The Colorado Avalanche have made two trades ahead of Monday’s trade deadline, and the strong feeling is that they are not done yet. Whatever happens over the next few days can only be speculated on right now, but even after two moves, the team has created a new identity.
The arrival of Josh Manson and Nico Sturm may well be overshadowed by what happens in the next few days, but right now, they have taken the Avalanche on a new course. Many fans asked for the defense to become bigger and tougher, and Manson brings exactly that. While Colorado’s love for Tyson Jost was strong, he is not a fourth-line center, and with the arrival of Sturm, the Avalanche now have one.
Two moves in, probably more to come, and we’ve already seen signs that the front office is answering the question marks that have hovered over the team.
Josh Manson Solves Defensive Size Problems
The Avalanche’s defense corps may be the best in the league right now, but there is always a question of their size, and how they cope against a heavy game. Fans can worry no more because Manson will solve that problem.
In an ideal world, the Avalanche will have Bowen Byram in the lineup for the playoffs, though (of course) this isn’t confirmed, and he’s currently off the roster. If Byram does play, Colorado either has the luxury of playing Manson on their third pairing or the ability to shelter Byram a little and ease him back into play.
Samuel Girard, in particular, faced a tough time against the Vegas Golden Knights in the playoffs last season, a series which the Avalanche lost, with the Golden Knights capitalizing on his small size. So, we may see Manson placed alongside Girard, which will certainly help.
In terms of fixing the problem on the backend, this move went a long way to appeasing what Avalanche fans have been talking about for a while.
Nico Sturm Offers a Cheaper, Better Suited Alternative on the Fourth Line
Many will be disappointed with the departure of Jost, a well-liked player who everyone wanted to do well. Unfortunately, that never really materialized, though it might in the future.
That has led to Jost playing a fourth-line role, which doesn’t suit his skills. He’s under 40% in the faceoff circle, which isn’t a trait many teams look for in their fourth-line center, and while he has improved his penalty-killing, the Avalanche, overall, are not great at killing penalties; something they want to improve on.
He’s also small, and when you look at the bottom six as a whole, it has a lot of smaller players, including Logan O’Connor, J.T. Compher, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Darren Helm. Something had to give, and when you look at the roster, it is no surprise that Jost was the one they chose.
Avalanche fans will remember Jost and will certainly wish him well, but in terms of the team, management improved their bottom-six very slightly with the addition of Sturm because he is a true fourth-line center. His size also makes the forward group closer to having a new identity of being bigger and tougher to play against.
Avs Dominoes Are Falling
These moves provide two solid additions to the team. But when you look at their makeup, both point to something else happening in the future, with a lot of focus on bringing in a high-end forward.
For Manson, the Avalanche paid a little more for the Anaheim Ducks to retain 50% of his salary, which they didn’t need to do to get under the cap. When you look at the Jost move, Sturm is more than 50% cheaper than Jost. So again, more money is saved against the cap.
Why make those moves if something else isn’t in the works? With the injury to Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado can claim plenty of cap relief should they move him onto long-term injured reserve (LTIR). Throw all of that together, and the decks have been cleared for a big move, and the biggest Stanley Cup push we have seen in Colorado for many years.
Craig Jones is a freelance NHL writer from the UK, covering the Colorado Avalanche. Watching the NHL from afar, Craig has followed the Avs for more than two decades, and wrote about them for almost one. To get the UK perspective of the NHL and everything Colorado, follow Craig on Twitter @craigjones29.