The Colorado Avalanche have struggled with depth at forward all year long, and GM Chris MacFarland pulled off a small Avalanche trade intended to address that issue.
And the Avalanche are bringing back a familiar face to do so.
On Wednesday evening, the Avalanche announced that they’ve re-acquired forward Matt Nieto from the San Jose Sharks. In addition, they acquired young defenseman Ryan Merkley.
In return, the Sharks will receive utility man Jacob MacDonald and forward Martin Kaut from the Avalanche.
The 30-year-old Nieto returns to Colorado after leaving via free agency in 2020 and returning to the Sharks. He’s a valuable penalty killer and an immediate upgrade in the bottom six, something the team has really needed.
Nieto is a pending unrestricted free agent and only makes $850,000. He currently has 15 points in 45 games this season.
The intriguing piece of the trade is defenseman Ryan Merkley. The 22-year-old requested a trade earlier this month from the Sharks and is set to become a restricted free agent this summer.
A former first-round pick in the 2018 draft, Merkley has been looking for a change of scenery. He has 14 points in 30 games with the San Jose Barracuda this season. In 39 NHL games, he’s registered six points.
The Avalanche are taking a chance on a talented defenseman who hasn’t quite figured it out at the next level. As a right-handed shot, he immediately moves to the top of the depth chart in the AHL, as head coach Jared Bednar values having players that can play their strong side.
This marks the end of the Martin Kaut era in Colorado. After a strong debut in the 2019-20 season, he’s struggled to make his mark with the Avalanche. In 27 games this season, he has only four points and has moved up and down with the Eagles. A change of scenery is probably best for his career as well.
The 29-year-old MacDonald has struggled to recapture some of the magic he had in prior years this season. In 33 games, he has just two points, splitting time at forward and defense.
Stay tuned to Colorado Hockey Now for analysis on the trade and any other news that may break.