On Tuesday afternoon, the Colorado Avalanche traded defenseman Kyle Quincey to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for forward Stevie Downie -- ending Quincey's three year tenure in an Avalanche uniform. Quincey was immediately flipped to the Detroit Red Wings for a first round selection in this year's draft and minor league defenseman Sebastien Piche, essentially making the deal a three way trade.
Almost exactly a year after trading Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Erik Johnson and Jay McClement, Avalanche GM Greg Sherman completed another transaction that left many Colorado fans scratching their heads. Adrian Dater of the Denver Post thinks the trade was a win for Colorado. Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports has other thoughts:
GM Greg Sherman wasn't going to get a first-round pick from Detroit for [Quincey]. He only knows how to trade them away in incredibly lopsided and ill-conceived deals, not the other way around... So once more, with feeling: STOP LETTING GREG SHERMAN MAKE TRADES.
Let's just say that someone still doesn't like the Varlamov trade from last summer. Still, there are some unanswered questions about this trade that deserve a deeper look.
If Kyle Quincey was worth a first round pick, then why didn't Colorado just trade him for a first round pick?
Good question. Since Colorado traded away their first and second round picks in this year's draft for Semyon Varlamov this past summer, they won't pick until later in the second round (obtained from Toronto for John-Michael Liles). It makes sense to use Quincey as an asset to move back into the first round of the upcoming draft. There's one problem with this theory; Tampa Bay wouldn't trade their lottery pick for Quincey and the Red Wings wouldn't move their first round selection to Colorado considering the bad blood between those two franchises.
Besides, the Red Wings' first rounder this year is likely to be at the end of the round and only slightly more valuable than a second round pick. It's decent value for Quincey, but not a significant improvement over Colorado's current draft position. Even if the pick pans out for the Avalanche (no guarantee), the player would likely not make an impact at the NHL level for another two or three years.
Okay, so Quincey for a draft pick doesn't make sense. But why trade for Downie?
Downie is a fringe 2nd/3rd line forward who isn't afraid to get his nose dirty. He'll take some penalties, he'll get in the face of his opponents, and he makes Colorado tougher to play against. Adrian Dater said it well when he called Downie "hell to play against". Colorado's list of agitators currently reads as Cody McLeod, T.J Galiardi, ......Chuck Kobasew? While the Avalanche have solid forward depth for their bottom two lines, they really lack forwards that can combine a physical presence with some offensive upside. Steve Downie has shown some acumen as a top six forward in Tampa (including 17 points in 14 playoff games last season) and is certainly a better fill-in than, say, Galiardi.
Steve Downie is not going to fix the Avalanche's lack of top six forward depth, and he's likely not going to be the top scorer that would solidify Colorado's playoff chances this season. Still, Downie's 12 goals on the season leaves him tied with David Jones and Matt Duchene for fifth on Colorado's scoring list this season*. He adds a different dimension to the Avalanche forward corps that was definitely missing.
*That's right. The Avalanche just acquired a top six forward according to current goal production --though it says more about the state of Colorado's top forward depth than anything else.
So Downie doesn't guarantee the postseason this season. How does he figure into Colorado's future plans?
Heading into this offseason, the Avalanche only have five position players under contract. Players like Erik Johnson, Matt Duchene, and Ryan O'Reilly are restricted free agents (and likely extension candidates). But this summer, Colorado is poised to re-sign the players they want to keep and remake the remainder of their roster. With so many high profile free agents hitting the market (Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Alex Semin), teams with plenty of cap space could easily add a couple pieces and become contenders.
Kyle Quincey and Steve Downie are both restricted free agents this offseason. Downie will likely make around $2.5 million this coming season, or at least a million less than Quincey. An extra million could make the difference between signing a top winger this offseason or settling for another season of Joakim Lindstrom bargain shopping. Furthermore, the addition of Downie can help chain players like Galiardi and Daniel Winnik to a fourth line pairing instead of time bouncing between scoring lines. Downie's playing time means less minutes for players who are ineffective (like Kevin Porter). Given the current glut of defensemen right now for Colorado, trading Quincey for a valuable piece like Downie also gives the Avalanche freedom to give development time to young defensive prospects like Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie, and Cameron Gaunce.
(As of this writing, Stefan Elliott has been recalled from Lake Erie.)
Okay, sum up this trade for me. Why should I care?
In a vacuum, this trade is tough to figure out. Most casual fans would rather have the first round pick instead of another non-elite forward. However, Downie does make the Avalanche a deeper team, a more physical and versatile team, and he adds some financial flexibility heading into a potential blockbuster offseason. Short term, he gives the top six forwards an added boost. Long term, he makes Colorado's top three lines potentially deadly -- assuming Duchene moves back to center with the acquisition of an elite winger this offseason.
Trading Quincey helps solve the glut on the blue line, it gives promising young defensemen additional playing time, and it helps clears up some long-term money that the Avalanche were never really ready to commit. David Driscoll-Carignan said it best over on Mile High Hockey:
44 of Quincey's 92 career points have come in October and November - 47%. After that, it's game over.
This is what it really boils down to: Kyle Quincey wants to get paid like a difference maker on the blue line. He's not.
Instead, the Avalanche moved him for a piece that helps them fill an immediate position of weakness (one that was not going to be filled by up and coming prospects) and gives the team some added toughness. GM Greg Sherman may have undervalued Quincey in many analysts' eyes, but he moved the defenseman for another long term piece of the puzzle and one that should make the club better for many years. It's not a surefire win, but it's not a loss either. It's moving an asset you no longer want for a player that you do want. In that light, Sherman did well enough.