We are down to the final week before the NHL Trade Deadline and while the MSHM attempts to find smoke where there’s no fire nothing much of substance has happened yet. The Phaneuf-Gaborik trade made headlines mainly from lack of anything else substantial to talk about but in reality that was a financial deal involving players long past their primes. Teams aren’t waiting until the last minute here, there just isn’t any demand.
What To Watch
Standings: The Avs managed to maintain a .500 pace while Mack was injured, which isn’t terrible but it has put them in a tough spot. They need about 16 wins in their last 24 games to match the current 8th place pace in the WC, or to put it another way they can’t lose more than 9 games and make it given current teams’ pace around them.
The situation is that unless they win 2 out of every 3 games, winning actually hurts them (forgetting that being competitive and learning how to win is important this year) and losing really doesn’t matter unless they lose a lot. By points percentage they have the 17th worst record right now and could easily end up with the worst pick of all the non-playoff teams, which would be the 15th (plus 46th, 77th, etc). It’s not terrible but it shows what being just sort of good in the NHL gets you.
Injuries: We got Mack back on Sunday but lost Jonathan Bernier the game before. By this time of year teams hit a stasis of having 3 or 4 guys out most of the time. Andrighetto and Barberio are still long-term MIA with no guidance on return dates. Bernier is in concussion protocol and it’s too soon for any info there.
Vlad Kamenev was a possibility to play for the Rampage earlier this week but wasn’t cleared by the medical staff. It does look hopeful that he will play next weekend in Tucson but nothing official about that yet.
The killer injury is EJ of course. They could compete without Barbs and probably Lindholm too, to a point, but losing EJ for any length of time means they are done for the year. There’s nothing the staff can do to work around losing half the starting D along with the co-starting goalie.
New/Increased Roles: Patrik Nemeth has become the #1 D penalty killer and moved into a consistent 3rd spot in TOI. I’d love to think this makes him attractive to the market but it’s only the Avs staff falling in love with him in spite of his negative effect on the team’s play. Matt Nieto, especially on the PK, and Colin Wilson have seen increased TOI this week.
It remains to be seen what the plan is as far as callups to replace Johnson and Lindholm. Duncan has been the emergency D for the past week and Mironov, Bigras & Warsofsky are available. At least one of them will be playing significant minutes starting in Vancouver tomorrow, perhaps two. I’d love to see Nic Meloche in the lineup at some point but not immediately.
Scouts in Attendance: So many scouts at every game it’s impossible spot a pattern yet.
The draft is now the real NHL Silly Season but the final week in February still has it’s charm. It’s going to take sellers getting desperate to make any substantial moves possible but someone will. I think rentals might take a backseat to deals involving players with a little term for a change.
I hope the Avs aren’t planning on buying but if, like Sakic always says, a deal is presented that makes the org better they will consider it. Here are the players I think have the better chances at finding a new home by next Monday:
Colin Wilson – He hasn’t found a consistent role in Colorado and really doesn’t fit with the team that well. He would elsewhere however and despite a contract at twice what he’s worth could be a temptation for several teams. Avs can retain up to $2M which would actually help rather than hurt next year. I think he’s the most likely player to move but I’d put that below 50/50.
Blake Comeau – The Avs most desirable UFA to be definitely has interest around the league as a rental but might have more interest here at home with a new contract. Like I’ve said before there are two options, trade at deadline or re-sign. The Avs can’t let him go for nothing in July. We’ve seen a few extensions announced this month and Comeau’s could be next. I’ll arbitrarily put him at 1 in 3 to be traded this week.
Carl Soderberg – I think it might be a year early for a Soderberg trade and someone would be buying high if they did but there’s interest out there after his resurgence from a 14 point 16-17 season. He’s also got a modified NTC so 1 in 10 sounds about right for this happening.
Tyson Barrie – TSN has him in trade bait so I have to too. My prime desire is to see him swapped for a forward, preferably young and really good, which is more of a summertime thing. A 1 in 50 chance of this going down sounds slightly optimistic.
Random Depth Guys – This is the kind of out of nowhere but not really exciting thing that might hit us right on Feb 26. Nieto, Bourque, Yak, who knows.
AHL Trades – This has been the flavor of the month so far with 10 out of 12 trades in 2018 being of the minor league variety. Tops on the list is Rocco Grimaldi who will become a Group VI UFA this summer and isn’t in the Avs future plans. I’ll be shocked if he isn’t traded in the next week. BOOK IT. I think a trade involving Chris Bigras is more likely than it seems. He’s a project at this point, although a somewhat promising one and one the Avs really don’t have the time for in the next few years. Sleeper pick: Felix Girard.
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Joe Sakic and the Avs front office have some decisions to make in the next week. The biggest one is whether to resist the temptation to use the assets they acquired in the Duchene trade to try and replace Erik Johnson in a futile attempt to “save” the season. They were a longshot anyway and this situation isn’t something that can be fixed in the short term. For the first time in almost 20 years they have a surplus in their draft portfolio and that’s what will make the team consistently competitive in the next 10 years if they let it. A panic trade would be deadly and a consolidation trade at this point in the franchise’s development cycle would do nothing other than set them back another few years.
There’s not a lot of demand around the league and selling off more than a player or two isn’t a great message to the fans or the players in the room but this season should have always been about what they can be around this time next year. The franchise still lacks depth at every position and young high-end skill, anything they can create in the next week that addresses those concerns will pay dividends when it really matters. Unless you have an aging Cup-contender franchise, significant personnel moves should always be made with 1-2 years hence in mind and this week could show that Colorado is starting to embrace that thinking.