Don’t think Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland didn’t notice.
MacFarland spent most of his first year as general manager playing it relatively safe, making minor moves around the edges of the roster, holding on to what little assets his team had.
In the last week, he has really put his stamp on the roster. Yes, he played a bigger role than many realized as Joe Sakic’s right-hand man for years, but now he’s the man in charge. And the moves over the last week are the easily the biggest he’s made to date.
First, he got creative, giving up absolutely nothing for Ryan Johansen because the Nashville Predators were desperate to get out of (half) that contract. Then, he moved Alex Newhook while his value was still high for a 1st and 2nd round pick.
Today, he moved out that 2nd round pick for Ross Colton, a player who fits more of the mold of what the Avalanche want on their third line. Colton is aggressive, physical, and has shown the ability to create scoring chances for himself, something Newhook (and most of the bottom six) struggled with last season. It woudn’t surprise me if the person most excited about this trade is Jared Bednar. Colton brings exactly what the Avalanche need.
If you look at the big picture, MacFarland moved Newhook for Colton and the 31st pick in the 2023 draft. You could easily make the argument that they upgraded at the forward position, and grabbed a 1st round pick on top of it.
That’s good business.
There’s still the matter of Colton needed a new contract, but that shouldn’t be too difficult. Evolving Hockey predicts a 4-year deal at $3.3 million per season. For a 3C, that would be solid value.
Last season in Tampa, Colton generated 15.11 shot attempts-per-60 minutes at even strength. For comparisons sake, Newhook generated 9.79. On the current Avalanche roster, only Nathan MacKinnon and Denis Malgin generated more scoring chances-per-60 than Colton (9.58). In the playoffs, the Avalanche got absolutely nothing from their bottom six, with many of those forwards lacking the ability to generate chances for themselves. The acquisition of Colton goes a long way in helping fix that problem.
With the news that J.T. Compher is set to test free agency, one could safely assume that Colton will slide into that 3C spot. Because Tampa had a lot of centers, Colton didn’t play a ton there, but that’s his natural position. There will likely be an adjustment for Colton if that’s the case. Center means more defensive responsibility, something Colton will need to improve at, but he has the make-up to do it.
In one week, MacFarland has completely rebuilt the Avalanche down the middle. Are they better off? I think so, and only time will tell, but there’s no doubt the Avalanche have done a great job with asset management this summer.
The forward group still needs some work, as a top six winger would round things out nicely. Do they have the cap space to get that done? We’ll see, but with the Newhook trade, they suddenly have the trade capital to pull it off, if they can find the right deal.
Trade Grade: A-
Not only did the Avalanche upgrade (in the immediate) with Colton, but they somehow managed to hold on to both of their 1st round picks in the process. That gives them more ammo to improve the roster in the immediate, or they can choose to hold on to both picks and start replenishing the system. I believe both options are on the table.
There is very little to complain about with this trade. The only concern I have is Colton’s ability to shift back to the center position, but even my concern with that is minimal. MacFarland did great here, and has the ammo to make another move…if he wants to.