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Rawal: Why The Idea of Trading Mikko Rantanen Is Asinine

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Since when did Mikko Rantanen become the whipping boy for Colorado Avalanche fans?

Going back to before the playoffs even began, a very vocal portion of the fanbase has been calling for the Avalanche to potentially trade the back-to-back 100 point scorer this offseason, opening up some cap space with the idea of spreading the wealth around the lineup a little bit. I don’t believe it’s a large portion of the fanbase, but they’re out there, as I get a few messages a day floating the idea out there. I just have one question, though.

Have people forgotten how hard it is to find elite talent?

The Avalanche have it pretty good right now, as they’ve got an elite center (Nathan MacKinnon), the best defenseman in the world (Cale Makar), and a top flight winger (Rantanen). It’s not always going to be this good, though. Things can change quickly in the NHL, and when they do, it’s hard to turn things back around. When you find an elite player in this league, you don’t want to lose them.

I get why people are frustrated with Rantanen. Even though he put up 100 points (again) this season, he didn’t quite look like a 100 point scorer. Heck, his teammates dad called him out mid-season. During the 2022-23 campaign, he could have very easily been the MVP of the Avalanche, scoring 55 goals for a team that really lacked depth. That wasn’t the case this past season. He still racked up a ton of points, but he didn’t really come close to matching his level of play from the year before. That doesn’t make replacing 100 points any easier, though.

The 27 year old winger has one year left on his contract and is eligible to sign an extension this summer. Some see this as an opportunity to move him before he cashes in and takes up a bigger chunk of Colorado’s cap space. Why? When has trading a 100 point scorer in their prime ever worked out for an NHL team? Do you think the Calgary Flames are happy with how that Matthew Tkachuk trade worked out? I know the Panthers are.

Let’s take a look at Colorado’s current situation at wing. It’s a little bleak, if we’re being honest.

Jonathan Drouin, pending unrestricted free agent, might get squeezed out by the cap.

Valeri Nichushkin, currently suspended at least six months and should probably never wear an Avalanche uniform again.

Gabriel Landeskog, return date unknown from a surgery no NHL player has ever returned from.

Artturi Lehkonen, needs shoulder surgery, might be ready for training camp.

Logan O’Connor, coming off major hip surgery, might be ready for training camp.

I’m not looking at that group and feeling a ton of confidence at the moment. Lehkonen will recover, but has suffered a few big injuries the last two seasons and is prone to them with how he plays. O’Connor should be okay in the long run, but it might take him a bit to get his legs back under him. Miles Wood scored three goals after Christmas. And as big a fan as I am of Nikolai Kovalenko, he’s still a complete unknown at the NHL level. Colorado appears to finally be set down the middle of the ice, but talent on the wing is now a question mark. Trading your most talented winger doesn’t fix anything.

Some nights, Rantanen looks like he’s not all there. I get that. On some of those nights you take a peek at the box score when the game is over and see that he racked up a goal and two assists. What the heck? He makes scoring goals look absurdly easy, because it is for him. That’s not an easy skill to replace. Scoring goals is difficult in the NHL, and when you find an elite scorer like this, you hang onto them, especially a franchise on the brink of losing an elite winger and getting nothing in return.

I get the salary cap concerns. I really do, but we’re not looking at a MacKinnon-esque jump in salary for Rantanen where his cap hit literally doubles. He’s already making more than $9 million, and if I had to guess, we’re looking at around a $2.5 million raise. Would you dump a Miles Wood (nothing against him or anyone else making that money) if it meant keeping around a top flight winger? I know I would.

What would you even get back in return for Rantanen in a trade? It’s unlikely you get a player anywhere close to Rantanen’s ability, and given his salary, you might have to take back a contract you don’t really want to make the money work for the other team. A second line winger, a young NHL player, and a draft pick? Sounds like an okay package for a rebuilding team looking to gain assets. Doesn’t sound like a trade package a team looking to win right now should ever take seriously, though.

I don’t believe the Avalanche are considering moving Rantanen at all. If anything, they’ll probably try to sign him to an extension this summer to keep this window open and the core together. That’s what contending teams look to do.

Trade Mikko Rantanen? That’s one way to move one step closer to closing your contending window.

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