It’s now 2 weeks before the NHL trade deadline and still not much happening around the league. A few minor deals have happened with AHL implications but the main story is various teams putting themselves on record as sellers. The overhead view here is a lot of clubs wish to rid themselves of expiring UFAs, bad contracts and random garbage and very few teams are willing to lend a hand. The supply and demand curves don’t always meet in the NHL so my prediction is some movement, but not a lot. If the sellers get desperate enough then there could be some bargains but don’t bet on it.
What to Watch
Not a good week for the beloved Avs in many ways. Here’s the situation:
Standings: The Avs got a rare home game, and won it along with the Buffalo match, but troubles on the road continued with a couple of bad losses at St Louis and Carolina. The teams they are chasing like Dallas, Minnesota and Anaheim are setting a strong pace that they struggle to match.
Injuries: Mack is skating and could return quicker than expected, so that’s nice. Mikko missed a game with LBI and doesn’t look 100%, Blake Comeau has UBI which is also a big loss at this point. Sven Andrighetto and Mark Barberio are unknowns that could really help but aren’t close as far as anyone can say. Vlad Kamenev continues to skate with the Rampage in some capacity but a return for him in San Antonio still isn’t imminent.
New/Increased Roles: After the blowout loss in STL there was a small shakeup with Mikko and Colin Wilson switching spots and Gabe Bourque taking Comeau’s spot on Soderberg’s line. If you’re under the impression that Bourque is being showcased for a trade then that’s a positive sign but in reality when you see grinders like Wilson and Bourque playing over their heads it means the team is in deep trouble. AJ Greer dressed for the SJS, CAR & BUF games but only played token minutes, as did Dom Toninato. Toninato played real TOI in the STL blowout, which was nice to see but there doesn’t seem to be interest in letting either of these guys grab a larger role right now.
Scouts in Attendance: Like I mentioned above, there’s a lot of looking right now but no one’s whipping out their wallet yet. This is a hindsight indicator anyway but there’s no hints I can see yet.
If the Avs want to buy some guys at the deadline the obvious holes for 2018 are a scoring wing and maybe some better defensive depth, but they shouldn’t. They ought to look at next year’s depth chart and see if there are solutions available to plug holes there however. The list below is by no means what I think lines and pairs will look like in October, just a representation of what is solidly under contract ranked vaguely by experience and role.
Landeskog – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Wilson – Soderberg – Andrighetto
Jost – Kerfoot – Compher
Greer – Kamenev – Toninato
Lewis – Beaudin – Nantel
Pool of internal replacements: Comeau (UFA), Bourque (UFA), Nieto (RFA), Yakupov (RFA), Grimaldi (G6 UFA), Girard (RFA), Barron (Amateur – Rights Expiring) plus college players Smirnov, Bowers, Morrison and Igor Shvirev from the KHL. There are also a bunch of young minor leaguers like Michael Joly, Shawn St-Amant that could figure in along with some solid AHL vets like Reid Petryk and Alex Belzile.
Unlike this year, the Avs will field a complete AHL team in Loveland so they can’t skimp there. They need to add another 12-16 forwards overall, at least 8-10 on NHL contracts. That’s before any trade happens. This is a large amount of movement and can’t be generated exclusively by guys under control right now. They will have to go and get some free agents of some sort or make another roster player for prospects/picks trade. Raiding the bargain bin with AHL trades should play a larger role than usual.
Zadorov – Johnson
Girard – Barrie
Lindholm – Mironov (both LHDs)
Warsofsky – Meloche
Pool of internal replacements: Barberio (UFA), Nemeth (RFA), Siemens (RFA), Bigras (RFA), Geertsen (RFA), Graham (RFA), Anderson (Amateur – Rights Expiring) plus Timmins and Makar are eligible for both AHL & NHL duty.
This is where some good horse trading at the deadline could make a sneaky good impact. The Avs have 3 solid RHD prospects in Meloche, Timmins and Makar but nothing on the left side that can help at the NHL level. Chris Bigras will be subject to waivers next season and might not clear so if the Avs aren’t planning on him making the NHL roster (they shouldn’t) then trading him for something makes oodles of sense. Andrei Mironov hasn’t earned the trust of the staff so far and probably won’t so that’s an issue to keep an eye on.
Looking forward the goal is to populate the AHL D roster, firm up defensive depth for the NHL and keep flexibility for the 3 young rightys they have on the horizon. That’s not easy but they have to have space for them to grow into.
Pool of internal replacements: Bernier (UFA), Martin (RFA), Hammond (UFA), Cannata (UFA) plus Adam Werner and Petr Kvaca from the Avs European goalie stock.
Yes, the Avs have a 1-person depth chart at the most important position. They also can’t trade Bernier right now so the choices are re-sign or lose him for nothing. We all know the goalie situation in the org is dire and a complete mess, at least on the surface. Years of neglect plus losing Pickard in the XD make this a tough puzzle to work through. Spencer Martin is not ready for full-time NHL backup duty yet so even that isn’t much of a help. Needs are backup/starter in the NHL, backup and/or starter in the AHL and 5th goalie slot. Right now there is no ECHL affiliate for next season so even the 5th slot is problematic. You’d think with a former goalie running your development program you wouldn’t get into a spot like this but here we are.
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Most of these situations are off-season related but Joe Sakic has always said he’s on lookout for anything that makes the organization better. If he can check an item or two off the shopping list early so much the better. The shopping list is long and quality ingredients are scarce in July. If a true buyers market evolves and upgrades can be made without dealing draft capital then they need to take advantage.