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NHL Trade Deadline: Grading the Avalanche Trades



lars eller nhl trade deadline avalanche

The NHL trade deadline has come and gone. The Colorado Avalanche were quiet on actual deadline day, but made their fair share of moves leading up to March 3.

While we analyzed those moves when they went down, it’s now time to take a look back and grade them all as whole.

Let’s just start digging in, starting with a move they made all the way back in December.

Avalanche Acquire F Denis Malgin for F Dryden Hunt

Analysis: This trade went down right when the Avalanche forward core was just decimated with injuries. Now, that’s been the case most of the year, but in December, the team was without guys like MacKinnon, Nichushkin, and even Lehkonen missed a few games. The team needed more skill, so they swapped out depth forwards.

Ultimately, it worked out for the Avalanche. Malgin is far from perfect. He’s not great defensively, and while he creates chances, he generally struggles to finish them. But Malgin has added some much needed skill to the bottom six. He’s a very strong possession player, and has started to chip in more offensively of late. Since this trade, Hunt has been dealt again and is now on his fourth team just this season.

I debated not including it, but Malgin has been a regular for a few months now, so I did. It just will not play as big a role in the final grade as the other three trades.

Grade: B

Avalanche Acquire F Matt Nieto and D Ryan Merkley for D Jacob MacDonald and F Martin Kaut

Analysis: Of all the moves the Avalanche have made in-season, this is easily the best. They swapped out two players who were clearly falling out of favor with the organization, and picked up a good bottom six player in the process. It helped that the forward they acquired was Nieto, who the organization knew fit in perfectly with their system.

Since returning, Nieto has scored three goals in 13 games and has moved up and down the lineup. His acquisition has allowed Jared Bednar to spread out the ice time a little more because he now has a fourth line he can trust. MacDonald and Kaut have each scored for the San Jose Sharks, but that’s irrelevant at this point. Neither had a future in Colorado. To get an NHL player for them was a big win.

Merkley has been hit and miss with the Eagles. There’s a lot of work needed on his game, and I’m not sure he’ll ever fix those issues to become a full-time NHL player. Ultimately, that doesn’t matter much. I have low expectations, and if Greg Cronin is able to work some magic on Merkley, this turns into even more of a win than it already is.

Grade: A

Avalanche acquire D Jack Johnson for D Andreas Englund

Analysis: This one is pretty fresh, but we all know the story. The Avalanche chose the veteran that they knew over the younger, inexperienced player. I think Englund is a better defenseman, but ultimately, the gap isn’t that huge. In the two games Johnson has played, the Avalanche have been able to spread out the ice time on defense rather than overplaying their top four. The staff trusts Johnson and that will help down the stretch.

What I mentioned at the time of the trade was that I’d be surprised if this was the only move the Avalanche made on defense. They needed to add a body, not just swap defenders.

Now we know they didn’t make another move, and I am, indeed, very surprised, especially since Josh Manson is injured again. The team was short depth on defense before this trade, and swapping out defenders doesn’t change that. If they had gone out and picked up a top six defensemen, this trade would make a lot more sense to me in the grand scheme of things.

Grade: C

Avalanche acquire C Lars Eller for a 2025 Second Round Pick

Analysis: This trade is even more fresh, considering it hasn’t even been a week. I said at the time that giving up a second round pick for Eller was steep, and on Friday, Chris MacFarland said the same thing. The Avalanche have a clear plan of Eller centering the third line. If he can rediscover some of the offense from earlier in his career, this will look much better, but that’s a question mark. His numbers dipped last season, and they’ve dipped even more this year. He’s having the worst shooting season of his career, so hopefully that luck turns around a little, but he’s also getting older.

He wasn’t brought in for his offense, though. The team needed someone who could take some pressure of Compher in the face-off circle, and a heavier center defensively. He should be able to fill both of those roles. Is that good enough as a third line center? It could be, but I’m not so sure.

Much like the Johnson move, this trade would look better if the Avalanche had picked up a scoring forward before the NHL Trade deadline. They did not. With the uncertainty around a return from Landeskog, the team seems to be looking at a third line of Eller, Cogliano, and O’Connor. Not terrible, but not the best, considering two of those players were on the fourth line during the Cup run last year. Another top nine forward to reshape the group would have helped out immensely and made this trade look better.

Grade: C

Bonus: Keeping the 2023 First Round Pick

Analysis: I think there was room to upgrade, but I’m totally fine with keeping the first round pick this season if there wasn’t a player they deemed worthy of it. Looking at the players traded, I don’t know if there was. Horvat wasn’t a realistic option, and while they were after O’Reilly, they didn’t have all the picks Toronto was able to offer. Eventually, this team needs to start rebuilding the prospect group, and it starts here.

Or does it? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Avalanche don’t make this pick come June. There’s always the summer to make a big move.

The Verdict

The two best moves they made were for two fourth liners on the team. The team did need depth help, so that’s great, but ultimately they aren’t going to be huge difference makers. If Landeskog does return, Malgin likely isn’t a regular either.

The other two moves were of more significance for the team, but at the time, I felt both depended on an additional move being made to supplement them. Those moves never came, and that effects the total grade for the deadline. While I do think the team is better, the upgrades don’t feel that significant overall. The team is still good enough to win the West, but there’s a lot more holes on this squad than there were last year, and some of those holes have been there all season long.

Avalanche NHL Trade Deadline Grade: C

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