With the NHL trade deadline now officially in the past, the Colorado Avalanche took their metaphorical ball and went home. Having built a roster mired deep in last place and having been irrelevant since early December, general manager Joe Sakic failed to act like a guy who knows he’s in the midst of a rebuild.

Given his Hall of Fame playing career, including the NHL record for overtime goals in the postseason that built his reputation as a master of the clutch situation, watching the great Joe Sakic morph into “No Show Joe” at the season’s biggest moment was nothing short of startling.

While there’s certainly a reasonable argument to be made that no NHL team saw the need to give up assets for the likes of John Mitchell, Rene Bourque, or Fedor Tyutin, when one surveys the NHL landscape after the chaos of the deadline, you’ll find plenty of players with similar production and red flags were moved for primary pieces.

To recap, the Avalanche made a grand total of two moves today: Jarome Iginla was traded to Los Angeles for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 and Andreas Martinsen went to Montreal in return for Sven Andrighetto.

On the surface, the Iginla deal opened the roster spot the Avalanche would immediately fill by calling up forward J.T. Compher from San Antonio and Andrighetto would appear to be quite an offensive upgrade over the burly Martinsen so what’s the problem?

Lesser players than Iginla fetched some lofty returns at the deadline, such as Jannik Hansen returning a potential first round selection and a top prospect from the San Jose Sharks while Vernon Fiddler, who at the time of his trade had registered just three points, netted a 2017 fourth round pick. How in the world do you manage to give away a player who has recorded more than 600 career goals for not much more than a song?

Further, if the Avalanche were such believers in Andrighetto’s talent, why didn’t they simply claim him when he was on waivers earlier this season? They’ve experienced success with waiver claims Matt Nieto and Mark Barberio but for some reason, they felt the need to give up a player the Montreal Canadiens actually valued for a player they literally tried to give away via the waiver process earlier this year.

While there’s no guarantee an earlier claim on Andrighetto would have resulted in a significantly improved compensation in return for Martinsen, the simple fact of the matter is Sakic and the Avalanche paid a price to acquire a player who they could have easily had for free earlier in the season.

On the other side of the management table, you have the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning and longtime Sakic foil Steve Yzerman, who deftly manipulated the trade scene to rid himself of Valtteri Filpulla’s troublesome contract for what basically amounted to a seventh round pick, opening the salary cap space he’s going to desperately need with a number of key restricted free agents needing raises this summer.

Sticking with Yzerman’s deadline work, he also navigated the murky terrain of an upcoming free agent situation when he dealt goaltender Ben Bishop to the same Kings team Iginla joined today. What’s remarkable is Yzerman managed to get significantly more in return for what is essentially a backup goaltender versus Iginla, who is expected to slot into LA’s top line next to franchise cornerstone Anze Kopitar.

Granted, Bishop is in his prime and has been one of the NHL’s better goaltenders in recent years but if the Kings make a deep playoff run this year and Jonathan Quick remains healthy, which player is likely to help Los Angeles more – Bishop, who may not even play, or Iginla, the top line right wing? This was a clear case of Sakic doing right by a player at the cost of doing right by the organization he’s running, a common theme seen in previous years with players such as Jan Hejda.

While Yzerman once again demonstrated his ability to handle the problems facing him before they became untenable, Sakic steadfastly held firm on his reportedly astronomical asking prices for faces of the franchise Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. Sakic’s reasoning for not parting with the big guns was simply because he didn’t have to as each player is signed for at least two more seasons.

The lack of blockbuster trades involving Colorado’s best players was easily the best part of Sakic’s day. The rest is an embarrassment. Teams in this situation understand how to cut their losses and look towards the future. The only thing the Avalanche looked on Wednesday afternoon was lost. Lost in the arrogance of their former glory, delusional about the current state of the franchise and seemingly oblivious to the reality that they’re on the verge of the worst 82-game season in recent history.

