The trade deadline is 144 days away, but the NHL standings are starting to settle only a few weeks into the season. Several teams have started a calculated precipitous race to the bottom, with potential superstar Shane Wright the presumed first overall pick of the upcoming 2022 draft class. This list surveys the league for depreciated assets and under-utilized talents, with the Colorado Avalanche system well-suited to accommodating offensively gifted players. Here are four cost-effective trade options that will likely be available come the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline because of team performance, their individual role, and the flexibility offered by their contract status.
Ryan Getzlaf – Anaheim Ducks
Ryan Getzlaf, the longtime captain of the Anaheim Ducks, is the first entry, and represents what is a common factor among the listed trade targets. The burly center is a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA), and holds a no-move clause (NMC), which allows him to dictate his future if things go south for the Ducks. The Ducks currently hold the final automatic playoff spot in the Pacific Division but may struggle to keep pace as Western Conference heavyweights in the Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights find their footing. Anaheim’s management and Getzlaf have entertained trade talks in the past, and the draft capital gained in a trade centered around the most tenured player in Ducks history helps them set up for the next generation.
Getzlaf appears rejuvenated by Anaheim’s youth movement, with his 11 points in 12 games this season representing his most productive scoring pace since the 2017-18 campaign. Although he isn’t the most fleet of foot, he’s a reliable power-play contributor who provides the guidance and poise a young Colorado squad could benefit from in their quest for an elusive Stanley Cup. On a team that boasts Nathan MacKinnon, Nazem Kadri, and Tyson Jost down the middle, Getzlaf can expect a lighter workload against less challenging opposition, allowing him to flex his creative muscle in a strictly offensive role. He can perform spot duty in a defensive capacity if necessary, as Anaheim has hovered around 50 percent in terms of shot- and chance-share with Getzlaf on the ice over the past three seasons.
As the Avalanche find themselves squirming under cap constraints, the fact that Getzlaf is on a cheap expiring deal works in Colorado’s favour. If Anaheim retains half of his salary, Getzlaf only counts for $1.5 million on the cap and even less as cap space accrues throughout the season. Veteran center Darren Helm ($1 million cap hit) could be sent the other way to ease cap issues, and the lack of contracts to either forward beyond this season means the Ducks won’t be hamstrung by salary commitments in future seasons. If Anaheim is on the margins of the playoff race come the spring, a Getzlaf trade benefits the long-term health of the franchise while simultaneously giving a long-serving veteran a chance at capturing a second Stanley Cup.
Rickard Rakell – Anaheim Ducks
The Avalanche suffered from an exodus of scoring talent this past offseason, losing 20 percent of their goals from last season in the form of the departing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Joonas Donskoi, and Brandon Saad. While J.T. Compher and Nazem Kadri have found early success in making up for the lost offense, the Avalanche are still struggling to score, with their 2.9 goals per game ranking 16th in the NHL — a far cry from their league-leading 197 tallies from last season. That’s where Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks comes in to shore up Colorado’s underwhelming forward depth.
He recovers just over five dump-ins a game, second on the Ducks, which fits in perfectly with Colorado’s up-tempo system that emphasizes forechecking and puck retrieval. It’s not unfeasible to think that Rakell elevates his output in tandem with the Avalanche’s dual focus on speed and a robust cycle offense. Rakell displays incisive vision at times, completing 1.56 high-danger passes per 60 minutes last season. He excels at putting teammates into dangerous positions near the slot, as well as creating offense for himself if needed.
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Although Rakell demonstrates a hidden playmaking instinct, his true offensive contributions lie in his shooting. The Swedish winger has scored at least 20 goals in a season on three separate occasions, with two of those seasons seeing him eclipse 30 total goals. Through his first eight games in 2021-22, Rakell has scored four goals in eight games and taken 3.63 shots per game, the highest rate of his career. Since 2019-20, he’s launched 8.9 shots per-60-minutes at 5-on-5, the 35th-most prolific rate among NHL forwards in that time. He’s not just shooting aimlessly either. He’s carving out opportune scoring chances for himself, as his individual expected goals rate (evaluates the quality of his individual chances) places him just outside the top 20 since 2019. For a team loaded with offensive talent, adding another versatile threat makes Colorado all the more dangerous.
Like his Ducks captain and teammate, Rakell is on an expiring deal, with no cap commitment owed to him beyond this season. Although he comes in at a pricey $3.8 million, Anaheim could be compelled to retain half of his salary if they are far gone in the playoff hunt, and draft capital allows them to continue their rebuilding (or retooling, pick your preferred nomenclature) efforts as they move into the next generation.
Braden Holtby – Dallas Stars
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Avalanche are struggling in net. Sub-par performances from offseason addition Darcy Kuemper, Jonas Johansson, and recurring injuries to Pavel Francouz have rendered Colorado’s goaltending situation to an unpredictable carousel of who’s hot on any given night. With expectations reaching their peak after consecutive postseason failures, a goaltending conundrum is the last thing general manager Joe Sakic needs to consider in his plans. Luckily, the trade market should bear fruit in terms of veteran goaltending insurance, with Braden Holtby an enticing target ahead of the March 31st deadline.
Although the Dallas Stars still have time to challenge for a playoff spot, Holtby’s contractual status (pending UFA) and affordable cap hit ($2 million) make him an attractive trade candidate. Additionally, the Stars’ prized prospect Jake Oettinger is patiently marinating in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Texas Stars. If Dallas covers a portion of Holtby’s salary or a contract is flipped the other way, Colorado can easily fit his salary commitment under the cap ceiling and bolster their netminding ranks as they head into pivotal playoff encounters.
Holtby’s .895 save percentage (SV%) ranked 66th out of 72 goalies who played at least 1000 minutes from 2019-21. Through seven games for the Stars, he’s put up a sparkling .924 SV% to keep Dallas from falling through the Western Conference crevice. Although Dallas offers much more in terms of defensive insulation than Holtby’s previous team, it’s promising to see him rebound nonetheless. If he can continue to rekindle his Stanley Cup-winning form with the Washington Capitals, the Avalanche could do worse than having Holtby backstop Kuemper in their eternal quest for glory.
Avalanche Have Plenty of Trade Targets
Even as we can start to identify teams that will likely fall out of the playoff race and sell off assets to the highest bidders, the season is long and winding. Organizations on the precipice of collapse in November could be leading the division in (insert trade deadline month), which radically alters the trade market. As the playoff picture gradually takes shape, a fresh set of candidates appear for consideration as previous sellers drop out of the discussion. No matter which specific team plays the role of auctioneer at the 2022 trade deadline, the Avalanche can count on having a litany of attractive options to pursue in their quest for elusive playoff success.
Marko is an aspiring sportswriter with a passion for crafting stories while using a combination of the eye-test and (shudder) analytics, which is complemented by an academic background in criminology and political science.
When not covering the Colorado Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers, he can also be found pouring countless hours into various sports video games franchises, indulging in science fiction novels, and taking long runs around his neighbourhood.