Analyzing two high profile off-season trades the Colorado Avalanche were involved in

Sep 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Ross Colton (20) drives to the net in the second period against the Minnesota Wild at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Ross Colton (20) drives to the net in the second period against the Minnesota Wild at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche front office has done a good job of making decisions over the last few years. They drafted Norris Trophy-winning Defenseman Cale Makar 4th overall in 2017 and re-signed Hart trophy finalist and Lady Byng award winner Nathan MacKinnon to a massive contract extension in 2022.  These moves along with other “minor” moves, like Andre Burakovsky, helped the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in 2022.

It appears though, that at least some media outlets were less than thrilled with at least two trades the Avalanche were involved in this off-season, for one reason or another.

In an article written by Alex Chauvancy of The Hockey Writers discussing the four worst trades of this off-season, he believes two of those four included the Avalanche.

While the title of his article may be misconstrued after reading the initial portion of this article, Chauvancy is plenty complimentary of the Avalanche’s decisions in these deals.

He initially discusses the Alex Newhook to the Montreal Canadiens trade that took place earlier this offseason. Newhook was drafted in the first round in 2019 by Colorado. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound center from Newfoundland made a significant impact for the Avalanche last season, playing all 82 games and registering 30 points.

Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland was able to obtain two early picks (31 and 37) in this past draft for Newhook, which is an excellent haul for a 30-point player. Although still relatively new to the NHL, only having two full seasons under his belt, the Avalanche parted with a bottom-six asset for two early-round picks, which should be considered a win.

There are two major concerns with this trade. Newhook is a center, and quality centers are hard to come by in the modern-day NHL (see Nazem Kadri). Although his point total was lower than the previous season, it appears Newhook was beginning to find consistency at the NHL level. To counter that point, Newhook was only slightly above 41 percent on faceoffs last season, and that is a number that must be higher.

The second concern is that he was a first-round draft pick four years ago, and there is a possibility the Avalanche gave up on Newhook too soon. It’s likely that the acquisition and re-signing of Ross Colton played a factor in this trade.

With the 37th pick that Colorado obtained in the Newhook deal, they traded for Ross Colton. This occurred the day after the Newhook deal, and if we don our tin foil hats for a minute, there was surely some knowledge of being able to get this deal completed before they traded Newhook.

With the 31st selection, also acquired in the Newhook deal, Colorado selected Russian defenseman Mikhail Gulyayev whom they have high hopes for.

There is no other way to state that the Avalanche fared very well in this trade in the immediate. Trading Alex Newhook for an upgrade at center in Ross Colton as well as a first-round selection is a win for Colorado.

Chauvancy also discussed the Ryan Johansen deal and its impact, or potential lack thereof, for the Avalanche.

A question I share with Chauvancy is related to Johansen’s competency as a second-line center for Colorado. Traded for Alex Galchenyuk this off-season, Johansen is expected to have a significant impact on the team this season, hopefully enough to mirror a lot of what Nazem Kadri provided during the Stanley Cup season recently.

Over 55 games last season, Johansen only totaled 28 points. He has to be better in that regard, and clearly, the Avalanche hope he can be closer to his 2021-22 offensive form when he totaled 26 goals over 79 games for the Predators as opposed to his 22-23 form. Based on watching the Predators last season, they appeared to prefer to generate offense through their blue line, and why wouldn’t they with a player like Roman Josi back there?

The Avalanche generate offense from all areas of the ice with dynamic players like Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen. With a more open style of play, opportunities to put points on the board should be more copious for Johansen while wearing the burgundy and blue sweater. There will be powerplay opportunities for Johansen as well, and he’s likely to find plenty of space in 5-on-4 situations.

Johansen’s face-off percentage is a positive. He is around 53 percent over the course of his career, and he was an excellent 59 percent on faceoffs last season. If Johansen can replicate that this season, that should mean several more possessions on a game-to-game basis for Colorado.

The Colorado Avalanche traded away Alex Galchenyuk to obtain Johansen. Galchenyuk recorded 0 points over 11 games with Colorado last season and now plays in the KHL. It appears his NHL career may be over.

Obviously, the jury is out on what kind of impact Johansen will make this season and beyond for Colorado. By only giving up Galchenyuk to obtain him, the Avalanche are taking a calculated risk in the hopes that Johansen will be able to replicate his 21-22 form in their free-flowing offense.

Two trades that will shape how far the Colorado Avalanche offense goes this season occurred this offseason. In acquiring Ross Colton (effectively), Ryan Johansen, and a young Russian defenseman with upside, they parted ways with Alex Newhook and Alex Galchenyuk. Avalanche Nation hopes these trades pay dividends in the now and future. If given the choice to do it all over again, at this point, Avalanche fans would do this again almost every time.