It’s the Wild West out here in Colorado.
There are gunslingers in town.
I’m not talking about Billy the kid or Derek Armstrong. I’m talking about Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Cale Makar. I guess I’m even talking about Nathan MacKinnon, who’s having a fine campaign.
But this time of year, the reality of a grueling postseason looms large on the horizon like the blazing sun returning from its nightly sabbatical. You can’t escape its brightness, the fiery anticipation of the day awakening something primal and circadian inside you.
And with that dawn comes questions about whether these hired guns are the same as in seasons past. Questions about whether they have what it takes to challenge for Lord Stanley’s sweet silver chalice. Questions about whether they have the firepower to vanquish those who oppose them, those who dare get in the way of their destiny. Questions about whether they need help.
There’s 24 sleeps between now and the first day of spring, which coincidentally serves as the unofficial demarcation between those who matter in the NHL and those who no longer do. One day later? The NHL Trade Deadline.
Convenient, don’t you think, that the day the Earth sheds this season of ice and snow and cold would come just one sun-cycle before the day that teams around the league look to do the same. To transform from noble hunters into apex predators questing for The Cup.
So with merely 11 contests remaining before the deadline, the Colorado Avalanche and general manager Joe Sakic now have a tough decision to contemplate: Does this squad have what it takes to bring the damn thing home or is help required?
Ask yourself whether this team has proven, like Tyler Toffoli going to the Calgary Flames, that they’ve earned Sakic bringing in a big chess piece to push them over the top, or if they’ve shown that they’re capable of climbing the mountain with the squad that they have.
It’s easy to look at a predictable outcome in Boston, given Colorado’s dominating finish the first time the teams met, and think the Colorado club is missing something. That’s foolhardy. It’s equally easy to look at the shellacking of a squad like the Detroit Red Wings, who are completely stuck in the mud at .500, to think the Avs don’t need assistance. That’s folly.
Neither of those games are reliable indicators, and adding at the deadline is about more than recent performance. It’s about cohesion. It’s about depth to get through worst case scenarios upon worst case scenarios.
And so the contemplation turns toward Philadelphia Flyers captain and outstanding beard owner Claude Giroux. Can this 34-year-old Ontario native push the seemingly unstoppable Avalanche—who have lost just 10 games in regulation this season—over the top?
Giroux is a tricky one for me. There’s no doubt he makes the team better. His 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) in 44 games for a woefully miserable Flyers group this season—his worst since his first full campaign in 2008-09—would put him sixth on the Avs in points, behind every gunslinger mentioned at the top of this tome and just above left wing Andre Burakovsky.
Giroux also has playoff experience, though he hasn’t topped 10 postseason points since 2011-12…
Which brings us to the cost of this outstanding specimen of Canadian hockey player. He’s certainly not going to come at a bargain, so the return won’t be insignificant and room will need to be made to take on some of his remaining salary. According to CapFriendly, the Avs have $541,540 to add under the salary cap—plus five empty contract slots of wiggle room—but Giroux’s cap hit is still a very high $2,648,000. That’s fine if Philly retains some of that cash, but it’s not that simple.
The Flyers have room for one contract currently, and somehow this woebegone organization is just $4,490 under the cap ceiling! That’s just unfathomable, and it also means any Giroux deal will likely have to involve an independent third party in order for both franchises to shed salary and players. It’s not as easy as swapping Burakovsky out, plus a prospect and picks, which I feel would hurt the Avs at this juncture.
This alone makes some Sakic magic unlikely.
Another thing to keep an eye on is the fact that Giroux is nine games away from 1,000 played with Philadelphia, and you have to imagine the proximity of hitting such an enormous milestone is important to him. That would happen on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day for you “holiday” aficionados, but it leaves plenty of time for a big move.
Giroux on a line with Kadri certainly makes the Avs more of a two-line threat than they already are. They’re hard to defend against now, without No. 28 dishing on the right wing. So you can see the fit.
But a more realistic scenario is that Sakic and Chris MacFarland—and heck lets toss Craig Billington in there—go out and add backend depth in case Bo Byram is unable (read: makes the right decision for him) to return to action this year. Perhaps they bring in some bottom six scoring depth to add to the black aces reserves as well.
Or maybe the move is an incestuous Western Conference deal that sees Swede Filip Forsberg leave the Nashville Predators…
Only time will tell what actually happens, but it seems like a Giroux deal may be put out to pasture.