We knew the Colorado Avalanche were going to make a move at center before the NHL trade deadline.
And now we wonder…do they make another?
On Wednesday, the Avalanche acquired veteran center Lars Eller from the Washington Capitals, just a few days before the NHL trade deadline. In exchange, they gave up their 2025 second round pick. The Avalanche will not pick in the second round until 2026, but at this rate, there’s a good chance that pick gets moved eventually too.
With Eller, the Avalanche are getting a proven and reliable player down the middle. Where does he fit? What does it mean for the rest of the lineup? Let’s dig in.
I think everyone’s initial thought on Eller was that the Avalanche went out and got their fourth line center.
The Avalanche don’t see it that way. At least, right now.
“Solid, big, strong third line center,” Head coach Jared Bednar said after news broke of the trade. “Penalty killer, good on draws, lots of experience. This is a good pickup.”
At 33, Eller has started to slow down. He has just 16 points in 60 games this season while averaging 15:14 a game. He’s never been a fast skater, but as most players do, you slow down a little bit the older you get. Is he going to be able to keep up on a team built on speed? That’s a very good question, and we’ll find out when he gets here. If he really is the third line center, that puts him between O’Connor and Cogliano, two very speedy guys. He’ll stick out if he can’t keep up.
Where the Avalanche see his value is more on the defensive side of the puck. He’s having his best face-off season in the NHL at 54.61%. J.T. Compher has had to take a lot of face-offs this season, so this takes some pressure off him. Eller also has been playing just a little under two minutes a game on the penalty kill. Like Jack Johnson, I imagine he’ll step in there immediately.
Here’s a breakdown of Eller’s season from my WashingtonHockeyNow colleague Sammi Silber:
He’s been inconsistent. He’s great in the face-off dot and a reliable penalty killer. However, he hasn’t been able to produce at the rate he has in previous years. There are also some problems with discipline, as he has taken quite a few penalties this season.
Still, if you want a reliable two-way forward who can win draws and kill penalties and play a bottom-6 role, there’s a lot he can bring to the table. He’s also a big body, a good skater and clutch in the playoffs.
Eller is certainly going to be bring playoff experience to the team. With 96 career playoff games, he’s seen it all, and he won the Stanley Cup back in 2018. Not only did he win the Cup, but he was an integral part on that team. He scored the Cup clinching goal against Vegas that year, and notched 18 points in 24 playoff games.
He’s not the same player he was in 2018, but playoff experience is a big reason he was brought in.
There’s still value that Eller can bring, but is he a third line center at this point in his career? Given his offensive production this year, it doesn’t seem that way, but the deadline is still a few days away. Another move to push him down the lineup would go a long way in solidifying the forward group, but do they have the assets to do it?
If he really is the third line center, you have to hope he finds some of that scoring touch again. I see him as a great fit on the fourth line, so I’m interested in seeing how this plays out. As a third line center? At this point in his career, he’d be fine there, but not ideal.
Lars Eller, traded to COL, is a veteran bottom six centre and penalty killer. pic.twitter.com/AxnXdWZTTh
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) March 1, 2023
A second round pick for Eller seems a little steep, at first glance. He hasn’t looked like the same player this season, and the Avalanche don’t view him as a top six forward.
But we’re talking about a 2025 second rounder here. A pick from a draft that isn’t even going to happen for two more years isn’t the same as giving up a pick from this summer. It definitely seems steep to me, but not as bad when you dig in a little more. If you hit on a 2025 second round pick, the earliest you see that player is…2029? For a team trying to win another Stanley Cup, you aren’t going to worry about that. Fans certainly will, and at some point you need to restock the cupboard, but the team (as of now) is still holding their first round pick for the next few years, so they have that going for them.
No, Alex Newhook was not involved in the trade, but of the players in the lineup, he seems to be the player who will be most effected by the Eller acquisition.
Newhook has been playing center consistently for around two months now, but before that, Bednar had said he liked him most on the wing.
“We need help in the middle of the ice,” Bednar said after the team acquired Eller. Maybe not the biggest endorsement for Newhook at center moving forward.
So where does he fit now? Does he get pushed down to the fourth line center spot? Does he get moved to the wing to make way for Eller? Or, is he someone the team dangles to acquire a top six forward and really reshape their forward group? I have heard Newhook’s name “out there” a little bit, but they wouldn’t just move him out for nothing. They value him, and if he gets moved, it’s going to be for someone they think can help not just this year, but in the future. It’ll be interesting to see how his role is changed in the coming days, if at all. The bottom six for the Avalanche is kind of interchangeable, so there’s room to play around with the lines.
Newhook has produced quite well this year at even strength. Only Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon have more even strength goals than him on the team. He likely will still have a spot on the second powerplay unit. There’s skill there, but you do wonder how much trust he has from the staff. I’ve personally liked his defensive game this year. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s good with his stick and works hard in the defensive zone. There’s no question, though, that Eller makes the team bigger down the middle.
There’s still a few more days before the NHL trade deadline. Stay tuned to CHN for any news as it comes in.