Colorado Avalanche: Ditching Ian Cole frees up minutes for Bowen Byram

(Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

When news broke that the Colorado Avalanche had officially acquired Greg Pateryn from the Minnesota Wild for Ian Cole, it didn’t draw much attention.

Sure, if you’re a diehard fan of the Avs, the Wild, or the NHL as a whole, these sort of moves are beyond entertaining and incredibly consequential, but on a macro-level, swapping a third-line defenseman averaging 14 minutes of action for a third-line defenseman averaging 12 minutes of action a night is pretty darn inconsequential – especially when the Avalanche (probably) aren’t going to play Pateryn very much if at all moving forward.

With $2 million in salary cap space freed up, and an open spot on the left side of the defense for 2019 fourth overall pick Bowen Byram, Pateryn may see some occasional minutes here and there, especially in back-to-back situations, but will likely be tasked with waiting out the final year of his three-year, $6.75 million deal before hitting the open market once more in 2021.

Now granted, that isn’t a knock against Cole. Since signing in free agency in 2018 after a very successful stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins – and a cup of coffee with the Columbus Blue Jackets – the two-time Stanley Cup champion has been a calming presence for young players like Samuel Girard, Ryan Graves, and Cale Makar. He’s also proven to be a solid playmaker from the blue-line and finished with the most combined blocks of any defenseman on the roster over his last two years.

But at 31-year-old, Cole is the Avalanche’s past, whereas Byram? Well, he has the potential to be a whole lot more than a third-line defenseman in no time.

Out with the old and in with the new for the Colorado Avalanche.

More from Puck Prose

In case you haven’t heard, the Colorado Avalanche are really good.

The odds-on favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season according to The Action Network, Joe Sakic has clearly built a serious contender since taking over for Greg Sherman in 2014, all the while retaining a strong prospect pool from which to internally elevate players from when they leave in free agency.

And when the Avalanche were given the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft – a fortunate byproduct of the Matt Duchene trade with Ottawa – that prospect pool became even stronger thanks to the addition of Byram – a left-handed two-way player that many considered to be the best defenseman in the draft.

Measuring in at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Byram was coming off of a 71 point performance with the WHL Vancouver Giants – 26 points and 45 assists – and looked like the kind of player who could eventually supplant Ryan Graves as the Avs’ top defenseman across from 2019-20 Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar.

Though his 2019-20 campaign in Vancouver wasn’t as impressive as the year prior, in no small part because of a shortened season, Byram still showed out well enough to earn a long look in Colorado for the team’s 2020-21 training camp and a spot on the roster once he finished mandatory quarantine.

Had Byram been available for game one, the Cole trade – or something similar – likely would have already happened, but because of his absence, Sakic had a little extra time to gauge the market and find an optimal return that limited cap holdings.

They did just that, thanks to a Wild team looking to get a bit more championship experience and grit on their depth chart, even if the player they brought back is effectively a $2.25 million emergency performer.

dark. Next. Buffalo Sabres need to keep their new-look top line together

So in a way, this wasn’t a one-for-one trade between the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild. No, this was a move that shipped a third-line defenseman for $2 million in cap relief, a depth bench piece for emergency situations, and a chance to get Bowen Byram on the ice to see what he can do with two great players in front of him – AKA a major win for all hockey fans in the Mile High City.