NHL teams are finally starting to get pretty creative, and it only took a (mostly) flat salary cap for it to happen. The weeks leading up to the trade deadline were some of the wildest in recent memory, with four separate three-team trades. The third team involved in those deals was typically there to help broker the trade, taking assets in order to eat some salary and make the deal happen.
On Tuesday, another three-team trade occurred, with Philadelphia sending Ivan Provorov to Columbus in exchange for some draft picks. The third team involved, Los Angeles, took on 30% of Provorov’s contract and gave up a second round pick, but in doing so, got rid of nearly $8 million in yearly salary. They turned around and used that money to keep deadline pickup Vladislav Gavrikov. Some nifty work by general manager Rob Blake, dumping some dead weight to keep a top four defenseman.
With the cap only expected to go up by $1 million this summer, we may be seeing more creative moves like this in the near future.
So, can Colorado Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland find a way to get in on the fun?
The Avalanche have a little bit more cap space to work with this summer, but that’s because they will be without their Captain. They’d much rather have the player over the cap space, but that’s the reality of the situation.
Another reality? A poor free agent class. Any team looking to substantially improve their team this summer isn’t likely to do so in free agency. Sure, there are players I like in this class that I think can provide value, but we’re not talking about game-breakers here. We’re talking depth players and guys coming off injury or poor performance that you take a chance on.
If the Avalanche want to find a way to get better in the immediate future, it will have to come via trade. And that might require some creativity from Chris MacFarland.
For two more years, the Avalanche don’t have any 2nd or 3rd round picks. They hold the 27th overall pick later this month, but don’t pick again until the 5th round. Does it make the most sense to hold onto that pick? Should they use it in a trade for immediate help? Or, and this is where creativity comes into play, look to trade down, acquire more picks, and suddenly you have more to work with?
The reason a team like Los Angeles could make the deal they did yesterday is because of the extra assets they had to work with. Colorado doesn’t have much to work with right now, and that’s why MacFarland might have to think outside the box this summer to improve the team.
The Avalanche currently have all of their salary retention spots heading into the 2023-24 season. Los Angeles retained on Provorov a little bit to get rid of bigger contracts. That’s another avenue Colorado could explore if they wanted to.
In his first season as general manager, MacFarland’s moves were pretty standard. Player for player, player for draft pick, the usual moves you see from any GM. Nothing outside of the box, really. And he may still find a way to improve the team this summer with similar trades.
But this is a big offseason for the Avalanche, and for MacFarland. And in order to improve the team, he might have to try something a little different.