The March 1 trade deadline is rapidly approaching and the Colorado Avalanche are buried deep in the basement of the NHL standings. The Avalanche are clear sellers, along with the Arizona Coyotes, and with that comes plenty of rumors and speculation.
The rumors and speculation surrounding the Avalanche, and has been for some time, is not that of the Avs’ pending Unrestricted Free Agents but that of core players Matt Duchene and captain Gabriel Landeskog.
The Boston Bruins and the Colorado Avalanche have been linked together as trade partners for some time with the Bruins having been reportedly interested in Gabriel Landeskog. The Avalanche, who have been scouring the league for young defensemen, have been suspected of having interest in Bruins’ 20 year old d-man Brandon Carlo or top defensive prospect Charlie McAvoy. Either one of the players would be the center piece in a multiple piece deal that would see the Avalanche trade their young 24 year old captain.
Matt Duchene’s name has been in the rumor mill for a year and a half. And like Gabriel Landeskog, the Avalanche asking price is extremely high and the centerpiece of a trade would have to include a young defeneman, a top prospect and a high pick. In regards to Duchene, possible trading partners include the Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes.
Montreal is in a win-now mode and like the Avs, offense has been hard to come by this season. Montreal’s top (defensive) prospect Mikhail Sergachev (who was picked 1 ahead of Avalanche’s top prospect Tyson Jost at the 2016 draft) would most likely be the centerpiece of a trade that would send Duchene north of the border. Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin has already said the price is too high and wouldn’t trade Sergachev but he also said he wouldn’t trade P.K. Subban days before he traded him to Nashville last summer.
The Carolina Hurricanes are the perfect trading partners for the Colorado Avalanche in regards to Matt Duchene. The Hurricanes are flushed with tons of young high end defensemen. Their need? A number center like Matt Duchene who they haven’t had since Eric Staal in his prime. The Hurricanes have so many young defensemen it’s anyone’s guess at who the Avalanche would target in a Matt Duchene trade. But the pieces are there.
But let’s forget about potential franchise altering trades.
Let’s take a look at every single Avalanche player, their contract situation and their future with the organization.
- Nathan MacKinnon: (After this season) 6 years remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $6.3 million per season.MacKinnon has been specifically named as ‘untouchable’ by Joe Sakic. He isn’t going anywhere. However, any player can be had at a price. Realistically though, no one is going to pay the astronomical price it would take to get Sakic to deal MacKinnon. He’s staying put.
- Matt Duchene: (After this season) 2 years remaining at a cap hit of $6 million per year. It’s very hard to imagine Duchene is still in an Avs uniform come the start of next season. Whether he is dealt before March 1 or in the summer, it very much feels like the Matt Duchene-era is coming to an end.
- Gabriel Landeskog: (After this season) 4 years remaining at a cap hit of $5.57 million per season. I’m not as convinced that the Gabriel Landeskog-era is coming to an end in Denver. Landeskog is younger than Duchene and has double the term left on his contract. Unless the Avs get exactly what they want out of a trade, and this is me speculating, then Landeskog is likely staying put. There’s no rush to trade either Duchene or Landeskog but Duchene is relatively close to becoming a UFA where as Landeskog is not.
- Jarome Iginla: On the last year of his contract that holds a cap hit of $5.33 million. He will/would become an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) on July 1. Jarome Iginla has expressed his desire to play for a Stanley Cup contender and Joe Sakic has expressed his desire to make that happen. The real question is, are there any takers? Iginla has no doubt slowed down and is a shell of his former self and combined with the fact that he has a cap hit of $5.3 million, a trade could prove to be difficult. The Avs have to make something happen though. They need to turn Iginla into assets. Failing to do so would be an utter failure on their part.
- Carl Soderberg: (After this season) 3 years remaining at a cap hit of $4.75 million per season. Considering his age, term left on his contract, the cap hit and his limited production this season, Soderberg isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Very doubtful that he is bought out (this summer at least) and very doubtful Vegas picks him in the upcoming Expansion draft. The Avs will have to bite the bullet for the time being and hope Soderberg will get to the Soderberg of 2015-16.
- Joe Colborne: (After this season) 1 year remaining at a cap hit of $2.5 million. Joe Colborne scored 3 goals on opening night and since has only managed a goal and an assist. Like most Avs players, he’s had a dreadful season. Most likely not a ton of interest for him. He does have an extra year on his contract too which may or may not impact whether or not a team would want him. Colborne would be perfect trade bait at next year’s trade deadline.
- Blake Comeau: (After this season) 1 year remaining at a cap hit of $2.4 million. Comeau’s case is a lot like Joe Colborne’s except Blake Comeau has had a statistically superior season compared to Colborne. Comeau would be a great depth add for any playoff team but he has another year left on his contract and that is a problem for some teams. If he isn’t dealt this trade deadline (or chosen in the Expansion draft), Comeau is great trade bait come this time next year.
