It was the Colorado Avalanche who kicked things off for the 2016 NHL trade deadline, sending Colin Smith and a 2016 fourth-round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for forward Shawn Matthias.
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Matthias is a nice bottom-six addition, but the Avalanche need to add a bit more to really be considered a serious contender in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With Minnesota’s temporary implosion, the Avalanche found themselves right in the heart of the playoff race. In a tough Central Division, their best best may be one of the two Wild-Card spots available in the Western Conference.
Colorado has a realistic shot at that spot, and because of that reason, and the recent addition of Matthias, the Avalanche are quite clearly buyers at the trade deadline.
The Matthias addition was a good start, but the Avalanche need a bit more to round out their team. Their forward unit is pretty respectable, but if it’s injected with one more playmaker, it can put Colorado over the top offensively, and that’s exactly what this team needs. If the opportunity presents itself, they may go after a big-time player, but they can afford to add another bottom-six forward with the same upside as Matthias.
The real need is at defense. The Avalanche don’t have much star power or experience on their backend, and they could certainly use an upgrade. They likely won’t add some of the bigger names at the deadline, but a veteran presence could really work well for the Avalanche. Colorado has been forced to roll with Andrew Bodnarchuk on their third pairing. Bodnarchuk suits up as the right defenseman, and that forces him to play on his off hand. The Avalanche would benefit greatly with a right-handed defenseman, with Bodnarchuk serving as a serviceable seventh defenseman.
One thing to note about the Avalanche: They are the only team in the NHL with the maximum 50 players signed under contract. If they are looking to add one or two more pieces, one rostered player or a prospect signed under contract is going to have to head out.
The Edmonton Oilers have made it pretty clear that they are done with Justin Schultz, the defenseman who hasn’t lived up to his top-pairing expectations, and he certainly hasn’t lived up to his offensive billing. If the Avalanche are willing to take a chance on Schultz, it can be a fit. If Schultz is paired with a more defensively-responsible player, and he’s given less competitive minutes on a second or third pairing, he could potentially benefit from a new team. With that being said, Schultz is set to become a restricted free agent, and a move for him would essentially mean the Avalanche would be willing to commit to Schultz for the foreseeable future.
But because the Oilers have made it so clear that they are willing to part with Schultz means his cost won’t be nearly as high as one would expect for a young RFA. Schultz has had an underwhelming year, and the move would certainly be risky, but there is a fit if the Avalanche are willing to take a risk.
If Colorado is going to swing for the fences at the trade deadline, Loui Eriksson seems like the most realistic possibility.
The Boston Bruins are trying to extend Eriksson, but they are having a difficult time coming to terms with the 30-year-old forward. Eriksson is reportedly looking for at least $6 million per year, and considering this could be his last major deal of his career, he’s likely looking for a longer term than Boston is willing to give.
Eriksson is a 20-goal scorer who would instantly make the Avalanche’s offense even better. And Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic has proven by example that he has a working relationship with Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, considering the Avalanche sent a sixth-round pick to Boston in exchange for the rights to Carl Soderberg.
Unfortunately for the Avalanche, the Bruins will likely want a defenseman in return for Eriksson. But if Boston has someone in mind that Colorado is willing to part with, the Avalanche should pounce on the opportunity.
Tommy Chalk writes about the NHL for FOX Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_Chalk