Talking Trade with Mile High Hockey

Raise your hand if you want Brian Rolston to waive his no trade clause. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

As we are all aware, the Devils need to shave some salary off the books with the re-signing of Ilya Kovalchuk. They are roughly $3MM over the cap and probably need to move $5MM to be 'safe'. The Devils have a few ways to remove salary (waivers, burying the player in the minors) but the part that gets the most speculation is trades and right now finding possible trade partners.

Often, trades will be talked about on this site and others that have no chance of happening. John Fischer likes to call them 'Unicorn Deals' and those trades are usually based upon the idea that the team trading with the Devils has Glen Sather a terrible GM that can easily be swindled.

That being said, I thought I would identity one of the Devils possible trade partners and work with their SB Nation site to find common ground on a possible trade that would theoretically work for both teams. This will help prep most fans with what assets the Devils will likely have to give up to dump salary.

The team I wanted to look at was the one with the most cap space available for the upcoming season, the Colorado Avalanche. I will be dealing (literally) with David Driscoll-Carignan of Mile High Hockey to negotiate a fair trade between the New Jersey Devils and the Colorado Avalanche. After the jump you will see our email 'negotiation' correspondence (edited for grammar, etc).

Tom:

David, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this exercise.

I know you are not going to take salary from the Devils for nothing so no asset that the Devils currently have (except their 2011 second round pick which was already traded) is off the table for this discussion. That being said, there are a few areas which I think the Devils can help the Avalanche both at the NHL level and in their development system. After taking a look at the Avalanche prospects, it seems the development system has a lack of high end talent at both left wing and the goaltender position. At the NHL level, it looks as if the Avalanche could use some additional goal scoring power out of the left wing position and a defensive focused defenseman to help eat up some of the time that Brett Clark (who departed via free agency) played (Clark had 19:08 TOI per game and
1:56 of that TOI on the penalty kill unit). Am I correct in these observations?

David:


The Colorado Avalanche do indeed have a great deal of cap room - heck, they are currently operating below the cap floor - so they would indeed seem like a good trading partner for the Devils. There is a lot of speculation Avalanche GM Greg Sherman is being ordered to stay at the minimum, but I, as acting fake GM have received no such edict from the mucky mucks and will have no qualms about adding some salary...if it helps our team.

While it's true that we did lose Brett Clark and Ruslan Salei to free agency, both spent many nights in the press box last season and we don't expect their departure to have a huge impact. More importantly, we have a plethora of young defensemen like Kevin Shattenkirk, Jonas Holos and Cameron Gaunce (just to name a few) who will be pushing for playing time this year. So, while a defensive-minded veteran would be a nice addition, we'd probably be more inclined to stick with the youth movement here.

You are spot on about left wing, though. The Avs' top left wingers on the depth chart are T.J. Galiardi, Peter Mueller and Ryan Stoa - two rookies last year and a player with one 20-goal season under his belt. While we think that all three have the potential to be solid NHL players, a little more firepower would be really useful here. It would
be an added bonus if that player had some leadership traits (the Avs' oldest center is 24) and PP skills would be desirable as well as the Avs were fairly mediocre in that department last year.

One other area the Avalanche could use a boost in: toughness. Cody McLeod is the only player who had more than 100 PIMs last year and he is not exactly a heavyweight. David Koci is on the roster, but doesn't figure to play much. In recent years, the Avalanche have lost guys like Ian Laperriere, Matt Hendricks and Cody McCormick - guys who could play and weren't afraid to drop the gloves.

Looking forward to hearing your offer.

Tom:

Seeing that you don't need any defensemen, which makes sense considering your system depth, the Devils have two options at wing that might be appealing to the Avalanche. The first would be former Avalanche player Brian Rolston (note that as fake GM I will operate under the idea that I can negotiate terms of a possible trade involving Rolston with the understanding that he would have to waive his NTC) who can help your team in all the areas you are looking for below. Scoring from the wing, power play skills at the point and at the age of 37 he would be a strong veteran presence on the team. The second option would be Dainius Zubrus. While not a scoring wing like Rolston, he can score with the right players and he is willing to do the dirty work along the boards and down low. He was especially effective on a line with Travis Zajac and Zach Parise, clearing out some space for them down low. I could see him working on the wing with Matt Duschene. He also, while not a fighter, is tough and will protect his teammates on the ice.

Now I know while for both players their cap hit is a concern (Rolston at $5MM and Zubrus at $3.4MM) each player still provides a good level of productivity. That said, I can make the following two offers to you:

1. Brian Rolston (of course this is contingent on his waiving his NTC), a third round pick in 2011 and left wing prospect Alexander Vasyunov for the rights to Peter Mueller and a fifth round pick in 2011.

2. Dainius Zubrus and Alexander Vasyunov for the rights to Peter Mueller.

With the Devils depth at left wing Vasyunov is blocked in NJ, but still has top six forward potential in the NHL. His natural position is LW, which the Avalanche lack in their development system. Either Rolston or Zubrus helps you in different ways on the power play and on even strength. Since Rolston does have a high cap hit for his production I am comfortable swapping picks to even out the deal. The Devils could use Mueller as a bottom six forward if he was willing to sign for $1-$1.5MM per year.

