Carl Soderberg: What’s his Long-Term Role with the Team?


The Colorado Avalanche wanted Carl Soderberg. The team traded a sixth-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft to the Boston Bruins for the rights to negotiate with the center ahead of his pending free agency. Very quickly Colorado signed Soderberg to a five-year contract worth $23,750,000 with an annual cap hit of $4,750,000.

Many people saw this as the death knell of center Ryan O’Reilly‘s career as an Avalanche player, and they were correct. Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic stated, “Once we knew we weren’t going to get to the numbers [O’Reilly wanted as a salary] we started looking how to improve our team.”

While Soderberg was not part of the trade that took O’Reilly and winger Jamie McGinn out of Colorado, he is an integral piece of the puzzle for the Colorado Avalanche.

Carl Soderberg’s Playing Style

I already went into detail in a previous post about Carl Soderberg’s playing style (with video!). However, to summarize, Soderberg is an explosive player who can move down the ice with speed. At 6-foot-3, 216 pounds, he’s a powerful force on the ice. However, he moves with the agility typical of European players.

In fact, Soderberg spent extra time acquiring that European refinement. Indeed, from his draft year in 2004 until the 2012-13 season, Soderberg spent his career playing for his home team, the Malmo Redhawks of the Swedish premier hockey league. He did give the NHL a whirl when he was 20, but he just wasn’t ready. Though not exclusive to European players, Euros are renowned for their soft hands, and Soderberg’s no different.

Joe Sakic said of Soderberg when the team acquired him:

"“He is a solid two-way forward who is big and strong on the puck. He is versatile, can play center or wing, and his addition will also benefit our power play.”"

Sakic outlined that the team expected Soderberg to center Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog.

Keeping that in mind — especially since those were mainly O’Reilly’s linemates last season — some people have called Carl Soderberg the poor man’s Ryan O’Reilly. Truthfully, Soderberg’s talent and skill set don’t quite match up with O’Reilly’s.

That said, Soderberg’s not meant to be a direct replacement for O’Reilly. Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy are playing the long game.

Carl Soderberg’s Long-Term Role

Carl Soderberg has a five-year contract with the Avalanche. That does not mean Colorado expects Soderberg to be a top-six forward for the next five years.

First of all, there’s no reason to question that Matt Duchene is projected to remain the Colorado Avalanche’s #1 center — or top-six center, if you prefer — for the next while. The team has Duchene locked up in contract for the next four seasons, and Sakic and Roy have been adamant about his being a central aspect of the core players. Another core player is left wing Gabriel Landeskog, who’s under contract with the team for six more seasons.

Fellow left wing Jarome Iginla only has two years left on his contract, and that’s almost certainly it for the veteran. Right wing Alex Tanguay has just one year left. He may sign for an additional year, but it’s unlikely he’ll be in the lineup much past Iginla’s tenure.

That means in two years’ time, the Avalanche are going to have a couple big holes to fill in the top-six. Soderberg might eventually transition into one of those positions. He might also transition to the third-line center position.

Because what’s highly unlikely is that Soderberg remains a top-six centerman. Duchene already has one of those two spots. The Avalanche have a prime successor for the second slot, Nathan MacKinnon. Thus far MacKinnon has spent more time as a wing than a center, but he’s a gifted young man who’s just been a little green. His position is likely to change in the next couple years — perhaps as soon as this season.

In other words, calling Soderberg the poor man’s Ryan O’Reilly makes no sense. O’Reilly wanted a bigger role — in addition to paycheck — than the Colorado Avalanche had to offer him. O’Reilly wasn’t destined for an elite role on the Avalanche, so it made no sense to offer him elite money. O’Reilly was just going to keep holding Nathan MacKinnon’s spot open while Duchene possessed the other spot. And with Duchene, MacKinnon and defenseman Erik Johnson as leaders on the team, O’Reilly wasn’t going to take the lead there.

So, it’s not that the Avalanche are “too poor” for the likes of O’Reilly. Rather, the team is too rich at his natural position and in leadership. In this way, Soderberg fits the role the Avalanche need much better.

Next: Is MacKinnon's Development Hurt by Playing Wing?

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