It is dire times for the Colorado Avalanche. With the team sitting in last place in the entire NHL and with the February 28 trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Avs will certainly be sellers. But the interesting question is, what will they be selling?
Will it be a typical seller’s deadline for the Avs where they sell off veterans to cup contending teams in exchange for low key prospects and/or picks? Or will the Avalanche do a major shakeup and trade off core players?
Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog have been in the rumor mill and speculation has run rampant since the summer. And with the Avs holding down the league’s worst record, more gasoline has been thrown on the fire. Tyson Barrie, who signed a new long term deal in the summer, has also found his name in trade rumors.
But let’s forget about potential franchise altering moves for a minute. Let’s take a look at the current Avs roster as it stands today. The following was the lineup for a January 6 clash with the New York Islanders.
- Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
- Rene Bourque – Matt Duchene – Blake Comeau
- Matt Nieto – Carl Soderberg – Jarome Iginla
- Cody McLeod – John Mitchell – Joe Colborne
Scratches: Mikhail Grigorenko, Andreas Martinsen.
- Nikita Zadorov – Tyson Barrie
- Patrick Wiercioch – Eric Gelinas
- Fedor Tyutin – Cody Goloubef
Scratches/Injuries: Francois Beauchemin, Erik Johnson.
- Calvin Pickard, Semyon Varlamov.
Now let’s forget about the core for this blog. Let’s assume the Avs keep that intact and choose to keep Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson as well as Nikita Zadorov and Mikko Rantanen. You may have noticed that I didn’t include Semyon Varlamov’s name as part of the core. Well, the truth of the matter is, it seems Calvin Pickard will become the man in net for the Avs. Many close to the organization think the Avs will choose to protect Pickard over Varlamov in the upcoming June Expansion draft. But again, let’s assume the Avs stand pat with both Pickard and Varlamov.
Let’s look at the players the Avs should/need to get rid of, starting with the forwards.
Rene Bourque, Jarome Iginla, John Mitchell, and Cody McLeod should definitely be on the way out. Bourque, Iginla, and Mitchell are all on their final year of their contract so whether or not they can find trading partners or not, it’s almost a given that these guys aren’t returning next season. Cody McLeod, unlike the others names above, has an additional year left on his contract.
But let’s take a look at each of these guys’ situations.
Jarome Iginla, the sure hall of famer, is in the final year of his contract and has a cap hit of $5.33 million. Iginla does have a no-movement clause in his contract but said he will waive it in order to play for a cup contender. His contract is pricey and in today’s climate very hard to deal so the Avs will either have to take a contract back and/or eat some of his contract in order to get a deal done. Iginla definitely won’t get a huge return, probably a mid to low pick and/or low key prospect, but if the Avs can get any asset in return it will be seen as a success.
John Mitchell, the 31 year old center who has been with the Avs since the 2012-13 season, doesn’t seem likely to be traded. And not because the Avs don’t want to trade him but because there are no takers. The Avs were reportedly trying to trade Mitchell in the summer and the Avs even placed him on waivers earlier this season but no one was interested. To be fair, it’s not because John Mitchell isn’t a decent player, it’s because of his $1.8 million cap hit. It also doesn’t help that Mitchell has only scored 1 point in 34 games this season. A big fall from grace for Mitchell as he has scored at least 10 goals and 20 points in each of his previous 4 seasons in Colorado. The Avs would likely have to eat some money in order to trade him.
Rene Bourque was signed by the Avs after coming to training camp on a PTO (professional try out). He signed a 1 year deal, worth $650K. The now-35 year old was seen (and still seen) as a guy years past his prime. And with much to the dismay of Avs fans, who thought he would be the 12th or 13th forward for the Avs, Bourque has been a top 6 staple for the Avs playing along side Matt Duchene or Nathan MacKinnon for most of the season. To Bourque’s credit though, he has scored 9 goals and 13 points in 37 games this season, on pace for his best season since 2011-12. Bourque, in a nutshell, is why the Avs are at the bottom of the league. Bourque is too old and slow to keep up in the fast pace NHL and he has no business playing top 6 minutes anymore. He might be a decent pickup for a playoff team but I’m not sure any team will bite. If the Avs can pick up any asset for him, it will be considered a success.
And finally, Cody McLeod, the longest tenured member of the Avs. To put it simply, there’s just no way he gets traded. And not because the Avs are unwilling to trade him but because of his contract situation. He has another year remaining on his contract and he’s pretty expensive for a guy whose only real contribution to a team is fighting. $1.33 million cap hit is way to expensive for the guy of McLeod’s caliber whether he has an additional year on his contract or not. He’s getting older, slower and to put it bluntly, isn’t useful anymore. The Avs have a ton of cap space coming off the books this summer so they don’t exactly need the cap room but McLeod is a potential buyout target.
