Colorado Avalanche Should Trade Varlamov for Defense

Mar 30, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Matt Fraser (28) shoots the puck against Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) during the first period at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 30, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Matt Fraser (28) shoots the puck against Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) during the first period at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche have extra goalies but need a defenseman. Would the Edmonton Oilers make a trade?

A little while ago I was talking to a child at work. When he heard I was a fellow Colorado Avalanche fan, he announced, “The Avs should trade Varly for a defenseman and let Calvin Pickard play.”

I remember thinking to myself, “From the mouths of babes — that’s kind of what I think, too!”

Well, during today’s radio interview with Altitude Sports Radio, GM Joe Sakic stated that the Avalanche really wanted to pick up a “top-end D,” and since such players “don’t grow on trees,” the team would have to trade for him.

Now, it would make no sense to try trading defense for defense — a team isn’t going to give up a top-notch D for a couple lesser defensemen. The Avalanche don’t have the depth to send off a big-name forward — especially not after losing Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly in the previous two summers.

Not surprisingly for a team run partially by the greatest goalie of all time, the team is stacked in the goal tending position. Colorado has starter Semyon Varlamov, the very capable Calvin Pickard and a pretty decent backup in Reto Berra. The team also has a couple goalies coming up through the ranks, specifically Spencer Martin.

To my mind, the Avalanche could afford to lose Varlamov in exchange for that top-end defenseman.

Rationale for the Trade

Semyon Varlamov hasn’t been a clutch goalie for the Colorado Avalanche, and the Avs prize their clutch goalies. (Again, see Patrick Roy about that.) He is, however, a talented and instinctual goalie who can steal games — or even whole seasons, as we saw with 2013-14.

Calvin Pickard is neither as talented nor as instinctual. He is, however, a more technically sound goalie. He is a player who will be in position more often than not. And he will rarely cheat like Varlamov does.

To make this trade work, I had to find a team that both had a really good defenseman they might be willing to trade and a need for a goalie. That canceled out a lot more teams than you might imagine. For example, the Calgary Flames were supposedly interested in Varlamov, but it’s highly unlikely they’d part with Dougie Hamilton. (Plus, the Avalanche should have bargained for him last season when they still had his brother Freddie.)

I looked at both Travis Hamonic and Nick Leddy of the New York Islanders, but that team has four goalies on the roster already.

In the end I settled on an unlikely team for a defenseman — the Edmonton Oilers.

Varlamov to the Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers are like the Colorado Avalanche in reverse. They have tons of forward depth — enviable, really — with actually some decent defense and absolutely no goal tending. Their starter, Cam Talbot, is backed up by Laurent Broissoit. Yeah.

So, let’s look at a potential trade between the two teams:

Colorado Avalanche fans are going to be howling about trading Varlamov at all, much less for Nurse. However, let’s pick that trade apart.

More from Mile High Sticking

First of all, Darnell Nurse is young — just 21. He’s a big (6-foot-4, 213 pounds), left-hand shot. He’s got a solid defensive game with a touch of nastiness. He’s a solid skater. Nurse doesn’t have a lot of offensive prowess, but he has decent character.

In other words, he’s just the Colorado Avalanche’s type of player. I think he could be an instant partner for Tyson Barrie, leaving big, bad Nikita Zadorov to partner Erik Johnson.

What’s more, Edmonton’s third-round pick isn’t anything to sneeze at — it’s #63. The Colorado Avalanche could pick up a pretty good depth player at #63, maybe even big, Finnish defenseman Markus Niemelainen.

As far as prospects go, Colorado would probably look at one of Edmonton’s forwards, maybe a Mitchell Moroz or Bogdan Yakimov. Both are big forwards with a little talent — they might just be call-ups, but the Colorado Avalanche could use that kind of depth.

In exchange, the Avalanche would give up a talented but expensive goalie, a late-round pick that’s unlikely to yield much, and probably a defensive prospect. It might even be Mason Geertsen, though you could hope for Cody Corbett or Mat Clark. Hells, maybe Colorado would send Nick Holden Edmonton way.

Next: Joe Sakic on Free Agency and Trades

This would be a good trade for both teams. Edmonton needs that kind of goalie. Colorado needs a great defenseman and some depth.

What do you think of this kind of trade?