Colorado Avalanche Must Trade a Defenseman Before the Playoffs

Patrick OlsenContributor IIIJanuary 28, 2012

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 23:  Erik Johnson #6 of the Colorado Avalanche delivers a hit to Dana Tyrell #42 of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Pepsi Center on December 23, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche has a problem teams love to have: They have too many defensemen in the young variety.

Currently, the Avs have eight defensemen on their roster and two more who will be ready next year. Tyson Barrie may already be good enough. The needs the Avalanche have are scoring and wingers, and they have the pieces to bring a top player to Denver and could maybe bring back their first-round pick.

Jan Hejda—Under contract for three more years and should be in Colorado for the remainder. He is not the piece to go

Kyle Quincey—Restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the year. He has skill, speed, size and a shot that always seems to get through traffic. This is a player that could bring back a great player from a team in need of defense. The 26-year-old could be on his way out in favor of the up in coming prospects. Any team would love to have him.

Erik Johnson—Pending RFA will not go anywhere. The Avs paid big to get him from St. Louis last year in order to have a top defenseman for years to come. Number 6 is only 24 years of age and has tremendous upside. Look for him to be on the top defense pairing in the playoffs against other teams best players.

Ryan O'Byrne—One year left on the 27-year-old's contract, at $1.8 million. He is great for size and leadership. This is a player on the bubble he could be moved in a package, but his value is greater on the Avs than any other team. If he is to be moved I would expect it to happen in the offseason.

Matt Hunwick—The Michigan native has been a huge disappointment since coming over from Boston last season and has seen his minutes plunge as a result. He is generally only used when one or more of the other defensemen are battling injury. He is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at year's end, and I would suggest Avalanche GM Greg Sherman shop him for a mid-round draft pick if he can. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he was kept there as insurance for other injuries.

Ryan Wilson—Has been better than expected this year. He has really picked up his game and other than a concussion has had no problems this year. He is one player I would hate to see go but just might be the easiest to move as his $1.25 million cap hit this year and pending RFA status works with almost every team. He is also just 24. He could be part of a package or maybe just a straight-up trade for a second- or third-line winger.

Shane O'Brien—Has been phenomenal this year for Colorado. He is a UFA at year's end, and I'm sure Sherman will offer him a contract. Not only has his play been good for someone expected to be a fifth/sixth defenseman, but his personality keeps stress down on everyone during rough patches. He will not be moved.

Stefan Elliott—Outstanding rookie for the Avs. He will continue to get better and will be a big part of the future for the team's defense.

Tyson Barrie—He is ready for NHL action now but could not knock multiple players down the depth chart in training camp. The 20-year-old is fifth among all defensemen in the American Hockey League and is still in his first year. He will only get better and would draw serious interest if he were shopped around. This is the type of player who would be packaged in a deal to bring a top NHL player back. It is unlikely but possible knowing Sherman's trade history.

Duncan Siemens—Was picked 11th overall in last year's entry draft and will have a good shot at making the big club next year. He is in the same type of position as Barrie, and I do believe he will be at least considered for trade before next September. He is another player who could one day be a Norris Trophy candidate and would have great return. Look for Siemens to be put to use one way or another by Sherman.

With all these players cramming the roster and many teams looking to upgrade the back end I believe there will be a big move before February 27th. Colorado may look very good in the playoffs.