Colorado Avalanche: 5 Possible Deals To Be Made Before the NHL Trade Deadline
Four weeks ago, few hockey fans thought that the Colorado Avalanche would be officially on the "sellers" list of NHL teams approaching the 2011 trade deadline. A 10-game losing streak caused the Avalanche to put up the "For Sale" signs, and the overhaul began last weekend. A pair of deals saw the team adding some new faces and missing some familiar ones. And it's likely that further changes are on the way.
We take a look at some potential moves the team could pull the trigger on before Monday's mid-afternoon deadline.
Royal Blockbuster: Big Names Moved to Los Angeles
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One rumor, officially from the water cooler at the Denver Post (Per Avs beat writer Adrian Dater), has Colorado sending star Paul Stastny, winger TJ Galiardi, and another player or draft pick to the Los Angeles Kings. In return, the Avalanche would receive defenseman Jack Johnson, goaltender Jonathan Bernier, and forward Jarret Stoll.
This deal is probably the least likely to gain any footing and actually happen. The Kings are actually pretty high on their backup netminder Bernier, even though they have a great starter in Johnathan Quick. They also are asking a high price for Johnson, I'm told.
That being said, Stastny would provide that 1-2 punch with Anze Kopitar the Kings have been seeking for a couple of seasons. Galiardi would fit in well on any of the Kings' top three lines, and an additional player like John-Michael Liles would make up for the loss of Johnson.
From the Avs' perspective, the deal would further their mission of beefing up on the blue-line. Adding Erik Johnson, and then Jack, would provide a physically formidable defensive corps. Bernier would solve their goaltending woes, and Stoll would be one more body on an injury depleted roster.
It's unlikely the Avalanche will part with Stastny, and the other consideration is the salary cap. He and Liles make over 10 million dollars toward the cap, so some salary would need to come back to the Rocky Mountains. However if both teams want it done, they'll find a way.
Northern Exposure: Liles to Toronto
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Many are the rumors emanating from this hockey hotbed. Maple Leafs' GM Brian Burke has come out and said his team is in the market for a defenseman, and Liles is one of the bigger names said to be available.
Colorado would likely demand at least a prospect and/or a second round draft pick in return for Liles, and Toronto has both. More importantly, Burke has shown that he is willing to wheel and deal.
Liles would provide insurance for the Leafs in the wake of trading away Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle. If they are able to re-sign Kaberle in the offseason, they will have significantly upgraded their defense. If they are not, they still are strong with a pairing of Dion Phaneuf and Liles.
The common theme between this rumor and other possible deals is the salary cap. Liles' $4.2 million cap hit can be absorbed by the Maple Leafs, but the situation with the Avalanche being so close to the salary cap floor would require a similar cap hit in return.
One intriguing name could be goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere. The netminder has been rumored to be on his way out of Toronto, especially with youngster James Reimer putting up such good numbers. Colorado just dealt for a goaltender in Brian Elliott from Ottawa, but if he struggles over the weekend as he did in his Avalanche debut, the team may be looking for another option.
Flying the Coop: Hunwick to Chicago
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Whispers out of Chicago have the defending Cup champions shopping for a mobile, puck-moving defenseman. Matt Hunwick has been named as one of those targeted.
Since his trade from Boston to Colorado earlier this season, Hunwick has struggled, failing to score a goal, and registering only six assists. His play in the defensive zone has long been scrutinized, and he has become somewhat of a scapegoat among Avalanche fans for the teams' troubles of late.
Still, his play recently has improved. With the Avalanche moving Kevin Shattenkirk and Adam Foote being out of the lineup for a significant stretch, Hunwick has gotten more ice time and his play with the puck seems to be more intentional.
The Blackhawks have a strong physical presence on the blueline, but could benefit from the speed and size of a Matt Hunwick, if for no other reason than to increase depth.
A fresh start after a disastrous move to a disastrous team may improve Hunwick's play. He is only 25, so he still has an upside and can develop further into a solid player.
Chicago has the pieces to give, and could likely send some salary back to Colorado since they can absorb so much. That, along with a draft pick, would seem to be a beneficial deal for both teams.
Melo-Drama 2: Stastny/Liles to New York
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Same story here as with Los Angeles, except the Avalanche may be more willing to move two of their stars out of the conference.
The Rangers would likely be asked to part with all-star defenseman Marc Staal, which would be tough, but getting a bona-fide top-line center to play with Marian Gaborik could outweigh that loss, especially if a player like Liles comes with.
Such a package would almost certainly involve a first round draft pick, giving the Avalanche bountiful draft options this summer.
Being as though the Rangers only have about $2.25 million in cap space, some manipulation would be required. Former Avalanche star Chris Drury is a possible option. With the likely retirement of captain Adam Foote this offseason, Drury would fill that leadership void.
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There are a wide range of deals that could be made by the Avalanche before Monday. Perhaps it's a sign that John Liles' name has popped up in so many rumors. However, his name always seems to come up at the trade deadline. Will this be the year he is actually moved?
With the acquisition of Jay McClement from St. Louis, Colorado has a plethora of centers. Moving Stastny may help, and allow star Matt Duchene to assume the no. 1 role next year. However, it's more likely that a lower echelon player will find himself in a different jersey next week. Ryan O'Reilly's name has been mentioned. While it would be odd for the Avalanche to deal another of their young players they were supposedly building around, it's entirely possible.
Players like Brandon Yip, David Jones, and Kevin Porter have played well enough to get a decent return, and the Avalanche may feel that a couple new faces may benefit the team greatly. If management wants to address the defense further, they may need to move one or more of them.
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The number and magnitude of trades the team makes will depend on what management decides the team needs. If they decide the team would benefit from more of a dismantling, we will see a number of transactions. If they want to let the current roster develop more, they will stay quieter and re-asses in the summer.
Is one blockbuster deal enough? The Stewart-Shattenkirk-Johnson-McClement move shocked everyone. Is the general manager willing to deal further? Is anybody on the team safe? We'll find out on Monday.