- John Mitchell: On the final year of his contract that holds a cap hit of $1.8 million. He will/would become an UFA on July 1. The Avs have shown that they are willing to part ways with veteran forward. Speculation is that the Avs were trying to trade him last summer and they even went as far as putting Mitchell on waivers earlier this season. He would be a nice addition for a team looking to add a bit of depth to their bottom six. Problem? Well, only having 1 goal and 3 points this season while having a $1.8 million cap hit could be a problem for a team tight against the cap. The Avs are looking to move on from him but will they be able find a taker? We’ll find out soon enough.
- Mikhail Grigorenko: On the final year of his contract that holds a cap hit of $1.3 million. Because of his age/years of service, he will be a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) and the Avalanche will hold the option to his rights. He didn’t live up to his potential with Buffalo and he hasn’t proven the Sabres wrong for dealing him in the Ryan O’Reilly trade. Based on his age and the fact he plays regularly in the team’s top six, you would think he would be a lock to come back next year. That’s not the case. TSN’s Darren Dreger has said that he has heard Grigorenko’s name in trade talks. Ever since Patrick Roy quit as coach of the Avalanche, there was concern that it would effect Grigorenko as Roy was seen as the only guy who knew how to get the best out of him. Grigorenko’s future with the team is murky at best. Perhaps he would be part of a bigger trade (i.e. Duchene, Landeskog).
- Mikko Rantanen: (After this season) 2 years remaining on his Entry Level Contract (ELC) that holds a cap hit of $894, 167K. (Although he does have a potential maximum bonus of $500,000K). Along with Nathan MacKinnon, Avs General Manager Joe Sakic said he is untouchable. Mikko Rantanen isn’t going anywhere. He is very much one of the team’s building blocks.
- Matt Nieto: On the final year of his contract that holds a cap hit of $735K. Because of his age/years of service, he will be a RFA and the Avalanche will hold the option to his rights. Since being claimed on waivers from the San Jose Sharks, Matt Nieto has proven to be a prototypical Jared Bednar player. The Avs will undoubtedly bring Nieto back next year (if he isn’t chosen in the Expansion draft) and will be a staple of the team’s bottom six.
- Rene Bourque: On the final year of his contract that holds a cap hit of $650K. He will/would become an UFA on July 1. Rene Bourque has missed several straight games with a head injury although he is skating again. He has shown in the past that he can produce in the playoffs so that could attract some teams. And as with several players above, is there any interest in Rene Bourque? What is a positive is his cap hit. Extremely low and can easily be absorbed by teams. If Avs can turn him into any kind of asset it will be seen as a success.
- Andreas Martinsen: On the final year of his contract that holds a cap hit of $640K. He will/would become an UFA on July 1. If Patrick Roy was still the coach of the Avalanche, I would think the Avs would want to bring Martinsen back. But with Bednar, I’m not so sure. Here’s the thing. Martinsen is probably a 12th or 13th forward at best. The Avalanche aren’t going to win or lose more games with or without him. You could bring him back for depth or you could trade him for an asset. Whatever provides the biggest benefit the team should do. I would lean to trading him.
- Erik Johnson: (After this season) 6 years remaining at a cap hit of $6 million per season. The Colorado Avalanche’s season essentially fell apart when Erik Johnson broke his leg. The importance of EJ to the Avs cannot be overstated. But here’s the thing. EJ turns 29 in March. If/when the Avs become contenders again, EJ will more than likely be out of his prime. The Avs have also stated that they want to get younger. So considering that you might think the Avs would look to move him. But here’s another thing. EJ is injury prone and has 6 years left on his contract at a $6 million cap hit. The return the Avs could get for him doesn’t compare to the value he brings to the team currently.
- Tyson Barrie: (After this season) 3 years remaining at a cap hit of $5.5 million per season. Not producing as he did in prior seasons and still getting overpowered in the d-zone, Tyson Barrie’s season cannot be described as anything but disappointing. After having a long drawn out contract dispute in the summer that saw Barrie and the Avs enter into arbitration and a history between Barrie’s agents and the Avs organization being less than rosy, it isn’t crazy to think the Avs would be looking to trade Barrie for a more of a two-way d-man.
- Francois Beauchemin: (After this season) 1 year remaining at a cap hit of $4.5 million. The Francois Beauchemin situation is something Avs fans will be keeping their eyes on. Beauchemin will have to be protected in the upcoming Expansion draft as he has a No Movement clause in his contract. That really hurts the Avs as they will have to protect him over a depth forward…. UNLESS… Well, the Avs could either ask him to waive his No Movement where he will be exposed to the Expansion draft, buy out the final year of his contract, or trade him. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the Avs could deal him but seems unlikely based on his age, term and cap hit and the fact that Beauchemin says he wants to remain an Av. So even if the Avalanche did find a taker for Beauchemin, Francois would have to agree to it.
- Fedor Tyutin: On the last year of his contract that holds a cap hit of $2 million. He will/would become an UFA on July 1. The summer signing of Tyutin will turn out to be a smart one if the Avs can flip him for assets. Tyutin is a steady veteran d-man who would be a good depth addition to any blue line headed to the playoffs. It would be a failure if he remains on the Avs past March 1.
