Maligned in the past, Colorado's GM managed to get a ton of assets in return for his highly coveted young center and the future looks bright now
More like Haul-orado, amirite? OK, that was terrible. But please keep reading if you’re an Avalanche fan because your GM, Joe Sakic, did a great job restocking the coffers in the Matt Duchene trade.
The fact the deal took so long to come together looked like a disadvantage…until it wasn’t. Sakic managed to get four prospects and three draft picks in the three-way deal that sent Duchene to Ottawa and Colorado got some very nice pieces.
While none of the players have the precise pedigree of Duchene, the third overall pick in 2009 and a Canadian Olympic gold medallist, you can’t look at it that way.
The more prudent course of action is to look at where the Avalanche are as an organization right now and where they could be in a couple years thanks to this trade. Which is to say, the Avs lost a top-six forward who can play center in Duchene. But they still have an evolving No. 1 threat in Nathan MacKinnon and a big winger with similar ascendence in his DNA in Mikko Rantanen. You also have a developing scoring center in Tyson Jost who could easily slot in behind MacKinnon to form a nice 1-2 punch down the middle for the next five or 10 years. So in a league where pivots rule, Colorado in all likelihood has the hardest part figured out.
In adding Shane Bowers from Ottawa in the deal, the Avs get a player with some nice upside, but perhaps more importantly, a very high floor. Based off his attention to detail and 200-foot play, Bowers will be able to contribute to an NHL lineup in some capacity in the coming years, whether he’s a second-liner or a bottom-sixer who can kill penalties and provide tertiary scoring. Right now, Bowers is playing on a line at Boston University with Nashville pick Patrick Harper and 2018 draft prospect Brady Tkachuk – and they’ve been effective so far.
The Avs also got left winger Vladislav Kamenev from Nashville, who possesses some very key NHL attributes: size, skating and skill. Kamenev has been developing nicely in AHL Milwaukee, getting used to the North American game and culture. I could see him as a full-timer in Colorado by next year.
On the back end, the Avs have really struggled for years. In acquiring Samuel Girard from Nashville in the Duchene deal, Colorado gets a smart and talented puckmover who has already shown some deft offensive chops in the NHL this year. If the Avs want him to, he could slide into their lineup right away. If Girard has to go back to junior for the rest of the season, he’ll get tons of responsibility and probably a juicy role on Canada’s world junior team. By next year, he’s playing regular minutes.
In the 2017 draft, Colorado addressed a big deficiency by nabbing another puckmoving defenseman, Cale Makar, fourth overall. Makar is now a freshman at UMass and faring well in a very difficult conference. Add Girard and Makar to Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie in a couple years and all of a sudden, you’ve got a decent-looking top four.
If Andrew Hammond, acquired from Ottawa, can find his game in net, that’s a bonus for the Avs, but I’m not too concerned about goaltending when it comes to rebuilding.
And then there’s the draft picks. The best part about having multiple first-rounders is the flexibility it gives you and Sakic now has two either this year or next (the conditional from Ottawa, protected in 2018 if it’s top-10). All told, the Avs now have nine selections total in the first three rounds of the next two drafts.
For all the grief we’ve given Sakic since he became GM in Colorado, he certainly stepped up to the plate on this one.