Kiszla: In quest for legit No. 2 center, Avs should consider trading Sam Girard
Nazem Kadri can buy a bigger house somewhere else in the NHL, but he’ll never have a better home than what he found here in Denver, where folks wrapped him in love.
So rather than slam the door on Kadri, as his eyes wandered around the league for a huge pay day, new Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland wisely left the lights on for him, just in case Kadri decides love might actually be worth more than money.
“Never say never,” McFarland said shortly before the dinner hour on Wednesday, after NHL players and teams pigged out on the all-day buffet that is free agency.
After a very good session of high stakes wheeling and dealing by MacFarland, when the Avalanche smartly retained glue guys Artturi Lehknonen and Josh Manson, the cold, hard math dictated by a flat salary cap of $82.5 million made it hard to see any way Colorado could also pay absolute top dollar for Kadri.
As MacFarland readily acknowledged: “We’ve got nothing on the front burner.”
But there was just enough wiggle room to keep hope alive, so MacFarland calmly showed why he’s fully qualified to take over the G.M. chair from Joe Sakic as the lead architect of the Avalanche roster.
“We’re always trying to get better,” MacFarland said.
Now, by the time you’re reading these words, Kadri might have already be issuing a moving van traveling orders to whatever NHL city is willing to dazzle him with dollars to serve as a leader of a team inferior to the newly crowned Stanley Cup champions.
Hey, we all want to get paid, right? That’s the American dream, and here’s wishing all the best for the Kadri family, wherever the pursuit of their dreams might take them.
But at any price, will Kadri ever replicate the sheer joy of sticking a hat trick in the face of the St. Louis Blues or scoring an overtime goal against Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup Final?
OK, let’s cut the poetry about what really matters in life and get down to the real nitty gritty of restocking a championship hockey team.
Although MacFarland insisted he’s comfortable in the Avalanche’s offense firepower with or without Kadri in the lineup, the new G.M. added he will explore all avenues to make the team better, whether the opportunity arises in “two hours from now or two months.”
Before the puck drops on a new NHL season in October, and certainly prior to the next playoff run, I believe the Avalanche is going to need a legit No. 2 center. No offense to J.T. Compher or Alex Newhook, but they ain’t Kadri.
With Johnny Gaudreau going full mercenary, bolting Calgary and taking $9.8 million per year to skate in the shadows of the Buckeyes football and join a Columbus team unlikely to win the Cup in his lifetime, the NHL’s silly season officially went mad.
That ridiculous move only increased the probability some greater fool would offer Kadri the sun, the moon and a 14,000-square foot cabin on the lake. He’s not worth a penny more than $7 million per year, at a reasonable term, to Colorado.
But MacFarland has respectfully asked Darren Ferris, the agent for Kadri, to keep the Avs “in the loop.”
My translation of that message: A hometown discount would gladly be accepted by the reigning champs, who could legally push their payroll more than $8 million over the cap before being required to roll it back into compliance in time for the season-opener.
The Avs know how to be savvy capologists. And I suspect MacFarland also knows the team needs another quality center to slot on a line behind Nathan MacKinnon.
So would it be hockey blasphemy to propose defenseman Sam Girard and his $5 million salary should be made available on the trade market?
Girard is a sweet, puck-moving defenseman with dangerous offensive ability. But those skills are not as essential to the Avalanche’s defense of the Cup as what Kadri or another legit No. 2 center could provide this team in its quest to repeat.
While many of the Avalanche’s rivals in the West, from Las Vegas to Minnesota got worse on the first day of free agency, MacFarland quietly made all the right moves.
Now let’s see if he can make some real noise.
Here’s hoping there’s a Big Mac attack in the offing.