Avalanche Should Trade Girard & Not Re-Sign Kadri

The Colorado Avalanche front office—club president Joe Sakic and newly minted general manager Chris McFarland—have been busy this offseason. They shored up the team’s goaltending situation by acquiring Alex Georgiev in a trade with the New York Rangers, they gave well-deserved multi-year contracts to Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen, and they brought back veteran contributors Andrew Cogliano and Darren Helm.

But there are still several questions the Avalanche need to answer, and they need to do it with $3.9 million in cap space. Two moves, both by subtraction, will give the front office the widest array of options and position the team for a run at a second consecutive Stanley Cup.

The Case Against Keeping Samuel Girard

Defenseman Samuel Girard has shown flashes of exceptional play during his time in Colorado. The 24-year-old native of Roberval, Quebec, had 28 points in the 2021-22 regular season and three points in seven postseason games before suffering a broken sternum in the Avalanche’s second round series against the St. Louis Blues. Regular observers of the Avalanche immediately recognize Girard’s superior skating skills. His speed, finesse, and agility are only eclipsed on the team by Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar.

Colorado Avalanche's Samuel Girard
Colorado Avalanche’s Samuel Girard (AP Photo/Chris Seward, File)

But on a team loaded with fast-skating, finesse players—MacKinnon, Makar, Mikko Rantanen, Devon Toews, and Bowen Byram all fit that bill—Girard is expendable. All five of the aforementioned players bring a combination of finesse and physicality, three of them from the blue line. While Girard, who is only 5-foot-10, is an excellent shot blocker (he was fourth on the team with 3.72 blocked shots/60 minutes of play), he is not a physical player. He was 25th on the team with 2.68 hits/60 minutes of play.

With Makar, Toews, Byram, Erik Johnson, and Josh Manson expected to be five of the six starting defenders, Colorado has the luxury of experimenting with a mix of young players and veterans like Kurtis MacDermid to fill the spot vacated by Girard, should the team move him.

Girard’s contract has an average annual value (AAV) of $5 million through 2027, making him a must-move for Sakic and McFarland. He’s young and skilled enough for Colorado to find a suitor, which would allow the club to replenish some of the team’s mid- to late-round draft capital and possibly acquire some offensive depth. If the Avalanche can move Girard, it will increase their cap space to $8.9 million, which will allow them to address several needs.

Avalanche Should Pass on Kadri

Trading Girard would give the Avalanche enough money to sign free agent Nazem Kadri, who will likely command an AAV north of $8 million and who will undoubtedly be looking for a longer-term deal. Kadri played a large role in bringing the Stanley Cup back to Denver, and his courageous performance in the playoffs made him a fan favorite. Even with that, the Avalanche should pass on Kadri for two significant reasons.

Related: Nazem Kadri Likely to Become Extremely Overpaid

First, the London, Ontario native didn’t just have a career year, his numbers were so far above his career averages as to be, statistically speaking, an outlier. Kadri averaged 1.22 points per game last season, nearly a full point higher than his career average prior to last season (0.64 points per game). Players at age 31 (he’ll be 32 when the season starts) very rarely sustain that kind of growth. While Kadri seems like a new player with a new outlook, water seeks its level, and you have to expect him to regress toward his career numbers. A contract at $8 million per year or more would be drastically overpaying.

Second, the Avalanche have other key contracts to renegotiate at the end of this season, and a large, multi-year deal for Kadri would force the front office to make difficult choices on players like Byram and Alex Newhook. The smart play is to let Kadri walk.

Give Compher a Chance

As of this writing, with the players already under contract for next season, the Avalanche’s offense will likely look something like this:

Line 1 – MacKinnon / Gabriel Landeskog / Rantanen

Line 2 – Nichushkin / Lehkonen / J.T. Compher

Line 3 – Newhook / Cogliano / ??

Line 4 – Helm / Logan O’Connor / One of several young players

The biggest question is whether or not J.T. Compher or Alex Newhook have done enough to earn a spot among the top six forwards. I would argue Compher, based on his performance in the postseason, has. His five playoff goals were tied for seventh on the club with two other players, including Mikko Rantanen, a perennial fixture on Colorado’s top line. And that was with Compher averaging almost seven minutes less ice time per game than Rantanen.

J.T. Compher Colorado Avalanche
J.T. Compher, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

At 27 years old, Compher is finally developing into his full potential. He’s also in the final year of his contract (AAV of $3.5 million), allowing the front office to move him at the 2023 trade deadline if he doesn’t show a sustained ability to play at a higher level.

If head coach Jared Bednar moves Compher to the second line, it will mean the team needs a third or fourth-line skater, costing far less than someone of Kadri’s level. The savings can be put toward third and fourth line depth, as well as putting money in the bank for contracts expiring at the end of the coming season, including Newhook, Byram, and, of course, MacKinnon.

Move Girard, Let Kadri Walk

Freeing $5 million in cap space by moving Girard now and making the decision to not re-sign Kadri will open a wide variety of opportunities for the Avalanche. Though it’s difficult for the club and its fans to part with loyal players who have contributed well, the team will be best positioned for the future by making these moves now.

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