The buyout window has opened and the NHL Draft is rapidly approaching. The next couple of weeks will see NHL teams start the process of making changes to begin forming their rosters for the start of the 2016-17 season. The Colorado Avalanche have been in the news with many experts predicting that Joe Sakic will be moving big players this offseason.
To most people, however, moving the likes of Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie don’t make much sense for the Avalanche. So rather than moving the team’s best players, what players should the Avalanche consider moving this offseason?
Let me stop you right there. Yes, I’m well aware that Jarome Iginla has a no-movement clause in his contract and that, back in November, he said that he wasn’t going to leave Denver. This does not change the fact that the Avalanche should work to move him. Though Iginla did have 29 goals in his first season as a member of the Avalanche, this past season he fell off in a big way. He did still have 22 goals and 13 power play goals, but his even strength play suffered in a big way. Nine even strength goals on the season is simply not what is expected from him. The Avalanche are a team that like to play fast and furious, and Iginla has simply lost the ability to keep up with the younger players on this team.
Moving Iginla, as I mentioned, could be a chore but it is not impossible. Iginla is likely in the last year of his professional career, or one of the last years, and his desire to win a Stanley Cup has to still be burning. He also has to realize that the likelihood of that happening in Colorado is very unlikely. I’m sure he does not want to uproot his family suddenly, but the benefit of the offseason is that the move can happen fast and early in the summer to give him and his family time to get settled. This trade is not impossible and absolutely should be explored.
Brad Stuart had a tough start to his time with the Avalanche, being forced into a top-pairing role when it was beyond his capability to do so. This past season Stuart spent the vast majority of the season on injured reserve. To say that his time with the Colorado Avalanche has not lived up to what the Avalanche wanted from him is a bit of an understatement.
Trading Stuart is probably just a dream. The return would be next to nothing and the Avalanche would likely have to retain some piece of his salary, but if it is possible to get him traded, even if it is for a conditional seventh-round pick, do it. Since that probably won’t happen, the most likely way to get Stuart off of the Avalanche is to buy out his contract. The only down side with this is that Stuart’s contract is a 35+ contract, which means that the entirety of his cap hit will stay with the Avalanche next season even if he is bought out. Even so, this would be addition by subtraction, and keeping Stuart’s cap hit to not have him take up a roster spot is worth it.
Nick Holden is another defenseman who ended up being way over his head by the end of things. His first season with the Avalanche, Holden had a great deal of success. He scored 10 goals in just 54 games, earning himself a contract extension. Since then, his production has fallen off, taking away about the only excuse there was to overlook his defensive issues. To his credit, Holden does play a more physical brand of hockey than many people on the Avalanche and, when he is playing well, he can make his presence known.
Again, there would not be a great return for Holden but trading him could be a possibility. He has had some success at the NHL level and teams could reason that he could be a salvageable player so long as he is played in a role that suits him. He is definitely not a second-pairing defender, but if he was played in a sheltered third-pair role or a seventh defenseman, that could fit him better. This would be another case of addition by subtraction for the Avalanche.
Perhaps the most valuable player on this list, John Mitchell is not a player that the Avalanche should trade because his skill set has either fallen off or not lived up to what it should be. There is a lot to like about Mitchell and he plays his role very well, generally speaking. The only thing that really works against him is his contract. Mitchell’s contract carries a $1.8 million cap hit; now while this is not a huge number, it is probably a little bit more than you would want to be paying your fourth-line center.
Again, Mitchell is not a bad player, he is a pretty good player in a replaceable role. The Avalanche should be able to find several different options for much less money. The return won’t be a great one, but a little bit more salary cap space is always a good thing.
Oh boy, now I did it. Yes, the Colorado Avalanche should attempt to move Cody McLeod. Now don’t get me wrong, I love McLeod and guys like him. They are popular with their teammates and a well-placed fight can help to turn the tide in games. That being said, his usefulness to the Avalanche has run its course. If the Avalanche want to be a team that is fast and can out skate their opponents, then they need to be that type of team from top to bottom and they have to be willing to cut the dead weight. At this point in his career, that pretty much describes McLeod.
Yes, he can chip in on the offensive side from time to time, but it is few and far between. He doesn’t add much other than a fight here and there and his continued presence does little to help the team.