There are also 3 other forwards who some think the Avs should part with. Carl Soderberg, Joe Colborne and Andreas Martinsen.
Carl Soderberg signed a 5 year contract with the Avs in 2015 with an annual cap hit of $4.75 million. The now-31 year old forward, who is now in his 2nd year of his contract, had a great first year with the Avs scoring 51 points. This season? Not so much. Soderberg has only 4 goals and 10 points in 39 games this year. This year has been nothing short of a disappointment. Definitely don’t see Soderberg going anywhere via trade as he’s too expensive and has 3 more years left on his contract. His contract is very worrisome. The Avs would be smart to leave Soderberg exposed in the Expansion draft.
Joe Colborne was signed to a 2 year, $5 million contract on July 1, 2016. After scoring a hat-trick on opening night, Colborne has only produced 1 point in 30 games since. Doubtful he gets traded this season as he has an additional year left on his contract. Thankfully for the Avs, this isn’t a long term contract.Nothing to panic about but he’s been a huge disappointment. Very slow. Might be the guy Vegas chooses in the Expansion draft.
And finally Andreas Martinsen. The 26 year old Norwegian signed a one year extension last summer, getting paid a modest $640K. After stretches of great play and other stretches of non existent play, I wonder what the Avs do with Martinsen. He’s a 4th line player. He’s big and relatively young. I doubt he gets traded but I wonder about his future in Denver after this season.
Now let’s take a look at the blueline.
Francois Beauchemin and Fedor Tyutin are the primary guys who the Avs need to part with. Tyutin hasn’t been terrible this year but he’s 32 years old and the Avs need to get away from older slower d-men who can’t keep up with the speed of today’s NHL. He is signed to a 1 year, $2 million contract, one that shouldn’t be too hard to deal. Tyutin would be a nice add for a playoff team who is in need of depth on the back-end.
If there’s one guy that the Avs desperately need to get away from, it is Francois Beauchemin. Nothing but respect for the one-time Stanley Cup champion but he just can’t keep up anymore. He’s slow, constantly caught flat footed, makes bad decisions and plays too many minutes. And him playing big minutes minutes has absolutely hurt the Avalanche in every stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately for the Avs though, not only does the 36 year old have another year left on his contract that has a cap hit of $4.5 million but he also has a no-movement clause.
So the Francois Beauchemin situation is an interesting one and especially frustrating for Avs fans. What the Avs decide to do with him is something that you should keep your eye on. With the Expansion draft coming up, Beauchemin has to be protected because of his no-move clause. Beauchemin can waive it or the Avs could buyout the final year of his contract but it seems the best possible scenario for the Avs is to find a willing trade partner and Beauchemin agrees to go.
Along with Beauchemin and Tyutin, the Avalanche blueline consists of Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov, Eric Gelinas, Patrick Wiercioch and Cody Goloubef.
Again, let’s forget about the core pieces Johnson, Barrie and Zadorov. (Realistically though, Johnson and Zadorov most likely aren’t going anywhere if the Avs choose to rebuild. Barrie would be the guy that would be dealt. But I’ll talk more about that in a different blog).
So the Avs need to trade Beauchemin and Tyutin (and for the sake of this blog, assume the Avs are keeping Johnson, Barrie, and Zadorov) but what about the other three d-men? What do the Avs do with Patrick Wiercioch, Eric Gelinas and Cody Goloubef?
The 26 year old Patrick Wiercioch signed a 1 year, $800K contract with the Avs during the summer. Relatively young, can help produce offensively, an upcoming restricted free agent, and although he’s not without flaws, the Avs should retain him if he’s not too expensive.
I wonder about Eric Gelinas though. The 25 year old is on the last year of his contract and although he’s a pending RFA, his future in Denver is cloudy to say the least. The Avalanche put him on waivers earlier this year so you would think the Avs wouldn’t mind moving on from him. He has a cap hit of $1.58 and would be a nice add for a playoff team in need of a big booming shot on the powerplay.
The 27 year old Cody Goloubef was acquired by the Avs during the season. Initially a minor league trade, Goloubef barely even made it to San Antonio before he was recalled by the Avs when Erik Johnson broke his fibula. Goloubef won the AHL championship last year with the Lake Erie Monsters. His coach with the Monsters? Current Avs coach Jared Bednar. Goloubef is set to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA). Avs most likely will re-sign him for organizational depth.
So to sum up…
In order for the Avalanche to move in the right direction, the Avs need to move on from Jarome Iginla, Rene Bourque, John Mitchell, Cody McLeod, Francois Beauchemin and Fedor Tyutin.
Get rid of those guys and go younger. Bring in J.T. Compher, A.J. Greer, Tyson Jost and Chris Bigras.
Young, quick players with skill might be the cure to what has been ailing the Avs this season…
… and it might be the cure going forward.