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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.