And just like that, the NHL has awoken, for a brief moment, from their summer slumber. No, the Colorado Avalanche weren’t going to trade for Erik Karlsson, but the other defenseman that changed zip codes on Sunday impacts them a little bit.
Matt Dumba is headed to Arizona on a one-year deal for $4 million. That’s not a contract the Avalanche could afford to take on, so why does it even matter?
Because now, there really isn’t a defenseman on the free agent market that would be an immediate upgrade on opening night for the team.
Let me explain.
I’ve mentioned numerous times that I think a solid defenseman to push Jack Johnson down the depth chart would be my top priority. Johnson is good at what he does, and clearly trusted by the coaching staff, but at 36, he’d be a better fit in that 7th role, stepping in here and there for injury. And with the defense the Avalanche have, he will play plenty.
Injuries are a big reason why I’m placing so much importance on finding another good defenseman. No other team can challenge the top five defensemen the Avalanche can put out, but over half of those guys miss a good chunk of time every year. Another solid defenseman would help out when those guys inevitably leave the lineup.
But Dumba signing in Arizona means that there really isn’t a defenseman on the market who would be an immediate upgrade on opening night over Johnson. At least, for what the staff is looking for.
Heck, even calling Dumba an upgrade, given how he’s looked in recent years, might be a stretch at this point.
Two names I’ve previously mentioned that are still available are Caleb Jones and Cal Foote. In the Avalanche system, Jones would be good, but he’s not someone that kills penalties, and you know that’s something the staff will want in their 6D. That’s what Johnson can provide, so would he really play over him?
I’d absolutely take Jones for depth, but with limited cap space and not being able to accumulate more space as the season goes on, you have to be a little picky.
And then you have Foote. It would be a fun story to bring back the son of a franchise legend. The problem? He hasn’t been very good at the NHL level. That doesn’t mean he can’t be with some good coaching, but he’s a major project. Is that something the Avalanche are interested in right now? If they could stash him in the AHL and let him rebuild his game, sure, but I doubt that happens.
So at this point, what would I do if I was Chris MacFarland?
Not just for a potential trade market to develop, but wait and see what happens with waivers during training camp. There will likely be solid options available around the start of the season, simply because other teams will have to make tough decisions. The Avalanche haven’t been afraid to dip into that market before, and they shouldn’t this year.
There’s also Ethan Bear sitting out there on the market. He’s an interesting case because he’s shown himself to be a solid NHL defenseman, and as a right handed shot, would be a nice fit on the defense. However, he won’t be healthy until the start of December, so teams are likely waiting until closer to that date to make a decision on him. That’s a player the Avalanche, like a lot of NHL teams, will continue to monitor as the weeks go on.
So yes, I think the Avalanche should continue be on the lookout for a bottom pair defenseman, but with what’s out there right now, they should just sit tight. Unlike some of the forwards left on the market (*cough* Pius Suter *cough*), there’s no clear upgrade available. If you start the season with JJ as your #6, it’s not the end of the world.
Patience has paid off in the past for the Avalanche, and right now, I’m not sure they have any other choice but to be patient and let things play out.