Joe Sakic’s time as Avalanche general manager reached its conclusion this summer, and he moved on with a flourish. He hoisted the Stanley Cup in June before being honored as the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award winner at July’s NHL Draft.
While Sakic will remain heavily involved with the team as president of hockey operations, Chris MacFarland is now the general manager. He previously was the team’s assistant GM and someone on whom Sakic leaned heavily.
The transition offers an opportunity to look back at Sakic’s tenure. Let’s look back at every trade he made as general manager, from best to worst. To start, a few parameters:
- Sakic’s final trade as general manager — acquiring Alexandar Georgiev — is not included in these rankings. It’s too early to evaluate that deal.
- Patrick Roy left the team ahead of the 2016-17 season. He was head coach and vice president of hockey operations, so he had input in deals before his departure.
- Deals involving solely draft pick swaps are not included unless one pick involved was a first-round pick.
- Deals involving solely players who never reached the NHL are not included.
- Deals involving Freddie Hamilton are not included because there were two of them and both were inconsequential.
Tier One: Elite moves
1. Nov. 5, 2017
- Avalanche acquire Andrew Hammond, Shane Bowers, 2019 first-round pick (Bowen Byram), 2019 third-round pick (Matthew Stienburg) from Ottawa; Vladislav Kamenev, Samuel Girard, 2018 second-round pick (traded down) from Nashville.
- Predators acquire Kyle Turris from Ottawa
- Senators acquire Matt Duchene from Colorado
There’s a lot to unpack here, but in short, Sakic turned Duchene — a player who had demanded a trade — into a treasure chest that is still giving back to the Avalanche.
Duchene was at one point a core player for Colorado and appeared in two All-Star Games, but Sakic’s return was greater than likely he even could have envisioned. The 2019 first-round pick turned out to be fourth overall, and Colorado nabbed Byram, who might end up being the crown jewel of this deal. The 21-year-old was dynamite in the playoffs, leading all players with a plus-15 postseason rating this year. He had nine assists and led all skaters in 5-on-5 ice time during the Stanley Cup Final. And, again, he’s only 21.
Girard is a top-four defenseman whom Colorado extended long term. He’s an elite skater and an offensive threat, and he was having a solid postseason before breaking his sternum in Game 3 of the second round.
The Avalanche traded the 2018 second-round pick to Pittsburgh and acquired a third-round pick and fifth-round pick in that draft. We’ll lump that transaction in with the Duchene trade. It led to the Avalanche picking Justus Annunen, their top goalie prospect who dressed for postseason games this year, and defenseman Danila Zhuravlyov, who signed this spring. He’s played three KHL seasons, and the team believes he could emerge as a player.
Kamenev played 64 NHL games for Colorado, and Hammond had a .933 save percentage in three 2018 playoff games. Then there is Shane Bowers, once a first-round pick, who was with the Colorado Eagles last year, and Stienburg, who averaged more than a point per game at Cornell this past season.
That’s quite the haul for a player who both wanted out and had only two years left on his deal.
2. Oct. 12, 2020
This has a case as potentially better than the Duchene trade. Toews was playing just over 20 minutes a night with the New York Islanders, who faced a cap crunch, when Sakic jumped in, snagging him for only two second-round picks.
In Colorado, Toews emerged as a premier defenseman in the league. He finished 11th in Norris voting his first year in Denver, establishing himself as a perfect partner for Cale Makar, and was eighth this past season. Analytically, he’s among the top players in the league, and he had 57 points in 66 games this past season. He’s sometimes overshadowed by Makar’s brilliance, but he’s a star-level player in this league.
3. July 1, 2019
- Avalanche acquire Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen, 2020 third-round pick (Jean-Luc Foudy)
- Leafs acquire Tyson Barrie, Alex Kerfoot, 2020 sixth-round pick (Joe Miller)
This was already a solid trade entering the 2021-22 season, but Kadri’s career year moved it into the elite tier. He had 87 points, 28 of which were goals, and put together a strong postseason showing, scoring the Game 4 overtime winner against Tampa Bay. He’s an unrestricted free agent, but even him walking doesn’t take away from how successful this deal was. Barrie had only one year left on his deal and, with Makar’s emergence, he didn’t fit what the team needed. Then there is Kerfoot, a solid player but not Kadri’s level.
