Let’s just get this out of the way first because it’s been a long time coming and I know people have things they want to say. Nate Guenin was placed on waivers. It’s unlikely he gets claimed and he isn’t being sent to San Antonio, leaving open the possibility he returns to the Avs lineup at some point. Thoughts?

Evan: Even if he isn’t sent to San Antonio now, it leaves the door open for them to send him down in the next 30 days, which I think does happen.  Just the fact that they’re finally recognizing that he isn’t good enough is enough for me to be happy with the move.  There was always the concern about him being brought back beyond this year, as he is a UFA, but I don’t think that’s happening anymore.  He wouldn’t be the worst guy to have around in San Antonio either, since the Avalanche took two of their top defensemen.  Guenin seems like a really popular guy in the locker room, and I wish him well, but the Avs needed to make this move.

Nick: Ever since he was first signed and made the team two years ago, I’ve viewed Guenin as an extra defenseman who should play the majority of his pro games at the AHL level. Patrick even said on the radio yesterday that they view him as a 6th/7th or even 8th defenseman. So I think that the time has come to give the new kids a shot because they obviously project better than a 6th defenseman or a healthy scratch. That being said, Guenin does have the experience that a guy like Bodnarchuk doesn’t have. I wouldn’t mind seeing him back in the lineup over Bodnarchuk if they end up not liking what they see from one of the 20-year olds over the next few games — someone is likely going to be reassigned once Erik Johnson comes back.

Cheryl: I’m glad that Roy is finally acknowledging that Guenin is not what’s best for the team on the ice, regardless of what he provides off of it, and I hope that should Zadorov and/or Bigras show they need a little more time in the AHL Roy doesn’t decide to plop Guenin back in with an, “Oh well, we tried” type of response. That said, I’m not convinced Guenin won’t be assigned to San Antonio at some point. If the kids work out, there would be no reason to return him to the Avs roster.

Cole: I took a pretty long look at Nate Guenin’s place in the Avalanche organization last week so I think it goes without saying that I’m disappointed to see Brandon Gormley demoted while he stays in the NHL. That said, one trip to Avalanche training camp or practice will show you how well liked Nate Guenin is by his teammates and what a hard worker he is in practice. For those reasons he’s kind of the ideal 8th defenseman for this roster because sitting him doesn’t risk his development, and he’s a leader and positive influence even when he doesn’t play. The problem with keeping Nate Guenin around is that you never know when Patrick Roy might pull the trigger and bench one of his youngsters in favor of him.

J.D.:  I was actually thinking Nate Guenin could be a real asset in San Antonio, considering how well regarded he is by his teammates. I was stunned to hear he was waived after the moves last week. I hope the Avalanche are truly serious about bringing in and developing some of the young talent. That being said, I think if he ends up in San Antonio, he should probably stay there, barring any additional injuries.

 

Nikita Zadorov and Chris Bigras were called up. Zadorov returns after an early-season stint with the Avalanche and Bigras will make his NHL debut tomorrow night. Were these the right guys to call up? Will they stick around?

Evan: I believe they are the right guys to call up, and I think at least one of them will stick around (my guess is Zadorov).  Siemens has very limited puck skills, so he would bring nothing new to the table for the Avs.  I also don’t believe the Avs front office has any faith in Siemens, whereas they love both Bigras and Zadorov.  The Avs are making the correct move in giving both of these young players a look now, as it gives them a chance to solve a problem on the defense from within rather than spending assets in a trade to acquire a new defenseman.  If one or both of them stick, then the Avs just made themselves a better team without giving up anything of value.  I love the move.

Nick: Right about halfway through the season, yes I think it was the right time to call both of them up, and yes I think they were the right ones. The other two down in San Antonio that are at least talked about in terms of being NHL defensemen are Duncan Siemens and Mason Geertsen — both of whom have struggled at times from my understanding down in San Antonio this year. Zadorov and Bigras have been outstanding down there and definitely deserve the shot at showing what they have at the NHL level. I’m glad the Avalanche let them prove their stuff down in the AHL and that the organization is finally discovering how valuable a good farm system can be — Roy has mentioned they are modeling their system after Detroit, and I like the way that sounds.

Cheryl: I would rather have seen Siemens called up as he has played very well this year, becoming more consistent and changing the way he approaches the game so that he is a more well-rounded player. Duncan said in our recent interview that he made specific changes both on and off ice based on his one game in the NHL last season. He said it was an eye-opening experience and that he learned a lot of what it takes to be an NHL defenseman. He took that knowledge into the off-season and has come in a different player this season. He deserves the chance to show what he’s learned and that he can be an NHL regular.

