Now we find out if the Avalanche is really serious about being a Stanley Cup contender, or if general manager Joe Sakic is content to play for next year.
The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 24. As currently constructed, the Avs are just good enough to break your heart in the playoffs.
His action (or inaction) will speak louder than words about what Sakic really thinks about this team.
Anybody who watched the fireworks in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 overtime victory against Colorado Monday night at the Pepsi Center could see the Avs don’t have a goaltender who can carry them to a championship. While Philipp Grubauer (currently injured) and Pavel Francouz are competent pros, either man would rank closer to the bottom than the top in a ranking of netminders in this year’s postseason field.
And this is gonna hurt: Mikko Rantanen will be out for multiple weeks after taking a nasty fall into the boards during the second period, with what appeared to be a serious injury to his collarbone or shoulder.
The pressure is now on Sakic to make a deal that can keep the Avs in contention for a top playoff seed in the highly competitive Western Conference.
With seats in the arena reserved for scouts from Montreal, Los Angeles and Detroit, all teams that figure to be sellers at the deadline, I dreamed of the Avs adding a goaltender. But with a salary cap hit in excess of $10 million from now until the middle of this decade, 32-year-old Canadiens goalie Carey Price falls well beyond a reasonable price range for Sakic or any other general manager of a contending team.
So if Henrik Lundqvist isn’t walking through those doors in the Avalanche dressing room any time soon, it appears Colorado will have to run and gun its way through the playoff bracket.
On this cold February night, it didn’t require an active imagination to fantasize about one hot Stanley Cup Final, featuring the Avalanche and Lightning. The mountains. The beach. And two of the game’s most dangerous scoring lines on the ice. Would that be any fun?
Tampa Bay, which last hoisted the Cup in 2004, is definitely in win-now mode. The Lightning paid a pretty penny, essentially surrendering two first-round draft choices, in order to acquire New Jersey forward Blake Coleman, who scored 21 goals for the Devils this season. If Sakic wasn’t in on the bidding, he should have been.
Avalanche fans who weren’t stuck in traffic at Air Force Academy on Saturday were wowed by the hat trick of Kings forward Tyler Toffoli during Los Angeles’ 3-1 victory against Colorado. How many of you thought he would look great wearing burgundy and blue? Well, never mind. Toffoli was traded Monday to Vancouver, shortly before the puck dropped in the Pepsi Center.
With Nazem Kadri and Matt Calvert both hurt, plus Rantanen’s playing status in doubt for the remainder of the regular season, the Avs are missing firepower and grit from the lineup. At a time of a season when the slim margin between winning and losing in the tightly bunched Central Division can be as huge as the difference between the conference’s No. 1 overall seed and hitting the road for the opening round of the playoffs, Sakic must determine whether adding scoring punch is worth inflated prices at the deadline.
I don’t deal in trade rumors. But I can do the math of a hockey deal.
So it’s obvious acquiring the firepower of somebody with the talent of Tomas Tatar, who has produced 21 goals and 32 assists for the Canadiens, could require Sakic to push so many chips to the middle of the table that he would have to mortgage a piece of Colorado’s future. Calling his old friend Steve Yzerman in Detroit to inquire about a deal for a veteran forward as good in the room as Luke Glendening or as scrappy as Darren Helm, might be more palatable for Sakic.
Trading out of desperation is a good way to get fleeced. But making a smart move would send a strong message to the Avs dressing room that Sakic believes this team’s time to win is now.