No interest in Bryce Salvador? He does help provide the toughness you are looking for.......

David:

We're actually pretty high on Mueller. He scored 20 points in 15 games with us this spring and we believe he has top 6 talent. Indeed, he scored as many points as Rolston did last year (and more than Zubrus) and, at 21, could still have his best days in front of him. He's not untouchable, but the asking price for him would be considerably higher.

Rolston is a guy that we've liked for a while and that point shot could certainly bolster our powerplay. But that salary is an anchor. We'd probably be thinking more in line with depth forward Kevin Porter for Rolston.

Zubrus is an intriguing player, but again that salary is a bit tough on the wallet. Being on the hook for 3 more years at $3.4 million for a guy who hasn't scored more than 40 points since 2007 is a bit hard to swallow, especially since the Avalanche are concerned with the upcoming CBA and only have one player signed past 2012. For Zubrus, we'd be willing to offer the rights to Russian prospect Denis Parshin. The Avs drafted Parshin in the 3rd round of the 2004 draft but have yet to be able to pry him away from CSKA Moscow of the KHL. I don't know.do the Devils have any high profile Russian players that might be a draw for Parshin to come stateside?

There's another player we might be interested in: Jamie Langenbrunner. While we have good depth at right wing, we think Langenbrunner's leadership and offensive ability would be a boon to our young team. His cap number ($2.8
million) is much more palatable than Rolston's or Zubrus' and, as an added bonus, he's a free agent after this season. For Langenbrunner, we'd be willing to offer Porter and Kyle Cumiskey a speedy defenseman. Both Avalanche players have favorable salaries - $660,000 for Porter and $600,000 for Cumiskey.

Tom:

Since Langenbrunner is still the team 'Captain', management has issued an edict to keep him for the remainder of the year. Parshin is intriguing and since he is in the KHL there wouldn't be a concern about an additionalcontract on the books (if he ever came over) for a few years. I think we are close to common ground so let me throw two amended offers your way:

1. Rolston (NTC disclaimers still apply) and a third round pick in 2011 for Parshin and a sixthround pick from the Avalanche in 2011.
2. Zubrus and a fourth round pick in 2011 for Parshin

Bryce Salvador still available.......

David:

I think we can do that Rolston deal. Zubrus' 3rd year is just too much of a potential burden for us down the road. Rolston's cap number is terrible, but we think we can absorb that salary for 2 years, and he'll be off the books before guys like Matt Duchene and Chris Stewart are due for new deals.

Salvador is intriguing to us, but we would have to give up one of the 6 on the roster now to make room for him.

Tom:

Fair enough. If Rolston doesn't waive his NTC what could we do with Zubrus? If I said Zubrus and a second round pick in 2012 for Parshin would that work for you?

David:

I think we'd probably need a 1st to make that work...

Tom:

Ok, the Rolston deal is priority #1. If he doesn't waive his NTC then Zubrus is yours. Now we just need to make it from my lips(fingertips?) to our hockey God's (Lou Lamoriello) ears.

Tom's Takeaway:

Even though David operated outside his team's perceived internal salary cap, I think this mock negotiation is a fair representation of what could happen should the Devils and Avalanche have trade talks. 

As you can see from the exchange above, the team's (in this case the Avalanche) needs really dictated the flow of conversation. While valuable for his salary hit (or at least not an albatross) Salvador was of no interest to David as the Avalanche seem set at the blueline.  What was interesting to me was that the third year on the Zubrus contract (2012-2013) seemed to be a very big concern for David as that would be the first year after a new CBA would be in place (hopefully). If the general perception out there is that the cap will go down with a new CBA the Zubrus contract might be harder to move than I had originally thought.   It took a first rounder (in 2012 so the Devils would have time to acquire a comparable pick before then) to trade Zubrus.   Could he have more value to Devils fans for the little things he does than he would outside of New Jersey?

Rolston being the preferred winger in this scenario also showed me that despite his large contract, he might have more value than we think on the trade market.  It also cost the Devils a third round pick in 2011 (the Devils also gained a sixth round pick in 2011) which would leave them with without second/third round picks in the 2011 draft (second rounder was traded to the Nashville Predators for Jason Arnott). 

Of course, Rolston would have to waive his NTC first which is a major obstacle to making or negotiating any deal.  Would be consider it?   Rolston might consider waiving his NTC for an up-and-coming team like the Avalanche because he has already played there and would likely have a second line role at left wing.  I am certainly not saying that he would or should do it.   I am simply saying it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility.  

The return player in both deals was Denis Parshin who is currently in the KHL.   Not a terrible return, and as David pointed out (great selling point in my opinion)  being traded to the Devils  who have two highly respected Russian players (Ilya Kovalchuk & Anton Volchenkov) might motivate him to come to the NHL.

All in all it was an interesting exercise.   I washappy that there might be opportunities for the Devils to shed salary by moving either Rolston or Zubrus and still keep their top prospects.  I was reluctant to part with the 2012 first round pick for Zubrus, but realizing that the $3.4MM he is due in 2012-2013 might be more of a problem than I originally had thought, made it more acceptable. 

So now it's your turn.  How did I do?  Did you find this piece useful/entertaining at all?  Sound off below!

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