Erik Johnson leads Colorado\'s defence but there are a lot of holes to plug. (Getty Images)
The Colorado Avalanche’s blueline corps remains an area of concern entering this season.
Though they acquired Cory Sarich in a four-player trade with the Calgary Flames and signed free agent Andre Benoit, the Avalanche didn’t bring in any significant defensive upgrades.
The Avalanche head into this season with Sarich, Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda as their most experienced defensemen, prompting some late-September speculation they were in the market for a veteran blueliner.
CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio cited a report in the Denver Post claiming the Flyers were trying to move a defenseman (“likely Andrej Meszaros”) and the Avs were believed to be offering up center/winger John Mitchell.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, however, told the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater his club wasn’t making any trades for the time being.
“We’re happy with our roster,” said Roy, adding they prefer to evaluate their players before making any changes.
Roy also noted a number of NHL teams with limited cap space were trying to shed salary.
“They’re trying to unload a player that basically no one wants. That’s no help to us”, he said.
It’s a valid point. Meszaros, for example, is a good defenseman but also prone to injury. While the Avalanche have the cap space ($10.8 million) to take on his $4-million salary, his injury history makes him a risky acquisition.
The Avalanche had an opportunity to bring back John-Michael Liles, whom the Toronto Maple Leafs placed on waivers Sunday. His subsequent demotion to the minors says all one needs to know about their interest in him.
Waiting to see how things develop early in a new season is a wise decision, but also their only real option.
The pickings via the trade market are slim, while Wade Redden and Ian White are the best of the remaining free agent defensemen. The trade market should improve later in the season, but probably not until January at the earliest.
Should they go shopping for a blueliner, the Avs can draw upon their depth at forward as trade bait.
Matt Duchene, captain Gabriel Landeskog and 2013 first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon are untouchable. The earliest they can shop Ryan O’Reilly – if they want to go that route – is February 28,one year from the date they matched his offer sheet from the Calgary Flames.
Center Paul Stastny, slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, appears the likely trade candidate. His $6.6-million salary is an obvious stumbling block, but the Avs could agree to pick up half of it to facilitate a trade.
Failing that, teams interested in Stastny might prefer to wait until the second half of the season, when the Avalanche have paid out half his salary.