The Colorado Avalanche could make a major splash this offseason. They are in prime position for a Stanley Cup run but every contender could use additional weapons. Sam Reinhart of the Buffalo Sabres could be an ideal addition. He’d be an expensive acquisition but he would give the Avs another top scoring threat. It’s worth exploring how they might acquire the current Sabres forward.
Avalanche Should Trade for Sam Reinhart
What Could Colorado Trade
This trade could look something like the one Colorado pulled off several years ago when it sent Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn to Buffalo in exchange for several assets including current Avs Nikita Zadorov and J.T. Compher. At the time, O’Reilly had just come off a 17 goal, 55 point season as a 23-year-old. He scored 28 goals and 64 points the year before. Reinhart is in a similar place with 22 goals and 50 points in 69 games this season. He is slightly ahead of O’Reilly if you consider their totals after six years: O’Reilly scored 90 goals and 246 points in 427 games before he was traded to Buffalo. Reinhart has 109 goals and 255 points in 400 games. Reinhart is far from the defender O’Reilly is but he provides great value as a pure top-six scoring option.
A return for Reinhart likely includes at least one skater with top-six centre and a defender capable of playing a top-four role, two roles that the Sabres have been very vocal in pursuing. Colorado’s best assets in those categories are Tyson Jost and Zadorov.
Both need new contracts but neither will cost nearly as much as Reinhart’s new deal. Jost is a former first-round pick that has shown flashes of being a top-six skater but he hasn’t put everything together yet. He has eight goals and 23 points in 67 games so far this year. His career scoring average of .35 points-per-game isn’t good enough but he’s buried on the Avs’ depth chart. Zadorov scored four goals and 16 points in 67 games for the Sabres before he was traded. He doesn’t offer much offence but he’s young and physical. Still, the two fit the bill perfectly and, assuming the Sabres still aren’t amused, an added in draft pick would still keep the deal worthwhile.
Reinhart’s Fit and Role on the Roster
Reinhart’s current cap hit is $3.65 million. That will likely increase into the range of $5.5-6 million or more this offseason. Colorado will have approximately $60 million spoken for before pending free agents receive new deals. Assuming Reinhart’s cap hit is around $6 million, that gives Colorado just under $16 million in cap space if the cap ceiling stays flat at $81.5 million.
Colorado has no major unrestricted free agents this year but they still need deals for several key restricted free agents. Andre Burakovsky is the most important after a 20-goal, 45-point season. His current cap hit of $3.25 million probably reaches $4-4.5 million for the next several seasons. That would still leave the Avs with over $9 million in cap space for other moves. Valeri Nichushkin and Vladislav Kamenev also need new deals but neither is a major factor. Nichuskin has revived his career with 13 goals and 27 points in 65 games this year but his inconsistent play with the Dallas Stars doesn’t give him much leverage. Kamenev is either an important depth option or an intriguing trade candidate with his injury history.
If Colorado keeps most of its restricted free agents, drops all the unrestricted ones, and trades Jost and Zadorov, they would have roughly 20 roster spots spoken for going into 2020-21. Nine of those would be forwards. The top line shouldn’t change, but Reinhart would be a perfect fit on the teams’ second line next to Nazem Kadri and Burakovsky. He would then join the top trio and star defender Cale Makar on one of the league’s most dangerous power-play units.
If Colorado made all of the moves above, their lineup in 2020-21 could look something like this:
Burakovsky – Kadri – Reinhart
Nichushkin – Compher – Joonas Donskoi
How Likely is This Move?
Colorado has plenty of depth to make a move like this. Forward reinforcements are on the way in the forms of Logan O’Connor, Shane Bowers and Martin Kaut. After that, you have the promising Alex Newhook leading the way among prospects still in college or other junior leagues. One or two of them could be a centrepiece in exchange for Reinhart instead of Jost but that shouldn’t stop Colorado from pulling off a deal of this magnitude. Reinhart is still just 24-years-old and could explode while surrounded by the current Avalanche core. General Manager Joe Sakic hadn’t made a major trade for several years but the Nazem Kadri deal last summer showed some aggression. A Sam Reinhart trade could put Colorado even closer to its first Stanley Cup in almost 20 years.