This article began its life as a three-pronged look at what the Colorado Avalanche need to do to address the three different areas of their team. However, on Saturday, the Avs confirmed their first move when they made a trade with the Buffalo Sabres, so we are now looking at two areas.
The trade with the Sabres brings goaltender Jonas Johansson to the club, and it seems he will likely take up the backup netminder role until Pavel Francouz returns to the fold, if he does return.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) March 21, 2021
A more specific update on Francouz’s timeline would allow us to judge this trade properly. If Francouz is coming back soon and the signs are good, bringing in Johansson to be the third netminder on the taxi squad, allowing Hunter Miska and Adam Werner to split AHL starts, is a good move. Miska is desperate for a confidence boost and Werner needs to play regularly to aid his development.
However, if the news on Francouz is not as positive, or is inconclusive, my own personal preference would have been for the Avs to go out and get a better, more proven netminder at a higher cost. It would be a real shame for Colorado to head into the playoffs and have to ride a third-choice, or worse, netminder once again, like they did last year.
With Johansson signed up, here is a look at two other needs for this club to address over the next couple of weeks.
The addition of an experienced defensive defenseman
I love the Avs’ defense at the minute, so do not for a second think this is a negative toward any player on the roster. When healthy, Conor Timmins would essentially be the eighth defenseman on the depth chart, a player who would get on to many NHL teams as a regular in their top six.
The need here is not based on players not performing, but rather to bring in a specific type of player for the battles ahead. Erik Johnson is the one and only truly experienced guy the Avs have on their blue line at the moment, and he is out for the foreseeable future.
On top of missing out on his leadership, the team is also missing Johnson’s penalty-killing ability and his reliability when the team is in a tight game. Look down Colorado’s roster right now; it is full of exceptional defensemen, but there is no genuine stay-at-home guy there, an Ian Cole if you like.
Jacob MacDonald blocked that shot.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) March 20, 2021
We are all living in Jacob MacDonald’s dream land at the moment; he is on a real high. But, when we get into the playoffs and we need a rock-solid guy to trust, kill penalties and defend the net with his life, a stay-at-home defenseman is the man to do that.
Not a slight at all on MacDonald, or Timmins for that matter, but I feel the Avalanche would love to add a real stay-at-home guy over the next couple of weeks to solidify their league-leading back line even further.
Fast forward to the playoffs and if the team wants to be dynamic, MacDonald get to play with the newcomer or perhaps Ryan Graves sitting in the stands. If we need solid defensive play and someone to shut the opposition down, MacDonald may sit in these circumstances.
Third-line center issues
I thought it was pretty telling on JT Compher that when he returned to the lineup on Saturday, he was not put straight back into the role of being the third-line center. Regardless of which side of the “JT Compher fence” you sit on at the moment, we can all agree that Compher is a better winger than he is a center.
That leaves the team with a problem in that spot. The internal option is to play Tyson Jost there, and his goal against the Wild on Saturday will have certainly aided his case to stay there. The problem with this is that Jost has thrived by being placed in a role that puts no pressure on him this season; we have really seen him come of age.
And this lil maneuver from Josty?
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) March 20, 2021
For me, Colorado needs a third-line center to allow Jost to remain in his current role. Joonas Donskoi has impressed all year, Valeri Nichushkin has come to life over the past month or so. When you think of the criticism that Compher has faced this season for his play, imagine what these two could do with a true third-line center between them.
Is Nashville the perfect trading partner?
Without a doubt, top of the list has to be the Nashville Predators. They have a number of pieces who are going to attract interest before the deadline, and those include players who could fill the two roles that the Avs need from above.
To add fuel to this fire, it was reported that the Predators had a scout watching the game on Saturday night. When you consider Nashville will not play either of Colorado or Minnesota this season, this scouting assignment is solely based on a possible trade with one of these teams.
Nashville Predators have a scout here at Avs-Wild @ColHockeyNow
— Adrian Dater (@adater) March 20, 2021
Mattias Ekholm has been the subject of many trade rumors, and the Swedish defenseman would certainly slot right into what the Avs need on the blue line. Ekholm comes with a cap hit of $3.75 million and is under contract for next season, so more than a rental. With that in mind, this move will need cap hit to go in the opposite direction, perhaps in the form of Compher or Graves.
In terms of a third-line center, look for names such as Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula to attract attention at the deadline. Both are rentals, and Granlund has the same cap hit as Ekholm while Haula is $2 million cheaper.
Nashville appears to be rebuilding its entire roster at the moment, and will more than likely see upsides in many players who are on the Avs’ roster. Someone such as a Graves or Timmins would likely appeal to the Predators, giving them another defenseman to try and mould, especially Timmins, who is younger and still improving.
Do not be surprised to see Compher attract interest; he is the perfect player for someone looking to buy into a project and rejuvenate him. Jost is another who will interest others; it would not be the biggest surprise to see these two flourish if they went elsewhere.
Logan O’Connor is another name to throw in. Colorado will not want to lose him, as he looks to be the ideal Matt Calvert full-time replacement next season, but he was the odd man out on Saturday.
If we are to see a third-line center and experienced defenseman come into the club, it is highly likely that at least one piece of the current lineup will have to depart.