One could reasonably argue the current state of the team is not entirely Sakic’s fault. The influence of Patrick Roy over personnel decisions was vast, especially early when the partnership began in 2013, and the disagreements on those decisions last summer seemed to be a major reason for Roy’s abrupt departure over the summer. Nonetheless, this is now Sakic’s mess to clean up and with six impending unrestricted free agents on the NHL’s worst roster, today was the day to tell the world he understood how to approach a legitimate rebuild.

While Yzerman danced his way between the upcoming free agent rain drops, Sakic’s failures in the July hockey version of Black Friday only stick out even more. Failing to generate any trade interest were high-profile free agent signings Francois Beauchemin, whose overall game has fallen off a cliff this season and is the proud owner of a no-movement clause that will force him to be protected in the upcoming expansion draft, and Carl Soderberg, who has a limited no-trade clause of his own kicking in this summer for the remaining three years of his contract at just under $5 million per season. That’s the same Soderberg who has been a healthy scratch recently and has scored just 11 points in 59 games.

The final results have tallied zero additional 2017 draft picks, meaning the Avalanche will have just two of the top 92 selections in this summer’s NHL Draft after the failed Eric Gelinas trade at least year’s trade deadline cost them their third round selection this year. Meanwhile, fellow bottom-feeders Arizona, Detroit, and Carolina will have five, five, and seven selections, respectively, in the first three rounds of this year’s draft.

All of this just goes to show how lost this franchise really is. Today was an opportunity to prove this front office wasn’t overwhelmed by the task at hand and they failed miserably. They are not only the worst team in the NHL by a country mile, their farm system is among the 10 worst in the NHL and they have failed to stock up on draft selections in upcoming drafts to remedy the situation.

The situation has reached such a critical mass of failure, there’s little reason for Avalanche fans to place faith in Sakic to handle the delicate situations he now faces with Duchene and Landeskog this summer. The draft floor has become the NHL’s primary trading grounds and the spotlight will only be bigger and brighter.

Does anybody really believe Sakic won’t shrink from that moment, too?

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AJ Haefele

This Aurora, Colorado native moved to Katy, Texas at a young age but found himself right back at home in 2009 and would begin covering the Avalanche a year later.

Before joining BSN Denver, A.J. had been writing for and briefly managed the popular Avalanche blog, Mile High Hockey. A.J. has been providing detailed practice reports, training camp coverage, and in-depth looks at the Avalanche and their divisional foes since 2010.

  • kc merrill

    I’m ready for the Sakic era to be over already. Great player but a terrible GM.

  • Van Kleve

    In a year of utter frustration and disappointment I want to thank you for shaking my faith in the only foundation of hope I have left, that is that someone in this organization cares as much as most Avs fans and will work to turn this organization around.

    You have made some great points, but you make some large assumptions. You assume that teams were beating down Sakic’s doors for 3rd and 4th line players and Sakic was unwilling to part with them. It takes two to make a trade and while I’m sure our core players drew some interest I doubt teams were wanting do trade our bottom line guys for 1st rounders and such.

    I want to believe that Sakic got as much as he could for a 39 year old version of Iglina, the same one who could pick the team he wanted to go to, but in the end trading Iginla was a kindness and other GM’s knew it. I doubt other teams were willing to give up a Bishop type trade for Iginla and Sakic said No to them.

    Perhaps Sakic did as much as the landscape would allow and he will continue to do so moving forward, but unless you have some insider knowledge of trade offers perhaps you could write about something positive in this negative year. As a huge fan of the Avs I sure could use a little good news to read about.

    • Zach

      Im growing skeptical Sakic, but I agree with what you have said here regarding assumptions.

    • The Heretic

      So you want someone to lie to you? No one was clamoring for us to swap Toots, Mitch, Iggy, Colborne, ect for first round picks. No one. We were clamoring for them to move them, period. 4th, 5th, 6th round picks, prospects… just fix your screw ups and get something for them. Or at the very least open up roster spots. Sakic didn’t. He didn’t fix a single screw up. We are still stuck with his bad decisions through the end of the season, and few of them much longer.
      They told us the plan was to move out the passengers around the deadline and call up the kiddos to see what we got. They failed. They opened one roster spot. One.
      We’ve got Duncan down in the A having a pretty good season and they act like they don’t even know he exists. An 11th overall pick. Languishing away, never to get a shot. We want to be young and fast but all of our young players are stuck in the AHL because Sakic signed a bunch of old slow guys to term.