- Nikita Zadorov: On the final year of his ELC. Because of his age/years of service, he will be a RFA and the Avalanche will hold his rights. Zadorov has been only one of a few bright spots in a dreadful season in Denver. His progression has been a highlight and although Joe Sakic didn’t mention his name in the ‘untouchables,” big Z isn’t going anywhere. The real question is do the Avs sign him to a bridge deal or show some faith in him and give him some term.
- Patrick Wiercioch: On the final year of his contract that holds a cap hit of $800K. Because of his age/years of service, he will be a RFA and the Avalanche hold the option to his rights. TSN has added his name to their trade bait board and he could be a real nice depth addition to a playoff team. Mid 20’s, contract expires at the end of the year and has an extremely low cap hit. The Avalanche will have to decide (they may already have) whether they want to bring him back for next season. Perhaps the smart thing to do is trade him.
- Mark Barberio: (After this season) 1 year remaining at a cap hit of $750K. The Avalanche picked him up on waivers from Montreal for the sole fact that they can have a d-man exposed in the Expansion draft. (Expansion draft requires every team to expose a defender who is under contract for next season and has played either 40 games this season or a combined 70 games in the last 2 seasons). Barberio has proven to be a real nice waiver claim by the Avs as Barberio has shown he can play in the league. Doubtful he is chosen in the Expansion draft so expect him to be a part of the Avs blue line next season.
- Cody Goloubef: On the last year of his contract that holds a cap hit of $750K. He will/would become a UFA on July 1. Goloubef is extremely doubtful to be moved at the deadline. Not only is there likely zero interest but he played under Jared Bednar when the two won the AHL Calder Cup in June 2016 and Avs assistant General Manager Chris MacFarland was part of the Columbus Blue Jackets management team that drafted him in 2008. Tough to predict what happens to him but it does seem fairly likely that the Avs re-sign him for depth.
- Eric Gelinas: On the last year of his contract that holds a cap hit of $1.575. However, since he’s currently in the minors, his hit against the cap is $625K. Because of his age/years of service, he will be a RFA and the Avalanche hold the option to his rights. The writing is on the wall. Gelinas time in Denver is coming to a close when his contract expires in the summer. It isn’t totally out of the question that the Avs could trade him. Gelinas has a booming shot from the point. A team looking for a power play specialist might have interest in him. Plus, Gelinas is in the minors which could help facilitate a trade or in the very least make a trade easier.
- Semyon Varlamov: (After this season) 2 years remaining at a cap hit of $5.9 million per season. Like most players on the Avalanche, Semyon Varlamov has had a terrible season. It was another year of inconsistency and nagging groin injuries that culminated in season ending groin surgery. Varlamov’s trade value couldn’t be any more in the dumps. The real question is, who do the Avalanche protect in the Expansion draft? Varlamov or Calvin Pickard?
- Calvin Pickard: (After this season) 1 year remaining at a cap hit of $1 million. Pickard has had every chance to prove that he is capable of being the #1 goaltender for the Avs in the wake of Semyon Varlamov’s season ending groin injury that required surgery. And did he? The answer would be no. He isn’t quite ready for that yet. I’ll say it again, who do the Avs protect in the Expansion draft? The younger Pickard or the older Varlamov?
Pickard has shown promise but will he ever be able to handle the load of starter in the NHL? Varlamov has already shown that he is capable of being an NHL starter but he isn’t getting any younger and injuries have hindered his performances. Is Varlamov past his prime? Due to the play of both this season, it’s very likely the Avs will have both goaltenders back next season (barring any trade of course).
- Jarome Iginla, John Mitchell, Rene Bourque and Fedor Tyutin are players that the Avs have to trade and flip for assets. At the very least (and I mean the very least) they have to trade at least 2 of them. But even that would be disappointing. 3 or all 4 of them need to be turned into assets. It would be a colossal blunder otherwise.
- Even though Eric Gelinas is younger than the 4 above it feels like he has less value or teams have no interest him. It would be nice if the Avs could flip him for assets as it appears Avs will not be bringing him back anyway. Would be huge if the Avs could get anything for him.
- Andreas Martinsen and Patrick Wiercioch are in another category. They both have expiring contracts (Martinsen a UFA, Wiercioch a RFA) but I’m not convinced that the Avs don’t want to bring them back. They might want to do so. They might not. Neither player will make or break the Avs so if the Avs don’t want to bring them back as depth then they should look to bring back assets in return for them.
- If the Avs can and if the player chooses to waive his No Movement, they should definitely trade Francois Beauchemin. Seems unlikely though. It wouldn’t be a failure if they couldn’t trade him but would be great if they could.
- Blake Comeau and Joe Colborne are reasonably priced forwards with another year left on their contracts. If there is a deal that makes sense, the Avs should do it. Otherwise, next year’s trade deadline makes sense for the both of them to be traded.