The Colorado Avalanche traded Ian Cole to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, with Greg Pateryn heading to Denver. Thanks to the move, the Avs gained some much needed cap space, and gave a big vote of confidence to the young defensemen on their depth chart. Although we saw the Avs trade Ian Cole, this is about much more than him, and Pateryn coming back.
With Cole out of the picture, Colorado will turn to Conor Timmins, aged 22 and Bowen Byram, 19, to replace the minutes lost by this move. In a year where the Avs are expected to contend for the cup, it is a huge vote of confidence for those two youngsters.
“‘Colesy’ was a warrior,” Avalanche captain Nathan MacKinnon said after a 3-2 win at the Los Angeles Kings. “Obviously, he’s a Cup champion. It’s a tough business. I’m sure he was just ready to nap, he was in the lineup tonight and got moved. It’s just a financial thing, I’m assuming. We’re pretty tight against the [NHL salary] cap ($81.5 million), and I guess (general manager) Joe [Sakic] had to make a tough decision. Obviously it’s hard to lose a guy like Colesy.via NHL.com
What are the Wild Getting in Cole?
Let’s wrap up the Minnesota side of this deal and 31-year-old Cole will head there, arriving on a team that will be happy to make the playoffs, rather than contending for them. However, in a contract year, at least he will have a regular top-six role to hopefully aid picking up a deal next somewhere next season.
The veteran will make $4.2 million this year, the Avs have retained $800,000 of that. He is more than capable of playing on the bottom pairing, and solidifies what looks to be a nice base that the Wild have right now.
This is a fairly simple move for them, they have increased their cap hit by $1.2 million and improved their defensive unit by bringing in a solid top-six guy.
The New Defensive Depth Chart in Colorado
With Cole leaving, the Avs depth chart has a different feel to it, but at the same time, it looks incredibly stacked, even without Cole.
Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Sam Girard and Erik Johnson are their top four at this moment in time, providing a very strong backend presence that will be the envy of many in the league.
Positions five, six and seven are up for grabs between Ryan Graves, Conor Timmins and Bowen Byram. These three will play bottom six minutes and one will have to sit out when the Avs only play six on the backend.
It wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world to see the Avs play seven on the blue line a little more often this season. They are comfortable playing with 11 forwards, and want to get minutes into their young defenseman.
Behind these three, Dennis Gilbert and the trade piece they picked up from Minnesota, Greg Pateryn, are technically 8th and 9th on the depth chart. These two would both more than likely play a 7th defenseman role on most other teams, showing that the Avs are still stacked, even without Cole in the line up.
Will the Avs Miss Defensive Leadership?
As the Avs trade Ian Cole, they also trade away a lot of leadership and experience from their blue line. Four of their new top seven are aged 22 or under, if Ryan Graves is the healthy scratch from their bottom three then that means four of the six playing will be in this category.
Erik Johnson is going to take on an even bigger role, being the only veteran on the blue line, but with his injury record, he may not be there all the time to see that through.
This kind of defensive setup is what we usually see from a team that is putting together a roster to challenge. That is not where the Avs are right now, they are genuine cup contenders, and favorites with many.
There is no doubt this is a bold and brave move by Joe Sakic to let Ian Cole depart, but you only have to look at how the Avs play to see this is something the are comfortable with.
What to Look Out for in the Coming Games?
The expectation is that Bowen Byram will make his NHL debut at some point on the current road trip. The Avs are in LA on Thursday night, followed by games in Anaheim on Friday and Sunday.
Whatever happens in that debut, Byram is only going to improve with game time, as he learns how the Avs play and adjusts to the professional game. He is expected to be a top-four defenseman in years to come, but a bottom pairing role is where he will begin.
There is a little more pressure on him to find his feet and succeed this season now that Cole is out of the picture, and it will be interesting to see how he copes with that.
Conor Timmins is the second player to look out for. He struggled in game one of the season, but since then has been excellent, and gives the Avs a real headache on the blue line when they want to get Byram in the line up.
That’s a nice problem for coach Jared Bednar and Joe Sakic to have, one they hope will remain for the full season.
The headlines may read ‘Avs Trade Ian Cole’ but the underlaying move here is a big vote of confidence for Conor Timmins and Bowen Byram, in a year when the Avs want to contend for the Cup.