And just like that, the top two centers on the NHL Trade market are gone.
And the price for a top nine center appears to be set.
Last week, the Vancouver Canucks made a move to acquire Elias Lindholm from the Calgary Flames. They paid a pretty steep price to get him, but in his first game, Lindholm potted two goals on his first two shots. Fitting for a team that has shot at a ridiculously high percentage all season long. What was sent to Calgary in that package? A first round pick.
Just two days later, the Winnipeg Jets gave up a first rounder and a conditional third rounder to acquire Sean Monahan, another name the Avalanche had been linked to. While I don’t believe Monahan was a great fit for the system in Colorado, the market appears to be set for the NHL Trade Deadline.
If you want a center, it’s likely going to cost a first round pick.
When you think about it, that’s really not so bad. The way the season is going, the Avalanche could easily pick between 24-32 in the first round. While Colorado seems to have hit on both Calum Ritchie and Mikhail Gulyayev from the 2023 NHL Draft, the odds of getting an NHL player that late in the first round isn’t all that high. If you’re a contending team and you think you’ve identified a player that can help, a late first rounder isn’t all that much to give up.
But what else is even out there to be moved before the NHL Trade Deadline?
The marquee name left down the middle is now Adam Henrique. The 34 year old is having a fine season in Anaheim, posting 33 points in 49 games. His points-per-60 at even strength is actually quite strong at 1.8. For reference, Ross Colton is at 1.68 and Ryan Johansen is at…0.97. I feel confident saying he’s an upgrade on what they have, but how big of one and what kind of fit he’d be would be the question. Adding an older player at the NHL Trade Deadline hasn’t gone very well for the Avalanche in recent years, but I do feel Henrique is better than the versions of Lars Eller and Carl Soderberg Colorado picked up previously.
With Henrique now being the main attraction down the middle for the NHL Trade Deadline, the Avalanche will have some competition if that’s who they like. And yes, given what we’ve seen so far, it likely costs a first at the very least.
Beyond Henrique, the other “older” options don’t seem all that appealing. Scott Laughton was rumored to be available over the summer coming off a strong year, but all of his numbers have taken a big step back this year. Could he bounce back on a new team? Absolutely, but given his low-ish cap hit and term, a first would likely be headed the other way.
Nic Dowd is another name that’s being thrown around, but he’s not a solution at 2C. Frank Seravalli recently said that the cost to acquire Dowd would be a first rounder. We’re talking about a fourth line center here, so that tells you where the market is at right now.
The pickings are slim, if I must say so myself. So where does Colorado turn?
Well, in our previous trade board, I mentioned Casey Mittelstadt. He’s taken another step this year, and is due for a new contract over the summer. That means the Buffalo Sabres have to pay him, and that, apparently, might not be something they’re all that interested in doing.
— 2 Goalies 1 Mic (@2Goalies1Mic) February 9, 2024
The cost to acquire a young-ish top 6 center who would be under team control for a few more years will likely be high, but that’s hardly a surprise. You have to give to get, and if the Avalanche really want to solve this problem for this year and beyond, that may be the route they have to go.
There appears to be no shortage of wingers available heading into the NHL Trade Deadline. Vladimir Tarasenko, Mikhail Granlund (who can play some center), Anthony Duclair. If the team needed a winger, they could find one, but I don’t think they need one.
Finding a solution down the middle looks like it will be a difficult task for Chris MacFarland, but one that should be top priority before March 8.
And if he does find a fit at center, based on what we’ve seen so far, you can likely kiss that 2024 first round pick goodbye. Better to set the expectation of that now.