The next trade for the Colorado Avalanche should be big or not at all

Colorado Avalanche players celebrate. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports
Colorado Avalanche players celebrate. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche’s next move needs to be huge.

Today is the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline and the Colorado Avalanche have already made attempts to address their team needs in preparation for a deep Stanley Cup Playoffs run. The Avs’ needs are not many, seeing as they are currently keeping excellent pace in a deep Presidents’ Trophy race.

Despite that, you can ask anyone who watched Colorado lose to the Dallas Stars in the Second Round of last year’s postseason and they will say that injuries played a massive role in the series, which resulted in an Overtime loss in Game Seven for the Avs. From that moment on, Avalanche fans have known that depth was the offseason focus for the club. Just look at the team who would eventually beat Dallas in the Cup finals.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning made some eyebrow-raising moves at last year’s Trade Deadline. First, Tampa plucked Blake Coleman from the struggling New Jersey Devils in exchange for a First-Round pick, and former 27th overall selection Nolan Foote. The Lightning also sent a First-Round pick to the San Jose Sharks for forward Barclay Goodrow.

Both Coleman and Goodrow are in their second season with Tampa and primarily fill roles as middle-six forwards. Not to mention, after winning a Stanley Cup the moves worked, no further analysis needed. Depth is a good thing. Players get injured, hockey is a physically demanding game. Do not forget Tampa did all of that without their captain, Steven Stamkos, who played in just one Playoff game.

That is the blueprint to postseason success. Fans affectionately remember the players that came in clutch when the pressure was on,  just as much as the national media will ramble on about a superstar and their dominating performance. To this point, it has been these less than exciting depth moves in Denver.

Colorado Avalanche either need to go big or stand pat at NHL Trade Deadline

The Colorado Avalanche have acquired plenty of goaltending depth in the form of former Buffalo Sabre Jonas Johansson and most recently, 14-year-veteran Devan Dubnyk. These moves have memories of the 2020 Playoffs and having to start third-string goalie Michael Hutchinson stamped all over them.

Johansson has looked adequate as a backup in a very short sample size for Colorado with a save percentage that is 36 points higher than he posted for the Sabres, including his first career NHL shutout. We may never really know if this is due to the improved Colorado defense in front of Johansson or simply being away from the embarrassment that is the current state of the Sabres organization.

As for Dubnyk, he has been around the block and seen more than his fair share of ups and downs. He has played for 5 teams and played in three All-Star Games, each falling between 2016-2019. The problem for Dubnyk is that after six seasons of a save percentage over .913%, in the last two seasons that number has fallen below 90%. Colorado is betting that is not due to age but rather caused by playing behind poor defenses in both Minnesota and San Jose.

Additionally, Colorado has acquired veteran defenseman Patrik Nemeth who is returning to Colorado after two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. Nemeth has yet to debut with Colorado this year, but when you see the carousel of names that have filled the third D-pairing this move makes perfect sense.

Avalanche defensemen Devon Toews and Cale Makar are both in the NHL’s top-20 in average time on ice per game. With Nemeth and his defensive game, he will be able to take on some of the workload off both defensive zone starts and the penalty kill. The last thing Colorado opponents want to see is Cale Makar to have more energy with the puck on his stick.

There is not much else for General Manager Joe Sakic to do in order to address an absolute need for the Colorado roster. Any additional moves before the trade deadline will be a luxury type of acquisition and an all-in on the 2021 Stanley Cup type of move.

Sam Reinhart (23)
Buffalo Sabres center Sam Reinhart (23). Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

The biggest reason to believe that Colorado is not yet done making moves is that they have not touched their stable of prospects in any of their previous moves, and “stable” is an appropriate description. The current roster could be good enough to win a Stanley Cup, but once again let us think about last year’s injury-riddled Playoffs.

The question then is what direction should Colorado go? If the Avalanche could acquire a forward with enough offensive skill to play on the second-line, but enough defensive prowess to play on the third-line. It should only be a very specific fit that Colorado pursues if they are to send away some of their future prospects.

Since an absolutely perfect fit is unlikely to happen, let alone predict, here are some excellent options for Colorado: First is Sam Reinhart of the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres should be having a firesale and try to restart the whole franchise. Reinhart could easily play in any of the top three lines in Colorado, specifically on the third-line playing opposite Joonas Donskoi who has already scored 15 goals this season while typically playing alongside two defense-first forwards.

Second, is the Calgary Flames’ Sam Bennett. Bennett came into the league with high expectations as the fourth overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. It just has not happened for Bennett and the Flames. He has scored 30 or more points just once in his six NHL seasons. Colorado is rumored to be wanting more grit, and Bennett would provide that. The change of scenery could also bring out more of that offense that led to his draft stock and absolve Calgary of the current strained relationship.

Lastly, Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks. Rakell is probably the best goal scorer of those I mention here. He is also the only player with an additional year on his contract after this season. The Ducks are very much rebuilding and while Rakell is one of their better current pieces, the potential of strengthening the rebuild that is already led by Trevor Zegras and Jaime Drysdale might be hard to pass upon.

Next. Teams that should buy, sell at Trade Deadline. dark

Using prospects, the Colorado Avalanche could afford any one of these three pieces for their Playoff push. They have already prepared for injury at every position. The luxury of more even offensive skill would be the ultimate insurance policy.