Jonathan Bernier

Getty

Sakic’s patience pays off for Avs in Duchene trade

6 Comments

All of a sudden, things look a lot more positive for the Colorado Avalanche, not to mention how people view Joe Sakic as a GM.

Now, that’s not to say it was easy. The Avalanche took a lot of heat before finally pulling the trigger in trading Matt Duchene, but with the monster deal involving three teams, Colorado was able to land a pretty staggering package of picks, prospects, and Hamburglar.

Prospects: Samuel Girard, Vladislav Kamenev, and Shane Bowers.

Picks: First-rounder from Senators (see details below for how it is briefly lottery-protected), second-rounder in 2018 from Predators, third-rounder in 2019 from Ottawa.

Hamburglar: Andrew Hammond

Phew, that’s quite the haul for the Avalanche. Here’s the thing: I don’t think any single player in this deal will end up better than Duchene (or Kyle Turris). If that’s the only way you’ll judge a trade, then after all this time, Sakic may still lose.

On the other hand, it was clear that Duchene needed to go. With two years left at $6M per pop, it’s plausible that he would have left eventually, and for nothing but cap space. Even if the Avalanche re-signed Duchene in an alternate scenario, are they truly primed to contend during his peak years?

[Breaking down blockbuster Matt Duchene, Kyle Turris trade]

This deal seems close to optimal for the Avalanche as far as realistic “gets” are concerned; such a choice only seems wiser when you consider that Travis Hamonic is struggling and injured with Calgary, as just one example.

The cooler element is that, for the first time in a long time, it feels like things are trending up for the Avalanche.

Consider the players who are leading the charge for the refreshingly respectable 8-6-0 Avs. Nathan MacKinnon has been on a tear lately, reminding us that it’s a little weird to be disappointed in a guy who’s still just 22. Tyson Barrie ties MacKinnon with a team-leading 14 points, and he’s old by Avs standards at 27. Mikko Rantanen is already looking great at 21. Alex Kerfoot could be a keeper at 23. J.T. Compher (22) and Tyson Jost (19) are showing intrigue. It’s hard to believe that Gabriel Landeskog is only 25.

Heck, the Avalanche may just revive Nail Yakupov, who’s been given up on a lot for a player who is just 24.

Add intriguing first-rounder Calle Makar to that group and the Avalanche were already enjoying some reasons for optimism. This mixture of picks and prospects just gives them more ammunition.

Girard, 19, is the gem of this group. To my eyes, he was already showing some real promise with the Predators, and he’ll almost certainly get more of a chance to show what he can do (and, yes, maybe also get exposed a bit more) on an Avalanche team that sorely needs defense.

Kamenev, 21, is one of those prospects who could go either way. The good news, though, is that he’s been putting up solid AHL numbers. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman broke down the trio (subscription required) in greater detail, arguing that Kamenev and Shane Bowers, 18, may ultimately be depth or mid-range guys.

In case you’re wondering, Girard (47th in 2016) and Kamenev (42nd in 2014) were second-round picks while Bowers went 28th overall in this past draft.

TSN’s Scott Cullen did a nice job breaking down how those draft picks might work out for the Avalanche:

The haul of draft picks increases the overall value of the deal for Colorado. Ottawa’s first-round pick could be in the middle of the round, give or take a few spots, and that should generally yield an NHL-calibre player. Second and third-round picks bring about a one-in-three and one-in-four chance, respectively of yielding an NHL player. For a team like Colorado, coming off a historically terrible season, obtaining five young assets (plus Hammond) for Duchene is the smart long-term play.

Ultimately, this deal could go in a lot of ways for the Avalanche. It’s important to remember that a significant element of all of this could very well be player development.

Possible value for the Hamburglar?

It’s fair to say that, from Ottawa’s perspective, trading Andrew Hammond came down to a pure “salary dump.”

I wonder if Sakic might be able to do something interesting here, though. At the moment, Semyon Varlamov is on a two-year deal at $5.9M per season, while backup Jonathan Bernier has a one-year, $2.75M contract.

If you’re a team hurting for a backup goalie, call Colorado. Sakic could conceivably make something work in a variety of ways, whether it be moving Hammond or maybe retaining some salary in a trade involving Bernier.

***

Yes, that’s a lot to digest for the Avalanche, but in the spirit of the Hamburglar, at least Sakic provided Avalanche fans with a rare trade that feels like a Happy Meal.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Saturday was awful for great goalies

2 Comments

Look, there were some good-to-great goalies who enjoyed strong Saturday performances.

