Well, the Avalanche were bound to lose a good one to the Seattle expansion draft, and losing Joonas Donskoi was probably best-case scenario for Colorado.
The draft itself was a less exciting television event than it was originally intended to be. Various journalists across the Twittersphere leaked the Kraken’s picks hours before the primetime ESPN 2 spectacle was set to air, including the Donskoi pick.
Still, all things considered, it was a decent presentation, for ESPN’s grand return to NHL broadcast. Great location—with downtown Seattle and Mt. Rainer in the backdrop—local celebrity, including Macklemore, Sue Bird, Marshawn Lynch (noted Colorado Avalanche fan), and the Reign Man himself: former six-time NBA All-Star Shawn Kemp, who was the one to announce the Joonas Donskoi pick.
But pomp and circumstance aside, let’s talk Donskoi-to-Seattle, shall we?
I made sure not to bury the lede on this one. Indeed, the Kraken choosing Joonas Donskoi was best-case scenario, all things considered.
I think GM Joe Sakic won here. He knew full well he couldn’t protect the forwards he wanted to protect and also Ryan Graves. So what does he do? He avoids losing Graves for nothing and flips him for a second-round pick and a young depth forward (and Sakic has a keen-eye for depth forwards). Ryan Graves would’ve undoubtedly been Seattle’s choice; may as well not let him walk for nothing. He then got to protect all that he wanted to protect, and made sure he gained some assets for those he knew he couldn’t.
Another rumored pick ripe for the Kraken’s picking ahead of the the expansion draft was J.T. Compher. I truly do think we’ve yet to see Compher’s best. With that said, and given Compher’s versatility in the lineup, I do consider Seattle taking Donskoi a better option if you’re the Avalanche.
Now look, I don’t want to make this seem like there should be a celebration that Donskoi is leaving. Quite the opposite. In fact, I protected Joonas Donskoi in all my expansion mock drafts.
But it was going to come down to Donskoi, Graves or Tyson Jost. He protects Jost—which I think is a great call—while flipping Graves for some assets, all while shedding Donskoi’s $3.9 million hit (which, believe it or not, was one of the Avs highest-paid forward contracts). This gives Sakic some additional room to match any contract offers for his captain come July 28. It also gives him additional wiggle room to re-sign his Vezina-finalist goaltender and ensure his young, perennial-Norris-candidate defenseman, Cale Makar, is one of the highest-paid D-men in the NHL. It also gives him additional space to sign the likes of Jost and RFA Conor Timmins, and other possible candidates, like Brandon Saad.
The Avs will miss Joonas Donskoi. He was a Swiss Army Knife of sorts. He could play second line, fourth line, and was part of one of Colorado’s most consistent lines for a good portion of the season. He played power play and some PK, too. His Corsi numbers were great (57.86%, in all situations). He was disciplined; he only only took five penalties all season long. He was fifth on the team in takeaways. The list goes on.
Joonas Donskoi was sneaky good. He’s not a guy that’s going to wow you with crazy offensive numbers, though he did set a career high in goals this season (17, good for fourth-best on the team), despite playing just 51 games, besting his career-best shooting percentage by a good margin, too. Joonas Donskoi was an above-average player in his two seasons in Colorado. Indeed, he will be missed. His contract, however, will not.
Money is money is money, and that’s what this comes down to. Losing Donskoi is best-case scenario, not because we should be wiping our brow that Seattle picked the Avs’ worst option available. That’s not the case; losing Donskoi will no doubt be felt throughout the lineup next year. It’s best case, because the Avs could’ve had it much worse.
The Avs gained assets in the form of a pick, a prospect and the +$3.9 million the Avs’ accountant gets to add to the “Debits” portion of the balance sheet. This is a win for the bookkeepers, and for Joe Sakic’s wallet. And it’s money that’ll now need to be paid to the Accounts Receivable Dept. of some of his soon-to-be well-paid, in-house free agents.
This is where we’ll turn our attention to over the next week. Where does Gabe Landeskog go, if anywhere? Will Cale Makar get $9 or $10 million per year? What about Philipp Grubauer? Will Brandon Saad be an Av next year? Do the Avs make a play for Ryan Suter?
All of these questions will be answered very shortly, and Joe Sakic’s phone will surely be a busy one over the next couple of weeks. Time to shift focus.
Best of luck in Seattle, Joonas.