Trade Deadline Derby

With the end of the Olympics comes the resumption of trade season in the NHL. Until Monday, all of the NHL was at a stand still including team dealing. Up until 1pm ET on Wednesday, GMs across the league will be burning up the phone lines in hopes of prepping for the playoffs or dumping payroll for the offseason. Every year there are deals that turn heads and this season has been no slouch with Dion Phaneuf, Olli Jokinen, and Ilya Kovalchuk all being shipped off already.

With the Avalanche currently sitting in 6th place in the West, one would classify the team as buyers at the deadline but there have been few rumors of who the Avs may be pursuing. Instead there have been more rumors as to which Avs could be dealt. Among the names are Marek Svatos, John-Michael Liles, Ruslan Salei, and most recently and surprisingly, Wojtek Wolski. Of these I'd say Svatos and Salei are the most likely candidates to be elsewhere come Wednesday night. Both have expiring contracts and both are highly unlikely to be re-signed in the offseason. Neither player would likely fetch more than a mid-round draft pick. John-Michael Liles has been the subject of trade rumors for the last couple of seasons and his frequent status as a healthy scratch has fueled trade rumors again this year. Liles, however, has two years remaining at almost $4.5 million a season and will be a tough move to make during the season. More interesting of late is the emergence of Wolski's name in trade rumors. Wolski is only 24, a former first round draft pick, and a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Wolski had a great start to the season but lately has struggled to find the back of the net and has a tendency to take nights off. If the Avs do decide to add to the roster, I'd say the Avs definitely need another scoring winger, preferably a left winger. Among the possible options at left wing are Raffi Torres (Columbus), Lee Stempniak (Toronto), Alexi Ponikarovsky (Also Toronto), and Ray Whitney (Carolina). 

So the question is what will the Avalanche do? The Avalanche are in a strange position come the trade deadline. They have already surpassed preseason expectations and are in playoff contention despite the fact management has called this a “rebuilding season”. So should the Avalanche dial up the phones and pursue the Stanley Cup or stay the course and play with the hand they’ve got? We Avs fans would love for the latter and in the old NHL, this would most likely be the case but in today’s NHL, giant trade deadline deals are rare. (I understand the Phaneuf and Kovalchuk deals of this season are contradictions) The boring, yet smart thing, for Avs management to do during this deadline would be to stay the course. This season has given Avs fans a lot of hope for the future with the emergence of Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Chris Stewart, T.J. Galiardi, Brandon Yip, and Ryan Wilson.  Landing a major player at the deadline would require packaging one of these players, prospects and/or a draft pick. At this stage of the team’s development they can ill afford to send away young players for older more expensive players that would serve only as quick fixes. The most likely player to fetch a good return would be Wolski and as frustrating he is to watch, he is only three points away from a career high in points and still has a lot of potential. If I am the Avs I wouldn't give up on him yet unless an offer that can't be refused arises.

So as inconsistent and frustrating as the Avalanche have been to watch lately, they have an excellent recipe in the works for the future. Much like the 1995-96 Avalanche they have their one-two punch at center with Stastny and Duchene and like today’s Penguins and Blackhawks they have an excellent foundation of young players to build the team around.  We Avs fans may reminisce about the blockbuster deals of the past but as for this season, grin and bear it Avs fans because a boring trade deadline this year will make for a better season next year. 

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