The Avalanche could use a boost to their secondary scoring
It’s that time of year again. Less than a month before the NHL trade deadline, and the rumor mill is beginning to heat up as teams position themselves for the future. Those at the top of the standings are looking to bolster their lineup in preparation for a playoff run while the bottom half of the league will be looking to gain assets to help in a future build to the top.
This year more than most appears to be a buyer’s market. With so many bad teams falling by the wayside, there are going to be a lot more options available to those who want to acquire NHL talent.
Leading up to the April 12th trade deadline, we will be looking at a number of options that could be a fit for the Avalanche as Joe Sakic looks to put his team in the best position to succeed in the playoffs.
Let’s start with veteran right winger Kyle Palmieri.
As a pending UFA on a team that is still in the process of rebuilding, Palmieri as all but certain to be playing his last games with the New Jersey Devils. The 30-year-old winger will be on the move before the deadline, and the list of suitors won’t be a short one as he has the potential to make a big impact on a team making a playoff run.
Palmieri has four goals and 13 points in 26 games in what has so far been a down season by his standards. This comes after he scored more than 30 goals over 82 games in four of the last five seasons. The biggest reason for the dip in production this year is an unsustainably low shooting percentage. At 6.3%, Palmieri’s sh% is less than half of his career average. Even if it ends up being a down season, scorers like Palmieri never finish with a shooting percentage that low. Regression toward the mean will happen at some point. He’s due for a hot spell, and that could come at just the right time for a team looking to add the winger at the trade deadline.
Do the Avalanche really need another high-end offensive winger?
With Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Brandon Saad and Andre Burakovsky filling the spots in the top-6, it’s easy to quickly dismiss the need for another winger. That said, what each of those four have in common is that they are all left-handed shooters.
Palmieri would add a dangerous right-handed shot, not only to the top-6 but to the team’s second power play unit as well.
Landeskog – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Saad – Kadri – Palmieri
Nichushkin – Jost – Burakovesky
Calvert – Bellemare – Donskoi
That’s a lineup that would scare almost any opponent in a playoff series.
Beyond the scoring, Palmieri would also give the Avalanche a righty who can play on the penalty kill when J.T. Compher isn’t around.
Even if the forward group looks crowded, Avalanche fans know never to rule out an injury (or four) down the stretch. Having extra guys to fill out the top-9 is never a bad thing for a team that wants to be a contender.
From a financial perspective, Palmieri carries a cap hit of $4.65m with his contract expiring at the end of the season. Pro-rated for the final third of the season, the Avalanche can fit that number under the cap as long as money remains on LTIR. If everyone suddenly gets health, Sakic would either need to move money out or have the Devils retain some of the cap hit—something they could easily do, particularity if it meant a better return in the trade.
Last deadline, the Devils were able to get a good prospect and a first-round pick in exchange for Blake Coleman, and some have speculated that they’ll be looking for a similar package for Palmieri. The difference is that Coleman had another year left on his contract while Palmieri will be acquired as a rental.
There is talk that the price will end up being closer to either a first-round pick or a second plus a lower-tier prospect.
With the Avalanche not owning a second round pick until 2023, that second option is likely off the table, meaning that the Avs would have to offer either their first-round pick or a higher-end prospect like Martin Kaut or Shane Bowers.
Joe Sakic has shown that he’s often in favor of trading away the lottery tickets that are draft picks before moving a prospect that is already in the system. In a weak draft, for which scouting has been hard to come by, giving up a late first-round pick for an impact player like Palmieri is easy to swallow. Maybe there’s a way to add a little bit to the offer and get Aaron Dell thrown into the deal so Joe can find the goalie he needs and kill two birds with one stone.
Palmieri has a limited no-trade clause, so he does have some control where he ends up. That might put a bit of a cap on the return the Devils will get for him, but with a likely bidding war, it’s easy to see a decent haul heading back to New Jersey.