The Colorado Avalanche closed out the month of January with a win on home ice against the Los Angeles Kings in dominating fashion 5-1. Nathan Mackinnon extended his home point streak to 25 games and Logan O'Connor continues to impress as he pushes closer to being a 20 goal scorer with his 12th and 13th goals this season. O'Connor sits 3 points away from setting a new career high in points, as he achieved that feat last season with 26. Just hours before taking on the Kings in front of the Ball Arena crowd, the Colorado Avalanche officially announced the Zach Parise, 39 years old, would be joining the Avs through the end of the 2023-24 season. What lies ahead for the Avs when they return from the All-Star break on February 5th?
The NHL trade deadline is set for March 8th, 2024. Per usual, VP of Hockey Ops Joe Sakic and General Manager Chris McFarland are ahead of the curve as they look to finalize their roster for the playoffs. With a strong January (9-3-0), the Avalanche sit atop the Central Division standings at 32-14-3 just one point ahead of the Winnipeg Jets. With the strong play of Nathan MacKinnon (Hart Trophy candidate), Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar (Norris Trophy candidate), and the strength of the "Roaring 20s line", the foundation of the Avs roster is intact. The current absence of forward Valeri Nichuskin is massive, which likely led to the signing of Parise, but the possibility of his return towards the end of the season and for the playoffs ultimately gives the Avs additional flexibility in their lineups regardless of their opponent. Do not expect Colorado to stand pat on the trade market with the Parise signing. Parise does add some depth to an already impressive roster, but the Avs still need to address a potential rental backup for Alexandar Georgiev, who has played a league-leading 41 of 49 games this season, a whopping 83.6 percent. That's already 66.1 percent of the total of games he played last season with 33 games remaining on the Avs regular season schedule.
If the Avs plan on making any additional moves before or at the trade deadline, one thing is for certain; some current players or recently drafted players may be moved in those acquisitions. Logan O'Connor’s surge this season places him among players with rising stock. The Avs could look to capitalize on that by offering him as a tradeable asset. O'Connor could flirt with a 20 goal season, as he is only seven goals away and currently sits three points away from a career high in point total. His ability and chemistry with new teammate additions Ross Colton and Miles Wood bodes well with his adaptability to change, making him a potentially ideal candidate for any team.
The Avs are still looking for answers at the 2C position, as Ryan Johansen has not given them the boost that was once seen with Nazem Kadri. Through 49 games Johansen eleven goals and seven assists, but carries a minus six (-6) as his plus/minus. With his ice time being limited to an average of 13:51 per game, the Avs are in need of a talented forward to take over, eat some ice time, and potentially help the Avs develop another lethal line for opposing teams to deal wtih. The Avs biggest concern is whether to address the 2C position with a short-term rental type player, or with a young talented player in need of a new home.
Recent draft selections of Calum Ritchie and Mikhail Gulyayev are also potential candidates for other teams to target. Calum Ritchie returned to play for the Oshawa Generals in the CHL after an offseason shoulder surgery and has proceeded to 16 goals and 31 assists in 28 games. The 27th overall pick in the 2023 draft continues to show off in the CHL and looks to have a promising NHL career ahead of him once he gets called up. The Avalanche can go one of two ways with Calum by either trading him or holding on to him until they are ready to plant him in the lineup. I don't expect the Avs to make any sudden movements regarding recently drafted players as they have been prone to develop quality talent for their own and have often found themselves as a home of refuge for players that other teams have discarded or given up on.
Whatever the route the Avs take in the following month will be crucial. Do they add more without tearing apart some of the current roster? Will they find an answer in net behind Georgiev? Is Georgiev the leader of the resurgence in workhouse goaltending? Does fan favorite O'Connor remain in Colorado? We shall see. For now, the Avs will rest up and prepare for their longest roadtrip of the season as they will start the back end of the season on a six-game session away from Ball Arena. With a successful month of January in the rearview mirror, the Avs must continue that momentum against the rest of the NHL that is going to give them their best every single night.