      These kids know what is happening in the NHL. They know they deserve some of those roster spots that are being taken up by players that don’t give a damn. AJ Greer knows he outperformed half the roster when he was called up early in the season. Instead of him getting a shot they claim dudes off waivers. (Then trade assets for a dude who cleared waivers earlier) These are the kind of things that make your high end prospects demand a trade. These are the kind of things that make it so college players will never sign a ufa deal with us. Hell, these are the kind of things that’ll make normal ufas not sign with us.
      Yeah, it’d be nice to hear some good news. I’d rather hear the truth.

      • Van Kleve

        Not lie to me, but be fair in their assessment of the situation. Nobody truly knows what offers Sakic might or might not have recieved for any of our players. So to assume he did nothing and then link the inaction to future deadlines is poor form. You can say we should move these players and they are worth these picks, that’s all conjecture!

        My point was that Sakic did the right thing to move Iginla to a team that had a chance at the playoffs, it just so happened that the Kings are a better system fit for him than we, or many other teams are. What was the alternative, keep him and set a bad example for other future free agents considering the Avs as a destination? We would have been paying out his contract regardless. It sucks that we got nothing for him, I agree, but to suggest he could have gotten more for him and didn’t is short sided because we have no idea what was available on trade offers plus Iglina could veto any trade he didn’t like.

        I want to see the Sakic move this organization forward, and I agree that his vision is murky at this time. I hope he gives the younger players a chance, at least that makes for interesting games moving forward. The good news I wanted was how a classy GM made a classy move to get a classy player a chance at a cup. What would AJ’s column looked like if Iginla was still with the team?

      • Steve Burr

        I couldn’t agree with you more. At this point does it matter if we win any more games? let’s see what the kids can do and what we have! You mentioned Duncan but I want to see Bigras as well. He looked half way decent last year and now he has not played 1 single game for the Avs this year. What a train wreck, and so sad that it came at the hands of our captain. I’m sorry but he needs to go after this failed trade deadline, that is the final straw.

    • spoon9z

      He’s hardly saying Joe had offers and wouldn’t make them, AJ is saying he did not find deals and male a market to change this team as he is paid to do at this pt. I give Joe one last shot at the exp and overall draft to make some solid moves, but overall his work thus far is severely lacking.

  • Avsfan2119

    These comparisons really are unfair. Bishop is a good goalie and Filppula has 37 points this year, that’s decent offensive output. Martinsen, Mitchell, Soderberg and Comeau COMBINED don’t have that many points. We’d all have loved to see them dump the old guys but it takes two to tango and I suspect there wasn’t much interest.

    • Joey Gardner

      What about Jurco? Hansen? Lazar?

      • Avsfan2119

        What about them?

        Hansen has 13 points in 28 games, a FAR better clip than any of the guys I mentioned, only 1 behind Comeau in far fewer games.

        Lazar is a 22 year old former 1st round pick that for some reason, is still highly thought of. Ottawa wanted a 1st round pick for him at one point.

        Jurco is a young skilled player, whether he can put it together or not remains to be seen, but he’s more attractive than any of the old guys I mentioned. I’m sure Sakic could have found some takers for some younger guys in the AHL if that’s what you really wanted, but it didn’t make much sense.

        Besides all that, we weren’t even talking about those guys. He went after Sakic for not being able to trade crap players while lauding Yzerman for being able to trade two decent players. That’s where I disagree.

        • Joey Gardner

          Alright, how about Steve Ott, Alex Burrows, and Drew Stafford? You can’t just pick and choose “young and talented” and then cite statistics for the others. The league is full of “young and talented” players who never put it together. Nobody expected a 2nd or 3rd for Iginla. But free? With 50% retention?