Jonathan Quick continued his strong beginning to 2017-18, getting two wins while allowing a single goal as the Kings beat the Sharks 4-1. Corey Crawford snubbed the dangerous Columbus Blue Jackets in Chicago’s 5-1 victory. Braden Holtby got the better of his regular Vezina rival Carey Price. The Nashville Predators still have no answer for Matt Murray. There’s no denying that Marc-Andre Fleury is off to a special start for Vegas, too.

Even in defeat, Craig Anderson sparkled in Ottawa’s shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. He gave Jonathan Bernier‘s stupendous stop a run for its money here:

Still, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline, it was often a brutal evening for some big-name goalies.

In some cases, the evenings were crushingly short, too, leaving those netminders to stare out in disbelief on the bench as games played out.

  • Henrik Lundqvist only made it through one period against the Toronto Maple Leafs, at times looking shocked that he even stayed out that long. Lundqvist yielded five goals on 17 shots as Toronto dominated early; at one point the Leafs crowd gave Lundqvist a “Bronx cheer” after making a save. Frederik Andersen would end up feeling Hank’s pain, as the Rangers stormed back to tie things up 5-5 heading into the third. The dumb, fun, Leafs also made it a tough night for Lundqvist’s backup, Ondrej Pavelec.

It’s been a very rough start for Lundqvist so far, who might miss having a backup like Antti Raanta to pick up his pieces.

  • Do you think Holtby gets annoyed by all the Carey Price hype?

While Holtby stopped 38 out of 39 shots to frustrate the Montreal Canadiens in Washington’s 6-1 win, Price couldn’t slow down red-hot Alex Ovechkin. Like Lundqvist, Price only made it through one period. In that case, he gave up one Ovechkin hat trick plus a T.J. Oshie goal. After a fantastic debut, this one hurt for the Habs.

  • At least in the cases of Lundqvist and Price, they were facing an onslaught of shots and scary offenses.

Cam Talbot sat on the Oilers’ bench with his mask still on after allowing three goals on just seven shots. It seemed like the Vancouver Canucks were going to embarrass Edmonton, but instead they just humiliated Talbot. Laurent Brossoit didn’t give up a goal, but Vancouver held off Connor McDavid & Co. for a 3-2 upset.

  • Robin Lehner fared a little better than his more highly regarded colleagues, almost making it through half of the Sabres’ eventual 6-3 loss to the Islanders. Still, the angry goalie gave up four goals on 16 shots before making way for Chad Johnson.

Butcher, Bratt (and Bernier) steal spotlight from Hischier in Devils’ opener

Getty
5 Comments

As the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, Nico Hischier had plenty of eyes on him as the New Jersey Devils opened their season against the Colorado Avalanche.

Despite a strong showing in which he fired six shots on goal, Hischier wasn’t able to score his first goal or assist in the NHL.

Instead, the Devils other young players stole the spotlight … which isn’t so bad, when you consider that it resulted in a dominant 4-1 victory.

Avalanche fans hoping not to see much of Will Butcher were wise not to look at the box score, as Butcher became the first Devils player to ever record three points in a rookie debut. He notched those three assists through just 8:13 of ice time through the first two periods. The Devils got cheeky with a great tweet in that regard:

Harsh.

Jonathan Bernier kept a 4-1 game from getting out of hand with some absolutely spell-binding saves. You know a stop is special when there’s basically zero margin for error, as Damon Severson was able to elevate his attempt at a seemingly gaping net:

That was so good, it almost made people forget about Bernier goofing about Nelson Mandela.

Jesper Bratt was the other young Devils player to make an impression, scoring a goal and an assist himself. And yes, there were a slew of bad/great/bad-great brat-related puns.

Hischier might not have scored, but he looked great. He surely earned some brownie points with Devils fans for stepping in when Erik Johnson landed a knee-to-knee hit on Kyle Palmieri:

It remains to be seen if Palmieri misses serious time, while Drew Stafford was also hurt during the game. Beyond the Avalanche being, um, flawed, those issues put a slight damper on what must have been an exhilarating afternoon for Devils fans.

So much happened. And much of it looked very, very good for this fascinating rebuild.

It’s Anaheim Ducks day at PHT

Getty
9 Comments

When Randy Carlyle began his second stint as Anaheim Ducks head coach, many wondered if there would be a big drop-off from Bruce Boudreau.

