Colorado Avalanche Trade Deadline Strategy

Colorado Avalanche trade deadline
DENVER, COLORADO - JANUARY 14: Nathan MacKinnon #29 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates a goal against the Dallas Stars in the first period at the Pepsi Center on January 14, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The Colorado Avalanche deadline trade strategy is one of the most interesting in the NHL this season. They have one of the largest pools of available money and one of the deepest prospect pools. Several of their prospects are close to NHL-ready as well. That puts the front office in a position where they can do one of several things. They certainly have options depending on their potential targets.

2019-20 Colorado Avalanche Trade Deadline Options

Option 1: Trade for a Star

There are several top-six or top-nine options that could switch teams this season in Chris Kreider and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Either of those would fit nicely on Colorado’s current roster and give them a solid two-way punch. Both of those players are among their respective team’s leading scorers and also have good physical stats as well. They certainly qualify as stars this season.

However, there is one other star that might be available. The Arizona Coyotes have faded despite trading for all-star Taylor Hall and might try to flip him to recoup some of their lost prospect depth. The 28-year-old has kept up his scoring pace since the trade and is putting up .86 points-per-game for the year since the New Jersey Devils traded him.

He would be an outstanding target if Colorado wants to pay the asking price; he won’t cost as much if he’s traded a second time with less season remaining but Arizona will still try to extract some value.

The only problem with trading for an established star such as Kreider or Hall is what to do with their salary after this season. Most of the best players available would be rentals unless Colorado is eager to re-sign them and the price would be significant. None of the team’s pending free agents are big stars but are still worth retaining.

There is also the significant matter of Gabriel Landeskog‘s free agency after the 2020-21 season. The Avalanche captain’s current cap hit is $5.57 million. That would go up slightly based on his consistent contributions. Bringing in a player like Hall would create a salary crunch general manager Joe Sakic would love to avoid.

Option 2: Trade for Depth

Colorado’s other main strategy is to trade for a depth piece. There are many more options if the Avs go this direction. They could acquire a forward like Evan Rodrigues of the Buffalo Sabres, a defender such as New Jersey’s Sami Vatanen, or even a goaltender like the Detroit Red WingsJimmy Howard. Each potential move could bring Colorado someone who could succeed if they are given a healthier and more talented environment, even if none leaps off the page.

The advantage of trading for a depth piece like these is the asking price would be significantly lower but come with a decent ceiling. A star-level acquisition could cost Colorado one of their better prospects or a first-round pick. A less visible player would only require a pick in the later rounds and/or one of the team’s middle-tier prospects. A less-heralded trade acquisition seems smarter because it can fill some of the roster gaps while also maintaining flexibility.

The risk of this strategy is bringing in a player that contributes only minimally and doesn’t impact the postseason. They tried the marginal upgrade strategy last season when they traded with the Florida Panthers for Derick Brassard. That move failed fairly spectacularly as he only scored four goals in 20 regular season games and one postseason point. Adding a depth player to special teams is something many teams love to do but it could backfire if the acquisition doesn’t produce.

Options 3: Do Nothing

This is a viable strategy only because Colorado has much of its core under contract for several more seasons and several prospects close to their debuts. Martin Kaut, Logan O’Connor, Shane Bowers, and Bowen Byram are all potential options for 2020-21 if not sooner. The Avalanche had a huge debut from Cale Makar in the 2018-19 playoffs. Adding a prospect like Byram for the postseason could produce similar excitement.

The team is still a dynamic offensive force with Nathan MacKinnon leading the way. They have scored the most goals in the Western Conference and have the largest goal differential as well. Scoring is no problem. The defence is the larger concern but the farm system has several internal blueliners they could promote instead of trading for one. Doing nothing is not the route fans want but it could give the front office maximum flexibility this offseason.

As with any strategy, there is a downside to this one as well. Makar could be a generational defender. None of the other Avalanche prospects are on that level including Byram. The team’s 2019 first-round pick is still an elite prospect but has fallen a little as his WHL team has struggled. Byram has four goals and 25 points in 35 games this year. That pace is down from his 26 and 71 in 67 games for the Vancouver Giants last season. He might not produce the same electricity as Makar did if he made his debut in this season’s playoffs.

The same would be true for any of the team’s other notable prospects.

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