          Iginla is slotted at 1RW, is a Hall of Famer, and garnered literally nothing. The Kings even got a fourth for the guy he’s replacing – Dwight King. I don’t know how you can defend Sakic at all for that. He got rid of Iginla: great. He got no tangible assets at the deadline: awful.

          • Jeff Salcido

            Lol, this guy makes me laugh.

          • spoon9z

            That’s funny, bc he makes plenty of sense and backed his opinion unlike you.

          • Jeff Salcido

            He said that he wasn’t expecting a 2nd or 3rd pick but called getting a 4th nothing. Also there wouldn’t have been a deal if the Avs hasn’t retained part of his salary as the Kings are capped. Ott and Stafford brought 6th rnd picks which you could call nothing. They both have had success in the league and have lots of playoff experience. Burrows was moved for a prospect and the resigned immediately for 2 yrs. he unlike iginla still has playing days ahead of him and could fill nicely on 3rd line. As for Dwight king Mtl was looking to add size and at 27 yrs old with 2 Stanley Cups to his name with 70 games of playoff experience will fetch 4th is not unimaginable. We have all watched iggy play this year and the fact that he was moved at all is a blessing and in fact it may have only happened because of his relationship with Daryl Sutter.
            By no means do I think Sakic is perfect but I do think he’s learning from past mistakes and hopefully this upcoming yr with some cap space freed up he can help the D out without patch work signings and add some youth and speed to the 3rd/4th lines.

          • Avsfan2119

            I didn’t pick & choose anyone, I cited the guys mentioned in this article and the guys you asked about. Sakic also said if he could have made more moves he would have, so obviously teams weren’t interested in the Avs players.

            I also didn’t defend Sakic for the Iginla trade, I don’t understand why he did what he did there, only he knows. I defended Sakic for not being able to trade a bunch of awful players when everyone acts like it should have been easy.

  • matt carson

    Would have been nice to trade upcoming UFA’s but every team (that’s not making the playoffs) wants to do that, so it’s a buyers market and most sellers will not match with a buyer. Our UFA’s aren’t that interesting, especially sense they are all part of a team that’s playing horribly. Hoping somebody will pay us to take our junk is a lot to ask for.

    Not giving into teams low-balling for Duchene and Landeskog is the only move right now. Anything less would have been a panic move. Sakic knows there are more buyers in the off-season for players like them, it’s smart to wait, unless an incredibly too-good-to-pass-up trade was being offered.

  • jonquixote

    Nothing wrong with criticizing Sakic’s moves or lack thereof, but if you’re wondering why Iginla didn’t fetch as much as Jannik Hansen, then you’re clearly not watching games this year or paying attention to their respective contracts. In short, not qualified to write about hockey.

    • Joey Gardner

      This comment adds nothing to the conversation. This was not the argument that was being made. Try again next time.

    • The Heretic

      I’m all for calling out journalists but you are calling out the wrong one. Did you listen to the conference call? AJ is the only journalist asking the hard hitting questions. Why did we trade one of the more palatable passengers for a guy we could have gotten for free when he was on waivers? We, as fans, have been wondering how we could trade our players that cleared waivers earlier in the year. Other GMs are doing it!

      I’ve watched the games this year. I’ve suffered through them like everyone else and I’m still asking how we could trade Iggy for nothing and keep half of his salary while doing so. LA is slotting him into the top tonight. Top line! We traded, what another team views as, a first liner for nothing and we payed to do it! LA got assets for the player they ditched to pick up Iggy. When teams ditch players to go after someone else and plan on said player playing on the top line that player has value. The fact that Joe could not walk out of that situation with an actual asset is appalling.

      Furthermore, had you listened to the press call you’d know that Sakic seems to have no plan and no vision. All he can spout are the platitudes about getting younger and faster. We had a young and fast team that won the conference and Sakic mismanaged his assets. He let Stats walk for nothing. He bungled the ROR negotiations to the point where he had no choice but to trade him. If we had gotten a solid top end prospect and a first (not unreasonable for a 7 million dollar player) for Stats where would we be right now? Instead we replaced all those mismanaged assets for old, slow players that are still living off the names they made for themselves several years ago. We want to get younger and faster, yet we went from one of the youngest teams to the oldest. It is a disgrace.
      In short, you do not seem to be informed enough nor have the critical thinking skills to decide who is or isn’t qualified to write about hockey.

