This is hot off the wire here: the Colorado Avalanche have traded Ryan Graves to the New Jersey Devils for left wing Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round selection in the 2021 NHL draft (No. 61 overall).
So there you have it. There goes any worry about losing Ryan Graves for nothing to Seattle in the expansion draft on July 21. Of course, that means Ryan Graves is no longer a member of the Avs, quite possibly because they had intel that the Kraken would have taken him with their Avs pick. We may never know on that, but the Avs pre-empted such a move by trading him away for at least something.
A second-round pick in any draft is never a bad thing, and the Avs did not have a second-round pick in this year’s draft prior to this deal. Who is Mikhail Maltsev? Well, to this point he hasn’t made much of a mark in his NHL career. He’s 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, a left winger from Russia who played 33 games for the Devils in his rookie season this year and had six goals and nine points. He had 55 shots in the 33 games, which isn’t bad. He’s a fourth-round pick from the 2016 draft (102nd overall).
Translation: he’s a bit of project as a young guy. Kind of like Graves was when they acquired him from the New York Rangers in exchange for Chris Bigras a few years ago.
Graves transformed himself from a career minor-leaguer to a guy who often played with Cale Makar on the Avs’ top 2 defensively the last couple of years.
I’ve said all along that I really like Graves as a player, but the expansion draft was going to put the squeeze on the Avs as far as keeping a guy like him. I think this was otherwise a tremendous move by Joe Sakic to get some assets for him. I think this trade is a clear indication that the Avs thought the Kraken would take him. Better to get some assets for him, therefore, than see him go to Seattle for nothing.
Graves’ departure not only clears $3.16 million from the Avs’ payroll (though Maltsev adds $809,000 back to the cap – though his is a two-way contract whereby he’d only cost the Avs $82k if he plays for the Colorado Eagles), it creates more opportunity now for youngsters such as Bo Byram and Conor Timmins on the back end. And, maybe, it clears enough space to sign a guy like a Ryan Suter on the free-agent market, if the Avs don’t feel like either Byram or Timmins is ready to play full-time this coming season.
Joe Sakic thought ahead in making this kind of deal. In an expansion year, a guy like Graves was always at risk of being lost for nothing. I think Sakic did a fine job of gathering assets for him in the meantime.
Plus, who know what might become of that second-round pick? This is considered a pretty deep draft year, so I expect the Avs to come away with a nice player with that 61st pick.