Earlier today we Colorado Avalanche fans saw an announcement that Carl Soderberg had been traded to the Arizona Coyotes for defenceman Kevin Connauton. It is time for some analysis of the big move. On the surface, this seems like an odd trade to make considering Soderberg just posted 49 points. That would rate as second-best of his career despite nearly being 34. The return, a 28-year-old, third-pairing defenceman, and a 2020 third round pick are underwhelming, but there are a few things to examine with this transaction.
The Bright Side of Dealing Away Carl Soderberg
More Cap Space
The obvious aspect of this trade is that it saves Colorado money. Soderberg was due just under $5 million next season, while Connauton is scheduled to earn just over $1.3 million. The savings gives Colorado a league-high $38.9 million in cap space to make a run at free agents. It is very easy to imagine them using some of that to lock up star Mikko Rantanen for several years and then make a run at a restricted free agent like Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, or even Matthew Tkachuk. Then there are unrestricted free agents Gustav Nyquist or Ryan Dzingel to consider. A few internal extensions like J.T. Compher, Vladislav Kamenev, and Alex Kerfoot also need attention. Expect Colorado to be very aggressive towards the bigger names as they search for more offense to compliment their stars.
Opportunities for the Young Guns
Carl Soderberg anchored the second line much of the year, so replacing him is a top priority. If Colorado can’t secure top talent from free agency, young options exist to fill that gap. Tyson Jost scored just 26 points in 70 games as a 20-year-old but looked confident in the postseason with three goals and one assist in 12 games.
Aside from Jost, the pending free agents in Kerfoot and Compher are also great candidates. Kerfoot is coming off a second straight season with over 40 points. Compher improved his scoring from 23 points in 2017-18 to 32 this past year. These three are a big part of Colorado’s future but the team can avoid having to push them into major roles if money gets spent on an impact free agent.
Adding Connauton Gives Team Flexibility with the Blue Line
The other factor in this deal is it opens up some playing time for younger forwards, but adds another defender to a crowded group. The team already has six healthy defenders in their NHL group. Players like Conor Timmins and the newly acquired Bowen Byram could very easily find their way into the lineup as well. Bigger names like Ian Cole and Erik Johnson are also still on the team and coming off summer surgeries. With such a crowded defence, it’s clear that something will have to give. The first casualty of this cram is likely unrestricted free agent Patrik Nemeth. One or two others could move over the summer months as well.
Despite the logjam, Connauton does give the team a number of potential pairings. The Avs could pick Cale Makar and Samuel Girard as top pair, Byram and Nikita Zadorov on the second, and then a combination of Connauton and either Mark Barberio or Ryan Graves as the third duo and penalty kill. There’s also the question of what the team does with Tyson Barrie this summer. A trade could reel in plenty of depth for the organization. Needless to say, Colorado has many options on the blue line when preseason hits.
Some fans will no doubt wonder if this trade is worth it. A veteran second-line center in exchange for a penalty killing defender isn’t exciting but the Avs are gearing up for a strong 2019-20 season. The extra three million in cap space is huge when a team is trying to sign a player of Rantanen’s calibre, keep their promising younger options, and pursue dynamic top six guys like Marner or Dzingel. This is only the first move the team makes this offseason as they build a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
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