As Monday’s trade deadline approaches, the Colorado Avalanche addressed their two major depth needs, in their defense and at the goaltender position. The Avalanche acquired veteran goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. They also acquired defenceman Patrik Nemeth from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for their fourth-round pick in the 2022 Draft.
Related: 2021 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker
Each of these two acquisitions could be major difference-makers in the Avalanche’s pursuit for the Stanley Cup. However, one acquisition might have come at an unfortunate cost for another player who was just starting to shine. The latter might require the team to make tough depth decisions for the defense moving forward. Here is what each acquisition means for the team.
This trade might have come as more of a shock to many Avalanche fans. On Friday night, the team saw a promising performance from their other backup goaltender, recently acquired Jonas Johansson. (from ‘New backup goalie Jonas Johansson joins Avalanche for road trip to Arizona,’ Denver Post, 03/21/2021) He had some struggles in his first two starts with the team, surrendering four goals against the Arizona Coyotes on March 23, and two goals on 27 shots on April 2 against the St. Louis Blues. However, Friday night’s performance was a night Johansson will never forget. He made 28 saves for his first NHL career shutout.
It just seemed he was progressively getting better in each game he started. The 25-year-old is coming off what has been a rough season with the Buffalo Sabres. Just as it looked like Johansson was going to become the team’s new backup, they traded for the veteran Dubnyk. While this was disappointing for Johansson, Dubnyk might be the solution that gives the team an extra boost as a backup netminder. The 34-year-old Dubnyk gives the team experience as a member of the NHL for the past 12 years.
He has had a rough patch of seasons and recent starts, but maybe a change of scenery to a more competitive team that will offer exceptional defensive support, is just what he needs for a turnaround.
“I’m just very excited,” Dubnyk told The Athletic on being traded to a major competitor. “I’m just excited to be on the right end of it. I’ve been on the other side of it way too often.” (from ‘Devan Dubnyk Q&A: On leaving the Sharks, the Avs’ upside and texts he got after the trade: ‘Did you win the lottery?’,’ The Athletic, 04/10/2021) Dubnyk has playoff experience in his stint with the Minnesota Wild between 2014-2020.
By this season’s numbers, Dubnyk also looks like an upgrade to the Avalanche’s past two backup options. His .898 save percentage on the year is better than that of previously used backups Johansson and Hunter Miska. Though with starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer being worked to the bone and a busy stretch of games coming up for the team, head coach Jared Bednar hinted at needing both Johansson and Dubnyk’s services.
Like Dubnyk, Nemeth adds a veteran presence to the roster in an area where they could really use some — at the back end of their defense. The Avalanche’s defense has suffered several injuries including blows to Bowen Byram, Dennis Gilbert, and, prior to the season, veteran Erik Johnson. Nemeth had a previous stint with the Avalanche between 2017-2019.
In his previous stint, Nemeth had a particularly impressive 2017-18 campaign where he put up plus-27 rating with 15 points in 68 games. He best serves as a shutdown defenceman on the back end of the ice, something the Avalanche could use with a heavy set of attacking defensemen.
Down the Line
Everything has clearly come together at this point in the year for the team. With their moves for veterans and the potential for more moves to come, the Avalanche have clearly shown that they are ready to take the next step in their championship pursuit. They currently sit atop the Honda West Division ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights by four points, with 16 games remaining in the regular season.
Ben Rossi covers the Colorado Avalanche for THW. He can also be found writing and co-hosting the Exit Velo Podcast for the website BackSportsPage. For BackSportsPage he covers hockey, the Oakland Athletics, Major League Baseball news, and other sports stories that stretch beyond the playing field. Graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Denver where he covered the Denver Pioneers college hockey program as an undergraduate staff writer for the DU Clarion.