The Colorado Avalanche traded a prospect to Montreal for defenseman Ryan O'Byrne earlier today. With the deluge of injuries, this shouldn't come as a big surprise to hockey fans. Yet, it's a big departure from the previous stands that GM Greg Sherman and others in the front office have made the past year. Is this trade a result of emergency circumstances? Or does it signal that the Avalanche front office is willing to take greater steps towards making the team competitive, even at a price?
The easy argument can be made that the Avalanche front office were simply reacting to their epidemic of injuries that has struck their defensive core. Faced with extensive injuries to Kyle Quincey, Adam Foote, Ryan Wilson, Colorado has been forced to call up their young (and inexperienced0 defensive prospects such as Colby Cohen and Kyle Shattenkirk. While these young players have performed well, the Colorado depth has become a major concern.
Therefore, the Ryan O'Byrne trade makes sense for the organization right now. He's experienced, defensive-minded, and adds size to a woefully small defensive core. Furthermore, Colorado was able to trade from an are of depth on their farm, as Michael Bournival was a fast, undersized forward that has a low NHL ceiling, if he even makes it that far. O'Byrne will also make around $800,000 for the rest of the season, making him a reasonably priced upgrade.
The reasons for the trade are all perfectly clear. But this is the Colorado Avalanche, the team that barely limped their way past the salary floor before the season started. The team that has repeated ad nauseum that current attendance will not support a payroll increase, and that they would rather develop talent from within the system. Adding almost a million dollars in payroll for a defenseman who may mot play more than 15 minutes a night comes as quite a surprise.
The O'Byrne trade may not be an earth-shaker, but it signals a potential change in the Avalanche front office mentality. Perhaps they are willing to make moves and spend money to guarantee their team makes a playoff run? It's all subjective at this point, but still worth mentioning.