Avalanche at the trade deadline: 6 things we know (and don’t know) with 4 days to go

Avalanche at the trade deadline: 6 things we know (and don’t know) with 4 days to go

DENVER — Chris MacFarland knew he was being repetitive, however he saved emphasizing three phrases: If it is smart. He’ll make any transfer to bolster the 2022-23 Avalanche roster … if it is smart.

That tracks with how Colorado has operated in recent times. The Avalanche are aggressive however not reckless. Shrewd, however not unwilling to half with engaging prospects or draft picks. Final season was an instance of Colorado pushing chips in: then-general supervisor Joe Sakic acquired Artturi Lehkonen, Josh Manson, Andrew Cogliano and Nico Sturm, parting with prospects Justin Barron and Drew Helleson, in addition to a pair of second-round picks. The strikes resulted in Colorado profitable the Stanley Cup.

Sakic moved to president of hockey operations over the summer time. He’s nonetheless concerned, however his right-hand man, Chris MacFarland, is now working the present as common supervisor. And he has lots to take into account forward of Friday’s trade deadline. Right here’s what we have realized about the Avalanche — and what we nonetheless don’t know.

(*4*)They’re snug with their facilities, however that doesn’t preclude strikes

J.T. Compher has been all Colorado might have hoped for this season. He entered play Monday with a career-high 40 factors in solely 57 video games. He hasn’t been Nazem Kadri — the now-Flames ahead had 87 factors for the Avalanche final season — however he’s proven he could be a succesful second-line heart, particularly if he’s enjoying with elite wingers like Mikko Rantanen.

However as coach Jared Bednar mentioned just lately, the group might get even higher if it upgrades at second-line heart. An addition would have a trickle-down impact, bumping Compher to the third line and including to Colorado’s ahead depth.

“If it is smart, we’ll strike,” MacFarland mentioned Monday, once more repeating his favourite phrase of the press convention.

The issue is, there aren’t any apparent second-line heart candidates on the market. Bo Horvat and Ryan O’Reilly have already got new groups, and Jonathan Toews is staying put in Chicago. Sean Monahan received off to an encouraging begin to the yr with Montreal, however he’s been damage since December. He looks as if much less of an possibility than he as soon as did.

“We’re very snug with not simply J.T. (at 2C),” MacFarland mentioned. “We’ve Alex Newhook who can play there, Evan Rodrigues has performed there, we know Mikko can slide in there. We’ve numerous flexibility in the center of the ice for Coach Bednar to make the most of as he sees match.”

Don’t mistake MacFarland’s phrases as a assure Colorado stands pat at second-line heart. The group might additionally look to add at wing — somebody like Flyers ahead James van Riemsdyk might make sense — or herald a depth heart like Washington’s Lars Eller.

“I don’t suppose we’re centered in on anyone positional silo,” he mentioned. “If there’s one thing that is smart, whether or not it’s at ahead or D, we’ll look at it as we at all times do: via the a number of lenses that we at all times do from, firstly a participant perspective, does it make us higher, cap, that type of factor.”

(*4*)The wage cap and LTIR 

If everyone seems to be wholesome, Colorado has little wage cap flexibility. However there’s the long-term injured reserve query. If the group is snug that both Gabriel Landeskog or Erik Johnson will miss the remainder of the yr, the Avalanche can exceed the wage cap by their cap hits. Landeskog has a $7 million cap hit and Johnson has a $6 million cap it. Both would give Colorado loads of further room to work with. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun mentioned on a latest TSN Insider Buying and selling phase that he believes the group will “completely have the option to use Johnson or Landeskog’s wage at the deadline, one or the different.”

MacFarland could have to have an concept of the two gamers’ outlooks by Friday.

“We’ll have these discussions,” he mentioned, “and we’ll have the option to gauge whether or not one or each of them are in that scenario.”

In the playoffs, groups can exceed the wage cap, so an LTIR choice wouldn’t imply Landeskog or Johnson is out for the postseason.

Gabriel Landeskog in June 2022. (Mark J. Rebilas / USA Immediately)

(*4*)Landeskog’s unsure outlook

Johnson has a damaged ankle, and Landeskog’s timetable for getting back from knee surgical procedure has frequently been prolonged. Again in October, Bednar mentioned Landeskog can be out for about three months. It’s already been 4, and the captain solely simply began skating final week. The Avalanche had beforehand been working underneath the assumption he’d be again throughout the common season, however MacFarland’s tone was much less sure Monday.

“Our medical workers, the docs and Gabe himself will clearly management (the scenario),” MacFarland mentioned. “He’s a extremely vital piece. We’ve missed him all yr, however I believe there’s extra information to glean as we transfer alongside right here in the subsequent few days and weeks.”

