Deadline Decisions: Avalanche stuck between buyer and seller

Gabriel Landeskog is mature beyond his years. That is why he was the first ever European captain of a CHL team and it is also why Colorado made him the youngest captain in NHL history.

Over the next two weeks, sportsnet.ca will be taking an in-depth look at some key teams and the decisions facing them leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29. Today: Minnesota Wild.

General Manager: Joe Sakic

Pending UFAs: C Jesse Winchester, C Ben Street, LW Alex Tanguay, LW Patrick Bordeleau, RW Jack Skille, D Nate Guenin D Zach Redmond, D Andrew Bodnarchuk.

2016 Draft Picks: 1st (COL); 2nd (COL); 3rd (COL); 4th (COL); 5th (COL); 6th (COL); 7th (COL and CGY)

No-move clauses: RW Jarome Iginla.

Cap space on deadline day: $36,770,810

Team mode: Make playoffs.

Cap, no-move and draft pick data via generalfanager.com

Here’s the problem facing GM Joe Sakic and the Avalanche: They’re a budget team that is in a dogfight to make the playoffs. But nobody sees a Stanley Cup in the Avs’ near future. In fact, they’re stuck between being a seller and a buyer at this Deadline.

The Avs maintain very real playoff hopes. But reality states that if the Avs grab fourth spot in the Central, they get Chicago in Round 1. If they nab the wildcard spot, they’ll get Los Angeles or Anaheim.

Would you pick Colorado to beat any of those clubs? Me neither.

Another issue? The Avs will have to give Nathan MacKinnon a huge raise this summer, with his entry-level deal coming to an end. Also Tyson Barrie, their points leader on the blue-line, is a restricted free agent. Ka-ching!

All of this points to the Avs being in the market for short-term help, which generally comes for cheap. A rental that could easily be procured by a team that has all of its draft picks, plus the Calgary Flames seventh rounder this June.

Only three of the top nine Avs scorers are wingers, though one of those is Matt Duchene, who has been playing on the left side a fair bit. You might think guys like P.A. Parenteau (a former Avalanche), Radim Vrbata (an Avs draft back in 1999), Jiri Hudler, and Teddy Purcell, would all be possibles to end up in Denver. But alas, Sakic probably doesn’t want to mortgage draft picks for rentals at this stage of the game.

Sakic would likely snap up a depth defenceman with a year or two left on his contract, because to be honest this defensive corps isn’t good enough to compete in the Central as is. But that’s not something that Sakic can solve at the deadline. He’ll have to go to work in the week leading up to the draft — assuming he’ll have any money on this budget club to get busy in the trading period preceding the draft.

Fans in Denver are waiting for success to take hold of a lineup with such luminaries as Gabriel Landeskog and MacKinnon. Colorado is in the playoff conversation — but they’re still a long way away from being a Cup contender.

Getting into the dance this season would be a place to start though. You can’t upset anyone from the golf course.