The Colorado Avalanche shook up its roster and the league in late February with one of the biggest trades in franchise history. Nine players and a draft pick changed hands in the megadeal with the Dallas Stars.
Going to the Stars are defensive forward Zack Kassian, goalies Thatcher Demko and Colten Ellis, and centre Jack Roslovic.
In return, the Avs get defenceman Brent Seabrook, goalies Alex Nedeljkovic and Matt Tompkins, forward Taylor Raddysh, defence prospect Daniil Misyul and a fourth-round pick in 2022.
Kassian and Seabrook are certainly the cornerstones of the trade, but there is much more to it on both sides.
Kassian, 30, has been a staple on the Avs' third line the last three years. The left winger has struggled mightily on offence in 2020-21 though with just seven points in 51 games. He has one year left on a contract that pays him a massive $6.8 million.
"Defensive forwards are key to winning, but we're doing an awful lot of losing. Kassian just wasn't making enough of an impact for being the highest-paid forward on the roster," said GM Josh Lewis. "We're happy to get a boatload in return for him while making the salaries work for Dallas. With a change of scenery he could have a huge impact in the playoffs."
Kassian just finished serving a 10-game suspension for intent to injure.
Demko, 25, started the year as Colorado's backup but was demoted to the AHL when they claimed Juuse Saros off waivers from Arizona. He posted a 4-6 record in 11 appearances for the Avs with a 3.26 GAA and .878 save percentage, and also went 2-2-1 in AHL action. He's due a significant raise next season.
"He's a promising 1B type, but there are lots of high-con options like him around the league. He wasn't great this year. We're happy to get Nedeljkovic, who's an upgrade in both skill and consistency. He's comparable to a younger Jack Campbell."
Nedeljkovic, also 25, owns a 15-11 record in 26 starts for the Stars, with a 3.11 GAA and .877 save percentage. At this point he's the projected starter next season with Saros backing up.
The teams also swapped AHL goaltenders. Colten Ellis, 20, is in his rookie pro season and has been a workhorse for the Colorado Eagles in net. He has a 21-23-1-2 record with an ugly 4.00 GAA and .849 save percentage, though the AHL stats glitch may be misrepresenting his numbers.
"Ellis projects as a backup, similar to Saros with very high con. It's not great to give up a goalie prospect, especially since Tompkins is just a body to tandem with Mason McDonald. But with both NHL goalies just entering their prime, it's not too concerning. We'll be developing Calle Clang in the AHL next season."
There were high expectations for Jack Roslovic, 24, this season, but his potential hasn't materialized so far. He's got five goals and 13 points in 51 games. The former 131-point AHL scorer has time to figure it out but has to start soon.
"We used our bottom six to try to develop our forward prospects this season and it hasn't really borne much fruit. We now have other youngsters to audition."
Taking a look at the return Colorado got, other than the goalies, Seabrook is a veteran stud on the back end. At 36, he's still very much a top-pairing defenceman and word is the Avalanche may flip him to another team before Sunday's deadline. He has 18 points in 63 games for Dallas this year.
"The guy is an absolute beast. He's hard to play against every night, he's consistent, he's an excellent shutdown guy with good hands to create some offence too. His endurance is exceptional. He's very durable, unlike in real life. And he's strong as a bull. What more do you want?" said Lewis.
"That being said at 36, we are certainly exploring the possibility of moving him for more futures. He needs a raise next season."
Colorado did just that a few days later, flipping Seabrook to the Ottawa Senators along with forward Tyrel Seaman, defenceman Anton Cederholm and fourth-round picks in 2021 and 2022 for forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Nate Schnarr and prospects Donovan Sebrango and Nikita Alexandrov.
"Huberdeau is a lot younger than Seabrook, and younger than Kassian as well so that's a big plus," said the GM. "We plan to re-sign him, but it's too early to say whether he'll be in our lineup next season or end up being dealt in the summer. He has lots to offer with soft hands, good skating and a very strong faceoff guy."
Raddysh, 23, is a top prospect and has the ability to become an elite top line winger. He has 17 goals and 35 points in 58 AHL games this season. He does have 143 NHL games under his belt with only 27 points.
"It looks to me like Minnesota rushed him. He shouldn't have been playing every night in the NHL at age 20. Now he's NHL-ready but like Roslovic or Chlapik, he has a long way to go at 23. We believe we can get him developed into a top sixer anyway. He'll get every chance with us the rest of the season and next year."
Misyul, 20, is still playing in junior. He was the Stars' second-round pick in 2019. He joins Colorado's group of D prospects that already includes Henry Thrun, Ryan O'Rourke, Nikita Okhotyuk, Xavier Bernard, James Greenway, Markus Niemelainen, Jake Ratzlaff and Hugo Styf. He projects as a defensive top four rearguard.
The Avs now have 28 picks in the next three drafts.
"We're very happy with this deal. We feel we maximized Kassian's value while improving our goaltending, adding two strong prospects to our system and acquiring an All-Star defenceman with major value," Lewis said.
"We've been able to hugely restructure our roster by trading our older stars on big contracts while adding impact roster players, great prospects and a couple more picks."