One season doesn’t make a coach’s run – unless you’re an unfortunate soul like Dallas Eakins – but so far, Carlyle’s been a solid success. The Ducks won the Pacific Division for the fifth season in a row and fell to the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Western Conference Final.

Granted, that’s not to say that it was all good, as the Ducks will surely pour over the way their playoff run ended. There’s also concern that the Ducks’ core could be aging out, at least in all of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler being 32.

The summer ended up being interesting.

GM Bob Murray let backup Jonathan Bernier walk in favor of Ryan Miller, while Reto Berra provides additional depth behind Miller and John Gibson. They didn’t lose Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson to the expansion draft, but Shea Theodore‘s absence is likely to sting. Simon Despres’ days with the Ducks are now over, too. Murray also brought in veteran and familiar face Francois Beauchemin.

The biggest move on defense likely ends the seemingly endless Cam Fowler trade rumors, instead signing Fowler to an eight-year, $52 million extension that kicks in starting in 2018-19.

They also kept Patrick Eaves around after a successful would-be “rental” at the trade deadline, handing the hugely bearded forward a three-year deal carrying a $3.15M cap hit.

So, the Ducks endured some changes, yet they also haven’t endured the sort of seismic alterations Anaheim experienced last summer. They now stand in an interesting spot, especially when it comes to the Pacific: will they hold off the Edmonton Oilers and other opponents once again? Will they remain legitimate Stanley Cup contenders or slip closer to the wild card?

PHT will break down the Ducks from several angles on Wednesday.

Avalanche have a ton of flexibility – and questions to answer

Getty
8 Comments

This post is a part of Avalanche day at PHT…

When you take a gander at the Colorado Avalanche’s Cap Friendly page, you may first notice a few things:

  • The terrifying lack of quality defensemen beyond Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Mark Barberio.
  • The terrifying lack of talent to compliment the few quality players beyond those blueliners, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, a handful of young forwards and … that’s about it.
  • The somewhat-comforting fact that the Avalanche don’t have a ton of old players locked up to scary, long-term contracts any longer.

Yes, the Avalanche only have these players locked up for three or more years:

Nathan MacKinnon ($6 million per year through 2022-23, 21 years old)
Landeskog ($5.571M through 2020-21, 24)
Carl Soderberg ($4.75M through 2019-20, 31)
Johnson ($6M through 2022-23, 29)
Barrie ($5.5M through 2019-20,26)

It’s also easy to forget that MacKinnon, Duchene, Landeskog, and quite a few other key Colorado players are all still in the meat of their prime years.

For all the understandable trade rumors regarding Duchene and Landeskog, that Johnson contract might be worth a little shopping if Colorado shows few signs of improvement, even if that would mean draining the defensive talent pool to a Slip-n-Slide size.

Either way, the Avalanche face a refreshingly clean slate … that could also be terrifying if you don’t believe in GM Joe Sakic’s ability to take advantage of these opportunities.

(Read more on Sakic specifically in Under Pressure: Joe Sakic.)

Let’s rattle off some burning questions for this franchise, then:

  1. Echoing that earlier point, is Sakic the right guy to make these choices?
  2. If so, is Jared Bednar the head coach to lead them out of the darkness … or maybe just the one to take the fall for one more “tanking” season?
  3. Semyon Varlamov‘s contract has two more years on it, while backup Jonathan Bernier has one. The Avalanche need to decide how they’ll handle goaltending in the future (a future without Calvin Pickard).
  4. Do you trade Duchene? If so, what kind of package is acceptable after reportedly passing up the likes of Travis Hamonic in previous offers?
  5. Also, do you trade Landeskog? It would probably be wise to drive up the value of both Duchene and Landeskog rather than trading from a position of weakness, at least now that it’s mid-August.
  6. Who else should be considered a core player? Colin Wilson is 27, so you wonder how long he’ll reside in Colorado.
  7. Are the Avalanche doing a good enough job developing prospects? With Tyson Jost looking to make the leap, Mikko Rantanen showing flashes of brilliance, and Cale Makar headlining this past draft class, much of the future will come down to making the most of these players. Some wonder if they haven’t optimized other talents, such as MacKinnon.

***

Some of those questions are really tough, and the wrong answer could set the Avalanche up for more suffering in the future.

For all the current problems and how low things went in 2016-17, at least Sakic & Co. have a lot of freedom to sculpt this team into something respectable, and then competitive. Now they just need to start actually doing just that.

Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done.