Before Jibblescribbits gets into identifying prospects, I thought I might compile an addendum piece to the first part of his Trading Places ’09.
So we’ve identified the 26 veteran Avs and they have each been classified, according to their dispensability. Our gracious host and I may disagree on whether or not the time to sell has yet to arrive, but with less than three weeks to go before the most exciting day on the NHL calendar, I would be remiss if I failed to entertain the notion of the Avs becoming the Western Conference’s only seller, to the other 14 teams’ buyers. In such a climate, François Giguere could easily make out like a bandit, helping other GMs feast on Colorado's leftovers. As a means of reinforcing why certain Avs will be more available than others, I will list again, the roster players, along with each of their contract
These are the players identified as not going anywhere:
Adam Foote – under contract for next season at a cap hit of $3M
Joe Sakic – unrestricted free agent who will either re-up with the Avs or retire
Ryan Smyth – three more years at $6.25M per year
Paul Stastny – his six-year contract kicks in at $6.6M per year
Chris Stewart – one year left on his entry-level deal at $850,000
David Jones – one of only three restricted free agents who are not eligible for arbitration
Cody McLeod – arbitration eligible RFA
Scott Hannan – two years remaining at $4.5M per year
Kyle Cumiskey – along with Jones and Lake Erie blueliner, Michael Vernace, a non-arbitration RFA
The only player here who qualifies as untouchable is Stastny, though with Sakic’s various injuries he is obviously staying put, too. Moving Stewart would not be very likely, as he was Colorado’s first round pick in 2006. Almost as unlikely would be Jones, McLeod or Cumiskey, as each is expected to earn little more than $625,000 next season. If another GM were adamant about packaging one or more of them in a bigger trade, Giguere would certainly consider it. Other than with Cumiskey, however, I would not expect him to be very amenable. Foote, when healthy, is a bargain, while Smyth and Hannan probably represent too much of a cap hit to make moving them likely.
The following three guys have been identified as the most likely to be traded:
Jordan Leopold – UFA in June
Brett Clark – one year left at $3,500,000
Ruslan Salei – one year left at $3,025,000
We can all agree that Leopold represents the most viable trade piece, with his expiring contract and offensive upside. Another guy who was once touted as an offensive weapon is Clark, who will certainly garner much interest around the league. Salei, at just over $3M for next season, would be a bargain for any team looking for a responsible puck-moving defenseman. If the market for true shutdown rearguards is not to his liking, don’t be surprised if Giguere blows up the blueline, while hanging onto Hannan.
The next four players have been touted as only moveable for a great return:
John-Michael Liles – three years remaining at $4.2M per season
Milan Hejduk – one more year at $3.9M
Ian Laperriere – UFA at season’s end
Wojtek Wolski – one more year at $2.8M
The best defender for the Avs this season has been Liles. Between his age and his potential, he looks to be the long-term point man that the Avs should build around. Hejduk is severely undervalued at less than $4M, so while he might fetch a lot this March, he should remain as Stastny’s wingman for next year. Laperriere brings so much to the table that goes unreported. I defy anyone to point to another player in the league who hits harder, pound for pound. He possesses precisely what many GMs will be looking for and because of that, he should return a decent ransom. Make no mistake though. If the Avs are out of contention, Ian will be dealt. Wolski has played well alongside Hejduk and I do not foresee Giguere parting with the underpaid winger, though he is the kind of puzzle piece that could fetch a first round pick from a team looking to add some scoring punch.
Along with Brett Clark, these two veterans have been labelled as must-sells:
Darcy Tucker – one year remaining at $2.25M
Tyler Arnason – UFA at year’s end
Coach Granato’s refusal to grant Tucker much ice time might result in lowered interest in the playoff-tested vet. Expect to see Darcy moved to the third line, in advance of any potential trades. Arnason has already proven that he can still contribute, while centering a line with Svatos over the past few weeks. Teams looking for an extra face-off man to solidify themselves up the middle would be wise to consider Tyler for the low price it would cost them.
This next group of guys have been called valueless, which is curiously the opposite of priceless or invaluable:
Brian Willsie – UFA in June
Ben Guite – UFA in June
Cody McCormick – arbitration eligible RFA
Daniel Tjarnqvist – UFA in June
Andrew Raycroft – UFA in June
As was pointed out, there won’t be much demand for these guys in the coming weeks. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be actively shopped. Willsie, Guite and Tjarnqvist spend more time in the press box than in the line-up, so I’d like to see them dress for the last few games before the deadline to showcase their abilities. If Giguere could grab a few 6th or 7th round picks for any of these three guys, it would be better than paying them to eat pretzels for another two months. Like Haim to McLeod’s Feldman, McCormick has failed to keep pace on the depth chart, but at under $600,000 for next year, there is little reason to give up on the prospect of reuniting the two Codys. Raycroft once held so much promise, but barring an injury in a contender’s crease, there really isn’t much of a market for his services. With Bacashihua and Weiman as possible call-ups, trading Rayzor for a 6th round pick would be advisable if and when the post-season becomes unattainable.
The final trio have been simply labelled as available:
Marek Svatos – one year remaining at $2,050,000
T.J. Hensick – one year left on his entry-level contract at $850,000
Peter Budaj – arbitration-eligible RFA
The purest sniper on the team, Svatos should be retained at that price. If, however, someone is willing to cough up a good roster player and a prospect or a pick, it is conceivable that he could be moved. Hensick has been impressive this year and with another cheap year coming up, it would take quite a bit for Giguere to move him. Budaj might not have been what people were hoping for, but he certainly hasn’t been a disappointment as the league’s cheapest starting goaltender. Until we can secure one of the few available UFAs this summer, I don’t think Budaj will be shipped out for a bag of pucks. If, however, a team were willing to offer a good asset or two, closing out the season with the tandem of Raycroft and Weiman would do no harm.
So there you have it. Should the Avs decide that 8th place is beyond reach, then there are many little deals that could be made with an eye towards next season. Of the 26 roster players profiled, 8 will be UFAs in June, including Sakic and Laperriere. Add to that list, current Lake Erie Monsters Jesse Boulerice, Matt Hendricks, Chris Durno, Nathan Smith and Per Ledin. That gives Giguere 11 veteran players who will likely be lost in June. There is no reason to keep any of them, with the Monsters also facing a long summer without any playoffs, so unless the Avs can get on a roll, look for them all to be dealt on March 4th or sooner.
Stay tuned later today for Jibblescribbits' sequel, focusing on prospects. I may or may not follow that up with another redundant companion piece.