Thursday, February 25, 2016

Jonathan Drouin To The Avs Might Make Sense

In honor of the upcoming Avalanche-Red Wings alumni game, I thought it would be interesting to see if Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman - who captained those teams for quite a while - would be able to make a blockbuster deal at the NHL trade deadline.

Sakic, of course, played his entire career in the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise and captained the Avs for the first fifteen years of their existence. Yzerman, similarly, played his whole NHL career in Detroit, where he served as captain from 1986 to 2006.

The Sakic-Yzerman era Avs-Wings rivalry is among the best in sports history. As far as my sports-watching lifetime goes, it's up there with Yankees-Red Sox and Duke-UNC.

And now, in 2016, Sakic and Yzerman find themselves in prominent roles in NHL front offices. Sakic is the Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Avalanche, and Yzerman is the General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Yzerman has been dealing with the much-publicized Jonathan Drouin situation, and has recently expressed a desire to move Drouin before next Monday's deadline. That makes sense to me - with Steven Stamkos' future in the air, the Lightning are best served making an all-out push for this year's playoffs.

Lots of teams seem to be in the market for Drouin, naturally, because he's a former third overall pick who very plainly just needs a change of scenery. I'd imagine that Yzerman has his choice of just about every team in the league as a trade partner.

Why wouldn't he consider doing business with his old rival in Colorado, and shipping Drouin out to the Western Conference Avalanche?

The move would seem to make sense for the Avs. Drouin, age 20, would project to hit his prime around the same time as forwards Gabriel Landeskog (23), Matt Duchene (25), and Nathan MacKinnon (20). Granted, the Avs could definitely use some reinforcements on defense beyond Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie. But another blue-chip offensive talent like Drouin would turn their top two forward lines into a nightmare. 

So, how could the Avs acquire Drouin? 

Tampa has made it clear that they want help on defense, specifically someone who is offensively-inclined and can contribute on the powerplay. Here's who Colorado has available, and how they might fit in Tampa (numbers via General Fanager and Corsica):

NameAgeCap HitYears LeftAvg TOIRel CF%Points/60PPP/60
Erik Johnson273.75 / 67 (UFA)16.8-0.650.932.43
Francois Beauchemin354.52 (UFA)17.8-1.880.753.38
Tyson Barrie242.60 (RFA)17.90.350.855.72
Nick Holden281.652 (UFA)17.71.320.750.91
Chris Bigras210.8432 (RFA)12.4-1.220.25-
Zach Redmond270.750 (UFA)11.82.370.73-
Andrew Bodnarchuk270.650 (UFA)12.6-3.700.62-
Nikita Zadorov200.8942 (RFA)15.5-0.330.48-

For reference, Tampa's two best defensemen are Victor Hedman (1.61 P/60, 3.67 PPP/60) and Anton Stralman (1.22 P/60, 3.03 PPP/60). 

Barrie is clearly the Avs' best defenseman, but he's also their future on the back end and so he's probably off-limits for any sort of trade. That's a shame, because any sort of Drouin trade would have to include him going to Tampa. 

Let's pretend, for one second, that Tampa is really desperate for another defenseman that can handle the puck and contribute on the power play. Does Francois Beauchemin make sense if it would allow them to get out from under Matt Carle's $5.5m AAV? Beauchemin and Carle both expire after the 2017-18 season, but Carle contributes almost nothing offensively (0.17 P/60). 
Colorado receives: Jonathan Drouin, Matt Carle
Tampa Bay receives: Francois Beauchemin, Colorado's 2016 1st round pick 
Which team says no?

Tampa improves their blue line and gets (a little bit) less expensive, all without increasing anyone's long-term money. They get a veteran presence that fits a big need for this year's playoff run. They also net a mid-first round pick, which should allow them to nicely restock their prospect pool post-Drouin. They also keep Drouin out of the Eastern Conference, which can't be understated - could you imagine how heartbreaking it would be for Boston fans to have to play against Tyler Seguin four times a year?

Colorado gets the prize of the trade in Drouin, but loses their second- or third-best defenseman in the process and gets a warm, overpaid body to replace him. To me, this deal would hinge on how Avs fans and management feel about young defensemen Bigras, Zadorov, Duncan Siemans, Brandon Gormley, Nate Guerin, and Mason Geertsen. Maybe Tampa could send back a mid-level defensive prospect like Anthony DeAngelo or Slater Koekkoek to balance the scales for Sakic.

Will this happen? Absolutely not.

Did I successfully just waste most of the morning? You bet your ass I did.

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