although I wouldn’t be surprised if the team targeted Eller as a re-sign candidate. In total the Avalanche added two bottom six wingers, a third line center, a depth defender, another third goalie and a piece to help the Colorado Eagles. That sounds like enough to me.

Casey: I’m very medium on the Avs deadline for one reason: Josh Manson got hurt again, and is slated to miss some time after re-aggravating his recent lower-body injury. As per usual, we don’t know exactly how long the Avs will be without Manson for, but if it’s anything close to the 31 games he missed, Manson would be out for the remainder of the regular season, and potentially Round 1 as well. When healthy, the Avs have the same Cup winning defense (swap Ryan Murray with Brad Hunt as the eighth defenseman), but with Erik Johnson on the shelf for the regular season and now a question mark surrounding Manson, I’m surprised the Avs didn’t pivot on a guy like Carson Soucy or Nick Seeler to add another body to the depth chart. Keeping Kurtis MacDermid off the blueline for the playoffs is important to any long-term success the Avs desire when they get there, and after Manson’s injury MacDermid remains one injury away from the blueline. Of course they could be fully healthy once again for Game 1 of the playoffs and these concerns go out the window until injuries actually happen again, but there’s legitimate reason for concern with how we’ve seen things go this year, and I’m surprised the Avs didn’t try to land just one more defenseman after the Manson news for insurance.

Ezra: Only time will tell. Staying out of the top end center and defenseman market is a huge endorsement of JT Compher and the Avs defensive depth, and if they rise to the occasion this year and play well on a deep playoff run then this deadline looks good. If Compher can’t hold up at 2C and defense injuries force MacDermid into the lineup, then it’s gonna look bad. Frankly, the fact that there’s a realistic possibility it looks bad is enough to leave me a little disappointed, but I also like the gamble on JT - he’s earned a chance to prove his worth with a fantastic season as Mikko’s primary center.

Jacob: The answer to this question lies in whether Gabriel Landeskog can come back at full-strength. If so, then yes. If not, then they’re probably a top six forward short. J.T. Compher has been a legitimate 2nd line center (some folks wanted to add Patrick Kane’s 29 points to “improve” a line where Compher has amassed 29 assists), and we know from last year that if push comes to shove, Mikko Raantanen can slide in at 2C and hold down the fort. A healthy Landeskog gives the Avs one of the best top sixes in the league: Mackinnon, Raantanen, Landeskog, Nichushkin, Compher, Lehkonen. The bigger issue this year has very clearly been the bottom six. Jared Bednar practically refused to play a 4th line for a month straight earlier this year, and the hope that young players like Martin Kaut, Shane Bowers and Sampo Raanta could take steps forward to fill holes in the bottom six never materialized. In that sense, I think they did do enough with the additions of Lars Eller, Matt Nieto, and Denis Malgin.

Favorite move of the deadline for the league in general?

Evan: Tanner Jeannot to the Tampa Bay Lightning! I’m kidding, of course. In all seriousness, I think what the Avs got for Lars Eller looks bad compared to what Nick Bonino’s trade. His move from the San Jose Sharks to the Pittsburgh Penguins for only a fifth and seventh-round pick while using the Montreal Canadiens as a middle man is solid business for a player who could take the next steps in the Penguins lineup.

Jackie: Usually the team that gets the best player wins the trade, right? So getting the best player at the trade deadline in the New Jersey Devils with Timo Meier is the move that will have the greatest impact. They didn’t have to touch their top prospects in a modest return as well. The Ottawa Senators did well getting Jakub Chychrun for fewer draft picks than Jeannot returned is also a nice piece of business for them.

Casey: I think Toronto acquiring Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty for the price they did was fantastic. McCabe is a legitimate solution to the lack of defensive fortitude that has plagued this Leafs core that’s re-signed for only $2 million next season thanks to retention by Chicago, and they get a solid bottom six forward in Sam Lafferty. The top-10 protected 2025 1st likely won’t matter so long as Matthews sticks around in Toronto past 2024, and a 2026 2nd is not very valuable in the now when that draft is still four drafts away. Joey Anderson and Pavel Gogolev aren’t highly touted prospects either, and likely weren’t long-term impact players for Toronto.

Ezra: I love the dumb drama of Jonathan Quick going from LA to Columbus to Vegas. The King’s elderly faltering backup goaltender out to spite them as the starter for their primary division rival Golden Knights?? Incredibly funny. Both teams might have gotten worse in goal this deadline - do we really trust Joonas Korpisalo? Goaltending in the Pacific is fascinating with those two and former Quick backup plus Martin Jones up in Seattle.

Jacob: Mattias Ekholm is a sign that Edmonton is serious about getting better on defense. No matter what series they find themselves in, the Oilers know they will have the best player on the ice. Their path to a Cup lies in defending their own end, and Ekholm will help take some pressure off of Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci to carry them on that front.

Give the moves the Avalanche made an overall grade.

Evan: The moves they made aren’t bad, but also aren’t great and out-of-this-world as some expected. So long as Nieto keeps doing what he’s doing, and Jack Johnson doesn’t look like a sore thumb in the lineup, it’ll be okay in my eyes. B.

Jackie: A miracle rabbit out of the hat wasn’t produced but that wasn’t really expected. I’m impressed they made five trades without using a single draft pick but the one they used was an overpay which sort of cancelled that out. MacFarland basically got everything on his shopping list without making a big move so it was good enough. B-

Casey: I don’t think the Avs significantly moved the needle at all at this deadline, but at the very least Matt Nieto and Lars Eller will bring marginal improvements to the bottom six, but you just can’t help but feel like there was another move to be made to the blueline after Manson’s injury. This team is still extremely good, and the class of the Western Conference, but I think due to elements out of their control, such as internal injuries as well as poorly timed injuries to potential trade candidates (J. Toews, Henrique, Monahan, etc.), it’s hard to feel any kind of way other than just “meh” at what the Avs brought in. C+

Ezra: They shored up depth and showed trust in their guys - I like that. They avoided popular names who didn’t really fit the team - I like that. When healthy this lineup may not be as good as last year, but it’s by far the best in the West and competitive with the best in the East - I like that too. I don’t love the gamble on health though... with Manson out now there was definitely room for another bottom pairing D and possibly a middle six forward as well. B-

Jacob: Building a championship team is tricky and requires more luck than any of us sports fans want to admit, and there is no “right” path to a title. Hoping that the Avs could trade their way into another Kadri was always a bit naive, as players that good generally aren’t very available and when they are they cost a fortune in picks and young players (which they Avs simply do not have). After pushing all their chips into the pot these past two years, I thought one of the more important goals this year was protecting the few good assets they have left to restock the cabinet. In a couple years when the cap jumps they’ll have their full complement of picks (sans the 2025 2nd rounder they traded for Eller), and they can go back into the “F them picks” mode so many radio hosts and callers desperately want. This team’s core is good enough to win a championship every season no matter what kind of complementary players they have around them. The goal this deadline should have been to improve the team around the margins where it was most needed while protecting their core assets so they can restock the asset cabinet for the next big push, and they did just that (although I would have liked to have seen another defenseman added once the Josh Manson injury was reported). B+