      • rockiesghost


        • Steve Burr

          essentially soderberg replaced ROR which is sad because soderberg blows.

          But actually we still don’t know how this ROR trade will pan out. So far, Grigs looks like garbage, but if Z and Compher end up being the real deal then hey we might still come out on top of that one at the end of the day. but so far it’s still in the air and next year we should have a better idea. This year is such a dumpster fire it is hard to truly tell if Zadorov will pan out when we get better.

          Oh and stats was replaced with Iggy who is clearly older and has fallen off. Beauch, Stuart (I know he’s gone now), colbourn, Tyutin, Gelinas, all just add to the slow and old style the Avs have decided to adopt, Comeau is the only one I really like because he brings an edge and grit to the third line for not an extreme amount of money.
          They are older and slower and it is management’s fault it trended that way signing and trading for all of them. Let’s hope they just bring up all the kids next year and don’t make any crap singings… but I’m not holding my breath.

  • nemesis44uk

    I’m strongly of the opinion that there’s a major disconnect with the way the Avs draft, train and deal with players and the way the NHL works in the post-salary cap era.

    Players are rarely scouted well, nor are they treated as valuable commodities, they are bait to sign established NHL players, often past their prime. That’s why callups are rare and the Avs have a metric $hit-tonne of bad contracts. That dog won’t hunt in today’s NHL and until the Avs’ Head Shed come to terms with that, they will revel in direness and mediocrity.

  • Randy

    I think money was a big factor. Somehow the Avs only had to withhold 1/2 of Iginla’s salary, but maybe they could have gotten more if they were willing to hold $4m (and that would be prorated). Some teams simply couldn’t fit him under the cap. Had the Avs been willing to dump some guys like Tyutin such that the other team was only risking $1m or so, I think some playoff teams would have grabbed a couple of depth guys for low picks. Give up a 7th rounder for Tyutin at $950k cap hit with an expiring contract in case one of your defensemen get hurt? Why not? I could be wrong, but I don’t the Avs were willing to dump that cheaply. I’d have been willing to eat all but the minimum salary to move him and open up space for young guys to get some NHL games.

    • The Heretic

      50% is the max salary you can retain in a trade.

      • Randy

        Good catch. That would still work with Tyutin (retaining $1m of $2m) but it turns out there’s also a limit of three retained contracts. Avs could have used more flexibility on that rule. They had already retained on McLeod’s deal.

  • Tom Schultz

    I agree with the commenters and really disagree on the argument that Sakic has failed in maneuvering through the trade deadline.
    I’m not sure why so many people want to sell low, but right now that’s what the organization would be doing. In addition, so many teams are looking forward into the expansion daft and planning which guys to protect and which to expose. You have to think Sakic is exposing the guys under contract that he may have been ok with trading away. Instead of trading them now, they could be selected in the expansion draft and literally taken off the books for free. On the flip side if new players had been acquired, those players that Sakic wanted to keep would have been exposed and possibly selected.
    I think they have made the right move here in waiting until after the expansion draft to trade anybody. Teams will all have a much better picture on what they have to work with in regards to salary, and they will have a much better idea of needs for their organization.
    If anything, deciding not to sell low and wait out the expansion draft and start working with the entry draft makes Sakic a smart GM. I can’t believe how so many people put their hands up to the sky and want to trash the work of contract situations and talent that is in place. They have had a bad season but many players on the team aren’t as bad as people seem to suggest.
    Business 101: Buy low, sell high. Not the other way around–aka the trade deadline!

    • Joey Gardner

      It’s a thought, but the players we’re most likely to lose are Grigorenko, Barberio, maybe Comeau, Soderberg, Varlamov, or Pickard. Those guys weren’t gonna get protected anyway. We have to protect Beauchemin because of the NMC. Tyutin, Mitchell, and Bourque are all UFAs. Those are who we should have traded if we could have. If no one was buying, fine. But at least get a real fourth round pick for Iginla.