Moreover, I would have liked to see Bigras get a little more time in the AHL. He is playing with a ton of confidence right now, and I don’t want him to suffer any adverse effects if he doesn’t do well and has to return to San Antonio. He’s a pretty even-keeled guy, so I suspect he could handle a situation like that in stride, but it’s a risk nonetheless. Zadorov is still inconsistent, but I have felt for a while that he’s ready to come back to the NHL.

Cole: Short and sweet? These guys are big pillars in the Avalanche rebuild so yes, there’s nothing wrong with saying “let’s see what they’ve got.” I expect Bigras will head back to the AHL as soon as Erik Johnson or Brad Stuart are healthy, but he’s got the type of head for the game and raw skating ability that make him an excellent candidate to make a big and sudden leap at the NHL level, so I won’t count out a longer stay just yet. Zadorov I suspect is in the big leagues for better or worse now.

J.D.:  I am glad to see the Avalanche finally make a move on defense that I understand. It’s nice to see them calling up the guys who have earned a shot. I definitely think Zadorov and Bigras are the best options for now. I am not sure the Avalanche front office feels as positive about Siemens so I am unsure of his future here. Since I don’t have a crystal ball, my best guess is Zadorov is likely up for good and Bigras is getting a chance to see how he adapts to the NHL. Depending on what they see, he may stay up as well. I never expected Martinsen to be a good fit and I have enjoyed him proving me wrong.

 

The slightly uncomfortable question. Is this simply a showcase of talent for a larger trade? The Avalanche have been connected to endless trade targets and both Zadorov and Bigras are frequently mentioned as the guys the Avalanche would move. Is this just a setup for something more?

Evan: No, I don’t think so.  Patrick Roy has talked in the past about how the only way to get top 4 defensemen is to trade for them when they’re young, and develop them.  Just this morning he was talking on the radio about how hard it is to find defensemen.  For an organization that has not had a good defense in over 10 years, they should not be looking to move either of these guys, and I don’t believe they will.  I also don’t believe showcasing is even a thing in 2016.  Scouts are at every game, and if they’re not, it’s not hard to find video of a game.  If a team likes Zadorov or Bigras, they don’t need to see them play a few NHL games before pulling the trigger on something.

Nick: It certainly is strange what is going on in terms of waivers, roster spots and the contract limit here in Colorado. So with so much going on, I wouldn’t be surprised. Roy was so adamant about keeping them in the AHL for the whole year, it’s surprising to see both called up. One could certainly wonder if maybe another general manager called Joe Sakic up and asked them about both players’ NHL outlooks. But at the same time, I hope this is just to further both of their development. Yes, the Avs need depth everywhere, but they have had a huge hole on defense for a very long time. For the sake of the defense, I hope both of these kids are here to stay for a long time, because both project to be at least top-3 defensemen.

Cheryl: I think it’s both “let’s see what they’ve got while adding an influx of energy to a struggling team” and “and if someone sees something they like and we can get a good deal out of it, all the better.” There’s no real downside in that respect. If they play well, great! Keep them! Also, their values just went up! Alternatively, if they don’t play well, darn. Send them back for more development. Maybe their values will drop, but unless the front office gets a great offer for them, Sakic and Roy won’t be trading either of those guys anyway.

Cole: Maybe it’s the eternal skeptic in me, but I could not believe my eyes when I saw a Patrick Roy team ready to ice two rookie defenseman at the same time. The Avalanche as an organization have held fast on the belief that Bigras and Zadorov should see a full year of AHL play before stepping into the NHL full time and this sudden change in philosophy makes my ears perk up. The Avalanche sit just over one month away from the NHL trade deadline and if they’re staring down the barrel of some enticing offers that involve Bigras or Zadorov, they may see this NHL tryout as a good opportunity for their scouts to choose which of the two young defenseman to keep around for the long haul.

J.D.:  After the initial rush of joy at seeing the moves, I then grew concerned that perhaps the organization is trying to showcase some of their upcoming talent for a potential trade. I still don’t understand the Bodnarchuk signing and I certainly don’t understand hitting the team’s contract limit for a 27 year-old AHL guy and then waiving Gormley, who is younger and showed promise. I hope the Avs don’t jeopardize the future of the team to address a short-term problem. I would prefer to think the injuries to Erik Johnson and Brad Stuart provide an opportunity to see how their defensive prospects fit into the future of the organization. Because the Avs are fighting for a playoff berth, it’s a great chance to see how Zadorov and Bigras can elevate their level of play and contribute to the postseason push.

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Cole Hamilton

Cole is Vancouver born but a Colorado native at heart, spending 21 years in the Denver and Boulder area. This CU Boulder graduate started covering the Avalanche with Mile High Hockey in 2011 and after four years took over briefly as the site’s managing editor. After a year trapped in Chicago Blackhawk’s territory Cole is back in Boulder writing on the Avalanche and their prospects.

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