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Beyond 2C, Questions Remain At Center For Avalanche



Laughton Avalanche NHL trade

A lot has been made about the second line center position for the Colorado Avalanche (and rightly so), but beyond Nathan MacKinnon, there are quite a few question marks at the center position for the team.

While there’s still a chance J.T. Compher could re-sign with the Colorado, it seems unlikely he returns. The closer he gets to unrestricted free agency, the greater the chances he opts to see what else is out there. In addition, Lars Eller, the deadline pickup for the Avalanche, is also scheduled to hit free agency, and Alex Newhook needs a new contract.

So past the second line center position, what options are there for the Avalanche heading into the heart of the offseason?

Alex Newhook

It’s difficult to get a read on how the Avalanche view Newhook, especially in terms of what position they want him to play. Head coach Jared Bednar had said repeatedly early in the season he prefers Newhook on the wing, but that seemed to change around January. After the team acquired Eller, Newhook’s role became diminished, and he floundered. Would the team feel confident heading into next year with him as 3C? Or do they see him as a better fit on the wing moving forward?

Lars Eller

The deadline pickup never really hit his stride in Colorado, at least on the offensive side of the puck. He still does some things well, particularly along the walls, with puck retrieval, and in the face-off circle, but the offense has declined for two years now. At the age of 34, he might just be better suited in a fourth line role. Evolving-Hockey projects a one-year, $1.45 million deal for him this summer. That’s not a bad deal in a depth role, but I think there are legitimate questions around how good a third-line center Eller can be at this stage in his career. As a 4C, you could do a lot worse, but is he willing to accept that type of role?

Bringing a guy like him back into the fold would require some upgrades in front of him on the depth chart.

Evan Rodrigues

I’ve had multiple people ask me if Rodrigues could be an option not only to return, but return as the 3C. I definitely see a world where E-Rod is back in the fold with the Avalanche, but it seems unlikely he comes back to play center. The staff barely used him at that spot during the season, and he really hasn’t played center consistently in years. So while I think there’s a good chance he comes back, it’s likely to be as a winger.

Ben Meyers

Meyers could not score for the majority of the season, but his underlying numbers were strong, and for a rookie, he did quite well in the face-off circle. I don’t think there’s anything stopping the Avalanche from moving him to wing if they needed to, but he’s an option to start the season at the 4C spot next year. There just has to be a leap offensively for him to keep that spot.

Free Agency

While the Avalanche are unlikely to find a solution at 2C in free agency (outside of maybe ROR), there are a handful of interesting options at 3C, if they decide to go that route. Sean Monahan is an intriguing option (if he’s healthy) to take a chance on bouncing back. He’s big, can win face-offs, and has some offense to his game as well. He’s not the player he was several years back, but he played well for Montreal early in the season. We also know he’s a guy the Avalanche were monitoring in a potential trade.

Jonathan Toews is another name that will get thrown around. His days as a 2C seem done, but he’s still one of the best face-off men in the league. There’s a chance teams might be willing to overpay him based on his past production, and the Avalanche cannot and should not do that.

Some other interesting names to look at are Erik Haula and old friend Alexander Kerfoot.


The name Scott Laughton has been heating up around the NHL in trade talks, as the Flyers are headed for a rebuild. At 29 and with three years remaining on his contract at $3 million a year, it’s easy to see why they’re getting calls on him. The Flyers have allegedly turned down offers of late first round picks, something the Avalanche do hold.

Laughton is coming off the most productive season of his NHL career, but if you dig deeper, it’s easy to see why his production skyrocketed. It’s not unlike what happened with Compher this year, to be honest. Laughton finished second among Flyers forwards in average time-on-ice per game, which should tell you how poor that team was. That meant he was given offensive opportunities he didn’t see in previous years. His actual points-per-60 plummeted, and was the lowest of his career at just 1.25. For the sake of comparison, Newhook was at 1.56 points-per-60. Any team trading for Laughton and expecting 18 goals and 43 points probably needs to recalibrate those expectations.

However, there is more to being a strong 3C then just offensive production. Laughton provides a heck of a lot more then just scoring. He’s a strong penalty killer, and is trusted defensively. As a 3C, he’s a fit, even if he reverts back to being around a 30-35 point player. But a late first round pick? Value wise, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’re getting a good player at a good price with term. But If you’re the Avalanche and trading that first rounder, are you better off using that pick to find a 2C in a trade? A Laughton trade would still make a lot of sense for the team, but unless you’re getting a guy like ROR in free agency, the biggest hole on the team still remains.

So as we sit here 15 days away from the draft, and 18 days from the start of free agency, questions remain at the center position for the Avalanche. It could be worse, though. Unlike a lot of teams, they have the 1C spot sorted out for years to come.

They’ve just got to figure out how to fill out the roster behind him.

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