      I’m all for not trading the core guys. But I was hoping to clear the bottom lines and pairs out for some of the promising AHLers because – right now – we’re losing developmental time on AHL players for players with no future in the organization.

      • The Heretic

        I’m all for not trading the core too, but I fear it is too late. They’ve put Dutchy through the ringer. He doesn’t want to be here anymore because of it. Yes, that relationship can be repaired. Do you trust Sakic to be the one doing the repairing? I don’t. Not when someone asks him if he has spoken to Landy or Dutch and he replies with “I don’t have to talk to them about anything”.

  • Tbone Haberer

    Most comments on an article if memory serves. Well done AJ. I for one am okay what was done or not done at the deadline and will reserve judgement until after draft day.

  • Ahmed Asif

    Seems like a click bait article. Sakic’s hands were tied and AJ knows this well. Current UFAs are gone anyway. What worries me is who’s gonna replace them for next season. AJ Greer and JT Compher wont make Grigs Comeau or Colborne look any better.

    Landy – MacK – Raanty
    Nieto – Duchene – Colborne
    JT Compher – Jost – Comeau
    AJ Greer-Soderberg-Griggs

    UFAs available – Versteeg, Radulov, TJ Oshie

    EJ – Z
    Barrie – Beauch
    Kulikov/Karl Alzner – Duncan Siemens

    Extra – Barbario, Bigras

    No need to trade 9 or 92 unless it gets 3-4 pieces we all know about.

  • Fivefingers

    Sakic could have easily moved some guys but he’s way out of his league, as evidenced by the fact he took “the great white hope” greer ahead of Carlo, local boy and a good young D. Also, what a great community vs that loudmouth bully Mike at MHH, the sage of hockey knowledge from mississippi! what a douchebag.

    • The Heretic

      5 lives! Good to see you around, stirring the pot per usual.

  • Jeff Salcido

    There are many holes in this article, praising yzerman for shipping out Bishop and Fillpula was a little overboard. Fillpula has 1 yr remaining on his contract and they also sent a 4th rounder and took on Mark Streits contract for the remainder( he was flipped to Pitt I Know) and for Bishop they sent him and a 5th rnd for a 7th, Budaj and a D prospect a good but not great one. You act as if they took the Kings for gold there. I like yzerman, but there’s no didn’t to sing praises for him this deadline.
    Soderberg has 3 yrs remaining no one is touching that unless an equally shitty contract comes in return. Same for Beauch no one wants that extra yr. for a guy who’s done and we’ve all watched iggy this year his legs are gone he’s done and if he really slots in on the Kings 1st line I feel bad for them we should be happy to have gotten a 4th. I liked Martinsen he’s wasn’t consistent but he’s no better than a fourth liner. Guys like Ott(6th rnd pick) Fiddler, and Burrows (already resigned for 2 years) have that playoff experience teams look for and add grit.
    I’m glad Sakic didn’t move Ducthy or Landy for anything less than what he wanted but I trust that if o ne of them moves in the offseason he will get the return he is looking for.

  • mikeladen

    atta boy AJ aka SDTF

  • DNVR

    seriously refreshing new-age journalism from AJ. keep doing you, avs fans love the thoughtful coverage.

  • spoon9z

    In the end we must look at the full body of work tied to recent events and see it simply doesn’t bode well for Joe. This team has long lacked true accountability, this includes fans who consistently make every excuse for almost every player right up until they are clearly broken or moved. Perhaps demand better and we’ll finally see a real change back to winning hockey in Denver again. At this point the team is nothing short of embarrassing, and that includes management and the overall fan response to it for me. Yet that’s just my opinion. You are entitled to your own.

  • niwotsblessing

    I stand with AJ.

    • niwotsblessing

      No, AJ Greer, your favorite draft pick. 😉

      All is well, except for our hockey team! I hope you’re doing well and keeping your eye on the prize.