Landeskog is a crucial a part of Colorado’s group. He offers an elite two-way sport and is a superb net-front presence, good at screening the goalie’s eyes and tipping pucks. Requested about his concern degree on Landeskog’s long-term outlook, MacFarland declined to touch upon specifics.

“He’s doing every little thing he can to get again, and we’re very hopeful that he’ll at some level,” he mentioned.

If he’s, it will likely be an enormous increase for Colorado. But when the timeline retains getting pushed again, it can proceed to increase extra questions.

(*4*)The primary-round choose is on the desk

Colorado has parted with all its second-round picks till 2025, and it has trade prospects like Helleson, Barron and Conor Timmins. The cabinet isn’t naked, however the group’s pool of chips has thinned significantly.

The Avalanche, although, have managed to maintain onto all their future first-round picks. These might be on the desk.

“First-round picks are clearly high-octane belongings,” MacFarland mentioned. “You need to watch out with them. However once more, if it is smart, it is smart.”(*6*)

The group has been hesitant to transfer first-round picks for rental gamers in the previous. If previous conduct is an indicator of the future, the entrance workplace will possible resist doing it this yr, except somebody with time period is out there.

(*4*)Time period questions

Effectively, might somebody with time period be obtainable? Arizona’s Nick Schmaltz’s title has come up just lately in studies, and dependable Coyotes reporter Craig Morgan confirmed there’s been buzz round the ahead. He has three years left on his $5.85 million common annual worth deal after 2022-23 and would slot proper in at 2C, contemplating he’s been shut to a point-per-game tempo the previous two seasons. However his manufacturing and time period would make him dear.

Philadelphia’s Kevin Hayes might be an alternative choice. Florida’s Sam Bennett is an attention-grabbing concept, however my sense is he received’t be a midseason possibility for the Avalanche. That clearly might change with one telephone name.

Colorado has beforehand preferred buying and selling for gamers both with time period or underneath group management as restricted free brokers. Lehkonen, Devon Toews, Andre Burakovsky and Kadri all match that mould. However the Avalanche additionally had extra wage cap flexibility once they made these strikes, and commissioner Gary Bettman mentioned the cap would possibly solely go up by $1 million this summer time.

“(If a goal does) have time period, then we have to look at how the puzzle items match collectively and that affect on different things that we might look to do or not do,” MacFarland mentioned. “We’ve received to watch out based mostly on the preliminary thought that the cap goes to go up one million {dollars}. That’s not an actual massive chunk. So we’ve received to be aware of what we do in that regard in the event that they do have time period. … If it is smart and it makes us higher via all these lenses, then it’s not one thing that we’ll shrink back from.”

(*4*)Why they’ve executed what they’ve executed 

Colorado made two additions in latest days, buying and selling Shane Bowers for goalie Keith Kinkaid and defenseman Andreas Englund for defenseman Jack Johnson.

Kinkaid, who has 168 profession NHL video games to his title, was a depth acquisition, MacFarland mentioned. No. 2 goalie Pavel Francouz is out an estimated two extra weeks with a lower-body harm, however Bednar indicated that timeline may not be precise. Justus Annunen and Jonas Johansson have served as backups when he’s been out.

“(Francouz) is one other one which we have to monitor,” MacFarland mentioned. “And in the playoffs, you carry three goalies, proper, and also you deliver a goalie with you on the street. We would like to guarantee that the (AHL membership, the Colorado) Eagles are lined as nicely.” 

Englund had been strong for Colorado this season, however Johnson constructed belief when he was on the group final season. His superior metrics had been amongst the worst in the league on a foul Chicago group, however that didn’t deter Bednar’s enthusiasm when discussing the deal.

“His underlying numbers had been horrible (when) we received him the first time: a few of the worst in the league,” Bednar mentioned. “And I felt like he did a heckuva job for us. Helped us win a Stanley Cup.”

Coaches like realizing what they’ll get out of a participant, and Bednar appears like he has that with Johnson. Sure, Englund has performed nicely, however Johnson has been in high-intensity playoff video games. Englund hasn’t.

“You’re getting a extra skilled man with Jack and a man who has confirmed he can do it when things get ratcheted up,” Bednar mentioned.

He’s additionally a well-liked participant in the dressing room. He has almost 1,100 NHL video games to his title, and the group valued his expertise and character final yr. MacFarland cited off-ice traits as vital when the group appears to add gamers.

“That’s one thing from draft to exterior acquisitions that is a crucial a part of our puzzle: that we need to herald not solely good hockey gamers, however good folks,” the GM mentioned. “And the expectation is to win, and I believe that drives it.”

(Prime picture: Ron Chenoy / USA Immediately)