An Avalanche to Start the Fire Sale?

Reports out of Denver suggest a Rangers-Avalanche trade “of some magnitude” could be on the horizon

Winter is already here, but trades are coming; and if reports out of Denver are true, it might be Colorado who spark the proverbial Avalanche of deals expected to come out of New York this season.

According to Adrian Dater of BSN Denver, the New York Rangers not only sent two scouts to yesterday’s game between the Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings, but have apparently been circling Colorado of late. The Blueshirts’ interest has been so deep, in fact, that Dater believes a deal “of some magnitude” could occur by the deadline:

It’s not difficult to see why these two teams might show particular interest in one another, either, as each has exactly what the other needs. The Avalanche, who are led by arguably the best line in the NHL, could still stand to bolster their offensive ranks with quality secondary scoring for a lengthy post-season run this spring. The Rangers, on the other hand, have plenty of it to offer, and should be fueled by a bleak sense of hope that they might eke out a playoff spot themselves.

”I don’t want them lunging for the playoffs. Nobody’s job depends on whether we make the playoffs or not,” Madison Square Garden CEO, James Dolan, told the New York Post earlier this month.

While the Rangers have a bevy of forward options the Avs would likely find attractive, it’s hard to imagine Colorado aren’t most excited about the idea of acquiring Kevin Hayes. The pending unrestricted free agent center is, if not the top prize on the market, then a sizable consolation prize to anyone looking for an impact pivot.

Hayes is currently nursing an upper-body injury that’s set to keep him out of the lineup until after the Rangers bye week, but would ultimately offer the Avs the kind of depth at center that could measurably improve their second line and ancillary scoring as a result. Injury and all, he’s pacing a career-high 62-point season and has been one of, if not the most, effective offensive player on the Rangers since the puck dropped to start their season.

And he’s not the only Ranger likely to spark Colorado’s interest. With a whopping $56-plus million in projected deadline space available to them, the Avalanche could essentially buy an entire line of help so long as they were willing to give up on the future assets it would cost them in exchange. To this end, some combination of Hayes and Chris Kreider, Jimmy Vesey, Vladislav Namestnikov, Mats Zuccarello, Jesper Fast, and/or perhaps even Pavel Buchnevich could all be considered in a package deal if the Avs were so inclined.

Make no mistake, either — future assets are exactly the kind of thing most likely to make or break this would-be deal. The Rangers probably have very little interest in many of Colorado’s current NHL players — at least the ones the Avs could realistically be expected to part with — despite Dater’s suggestion that defenseman Tyson Barrie might be the “most likely,” candidate.

No, rather, it’s their deep prospect pool that probably has Gorton circling in the hopes of prying away a forward prospect like Martin Kaut, or either of Colorado’s premiere defenders, Conor Timmins, and Cale Makar. The latter was a presumed target of the Rangers, who attempted to move up in the 2017 draft to select him.

Kaut, 19, was taken 16th overall in last year’s NHL Entry Draft, seven spots after the team drafted Vitaly Kravstov with the ninth overall pick and six before they selected K’Andre Miller, after the team moved up to 22nd. The young rookie has 16 points in 32 games playing for the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles, who as it turns out, the Rangers are also scouting:

Timmins, 20, who has already suffered concerning ankle and head injuries that he’s worked his way back from, played for the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds from 2015 to 2018 where he was teammates with current Rangers’ prospect Tim Gettinger. Suffice it to say, if the Rangers have interest, they should have a good idea of the player they would be looking to acquire.

Or, perhaps the Rangers inquire about Tyson Jost, the 2016 tenth overall pick, who was sent back to the AHL earlier this week. The versatile forward, who can play both center and wing, is known for his excellent skating ability and was taken high in the draft for his offensive instincts. He’s just yet to take command of the opportunities he’s been given to make the Avalanche full-time.

“After getting hurt early last season, Jost simply was never able to get his rookie campaign on track. He bounced around the lineup and never looked fully comfortable in the NHL,” Mile High Hockey’s Hardev Lad said of him following Jost’s demotion.

There’s also Shane Bowers to consider. The 19-year-old center has direct ties to first-year Rangers head coach David Quinn, who not only coached the now-sophomore Boston University (BU) product, but recruited him to BU in the first place.

There’s no telling what combination of these Avs’ players, or the Rangers’ own, might ultimately compose any trade deal struck between the clubs, but there’s also no denying that each team holds much of what the other needs. They’d each be remiss if they didn’t at least discuss the multitude of opportunities here.

Fully-committed to their rebuild, the Rangers are likely to use this year’s deadline as a second-straight opportunity to garner futures of all kinds. Those assets will more than likely include draft picks, just as they did the season prior in which they made ten selections between their own picks and ones they acquired via trades. But their strategy should also include dealing for drafted players, too — especially ones on the cusp of NHL viability. Trading away a glut of players will open numerous roster holes after all.

The Avalanche are a contending team with more than enough assets to deal — the question is whether they’re willing to deal enough to entice the Rangers, who have the right-now pieces to move, but other suitors waiting to pounce.