The Die is Cast

Today the Avs signed three players in free agency. A defenseman (Jan Hejda, $3.25M), a forward (Chuck Kobasew, $1.25M), and a Backup goalie (Jean-Sebastion Giguere $1.25M). All three moves I heartily approve of.

But those weren’t the moves that made headlines today. The Avs, who were in the middle of the rebuild, traded a 1st & 2nd, round pick for the young, talented, and slightly injury prone, goaltender Semyon Varlomov. And the trade did more than give the Avs the #1 goaltender they craved. The trade ends phase one of the Avalanche rebuild.

 When Greg Sherman took over in early June of 2009 the Avs roster was coming off a season in which they were a few hundred thousand from the salary cap. The Avs were loaded with aging vets like Scott Hannan, Ryan Smyth Ruslan Salei and and Darcy Tucker. Greg Sherman’s 1st order of business was to shed the salary, shed the vets, and get talented, younger and allow himself the flexibility to fill in any holes that drafts picks may not yield. 

By trading away draft picks next year for a goaltender this year Greg Sherman took an advance on the rebuild that he has been carefully cultivating for 3 offseasons. His rebuild has now yielded a #1 Defenseman in Erik Johnson (a former #1 overall), a #1 Center in Duchene, (#3 overall), a #1 Winger in Landeskog, and now a #1 Goalie in Varlamov. The roster is one of the youngest in the league. Also, under contract next season for the Avs are: Paul Stastny, Ryan O’Byrne, Jan Hejda, Cameron Guance, Semyon Varlamov & Jean-Sebastion Giguere.

Now the Avs have talent, they have youth, and they have cap flexibility. He has all the tools in the shed, all the pieces on the board. Michealangelo once said “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it” Well Greg Sherman spent 3 offseasons trying to acquire the perfect stone. By trading away his 1st round pick next season, he’s guaranteed that this is the best piece of marble he’s going to get. It’s time for him to sculpt.

So the Avs begin a new phase of the rebuild, and so does Greg Sherman. Every move he makes from here on out, is molding this collection of talent into a Stanley Cup contender.  This means no more making moves to squeeze a few dimes off the payroll. That behavior was ok when the Avs were acquiring assets. But now the Avs are officially getting better, not cost cutting. The Avs now can sign free agents to plug holes they have, and they have holes to fill, in particular at wing, so if a left wing came up as a free agent next season, like Patrick Sharp, the Avs better be making a play for him. It doesn’t mean they have to spend recklessly, but there’s no more excuse for being cheap. If the Avs continue to hug the cap floor, they have no other excuses. In fact, today makes the Liles trade even worse in retrospect. They could afford him, and pairing him with Hejda, moving O’Byrne and Wilson to the third pair. Salary concerns can’t be the number one priority anymore.

 Avs fans reacted strongly, as did casual observers. Everyone assumed the Avs are going to be bad next year, and assume the 1st rounder will be a lottery pick. This year I was ok with the Avs trading the #11 pick + a replaceable asset for Bernier or Schneider. The Avs traded next years #1 for an equivalent replacement.  Sherman has all acquired all the parts, it’s time to build this Cup Machine.