Sakic also got useful pieces with his other two acquisitions in the deal. He traded Rosen back to the Leafs in 2020 for Michael Hutchinson, which proved to be a useful acquisition, and Foudy has elite speed and looks like he could be an NHLer at some point.
Artturi Lehkonen (AP Photo / Phelan Ebenhack)
Tier Two: Big-time adds
4. March 21, 2022
The Avalanche had to give up a lot for Lehkonen, but he was worth it. A brilliant forechecker, he fits coach Jared Bednar’s system, and he had a knack for scoring big goals. He potted the overtime winner against Edmonton to send Colorado to the Stanley Cup, then scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the Final. Now he’s part of the team’s core for years to come after signing a five-year deal this offseason.
Colorado didn’t want to give up Barron, but as Sakic said at the time, you have to give to get. This trade could end up being a win-win if the defenseman reaches his potential in Montreal, but given Lehkonen’s importance in the Stanley Cup run, the Avalanche will never regret this trade.
5. June 22, 2018
Grubauer wasn’t with the Avalanche when they reached the top of the mountain, as he signed with Seattle in the 2021 offseason, but he had a .918 save percentage in three years with Colorado. He also was a Vezina Trophy finalist in his final year with the Avalanche.
Giving up a second-round pick for three seasons of quality goaltending is a heck of a deal.
6. June 28, 2019
- Avalanche acquire Andre Burakovsky
- Capitals acquire Scott Kosmachuk, 2020 second-round pick (Tristen Robins), 2020 third-round pick (Jake Boltmann)
Though he was a streaky scorer, Burakovsky proved to be an important middle-six piece for Sakic and was excellent for two games in the Stanley Cup before breaking his thumb. He had 150 regular season points in three seasons with the Avalanche, who didn’t give up any huge trade chips in the deal.
7. Oct. 10, 2020
The Avalanche didn’t end up winning the Stanley Cup in their one season with Brandon Saad, but they gave up relatively little to get a proven playoff performer. Saad had a solid regular season for Colorado, then was second on the team with seven postseason goals.
Darcy Kuemper (Isaiah J. Downing / USA TODAY)
8. July 28, 2021
- Avalanche acquire Darcy Kuemper
- Coyotes acquire Conor Timmins, 2022 first-round pick (Reid Schaefer), 2024 conditional third-round pick (conditions met, Arizona gets the pick)
Was this an overpay? Probably. But Colorado needed a goaltender and, with most names off the market, Sakic found one good enough to win a Stanley Cup. Kuemper had a strong sole regular season with the club, then was inconsistent in the playoffs while battling through an eye injury.
9. Feb. 26, 2018
With help from Colorado’s development staff, Graves became a top-four defenseman, led the NHL in plus-minus in 2019-20 and gave the Avalanche 149 regular season games. Bigras has yet to play NHL games since the deal.
10. March 21, 2022
Sakic gave up next to nothing to acquire Cogliano, who had a strong postseason in a bottom-six role. He also spoke at a crucial team meeting the night before Game 6 against the Lightning. The light price combined with Cogliano’s on- and off-ice impact helps this squeak into Sakic’s Top 10 deals.
11. March 14, 2022
- Avalanche acquire Josh Manson
- Ducks acquire Drew Helleson, 2023 second-round pick
Manson cost significantly more than Cogliano but also had more on-ice responsibility as a top-four defenseman. He scored an overtime winner against St. Louis, made a game-saving play in Game 6 of that series, and had goals in both the Western Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, all while being a key penalty killer.
Helleson could develop into a nice player, but Manson was a needed boost for Colorado’s defensive corps, and the team was able to extend him in free agency.
Tier Three: Beneficial moves
12. June 25, 2019
- Avalanche acquire Kevin Connauton, 2020 third-round pick (Jake Boltmann)
- Coyotes acquire Carl Soderberg
This trade opened up cap space and gave the Avalanche a pick that helped Sakic acquire Burakovsky three days later. It wasn’t a flashy move, but it facilitated a big acquisition.
13. June 25, 2015
Soderberg had 151 points in 321 games in his first stint with the Avalanche. Though he, like most players on the Colorado roster, struggled in 2016-17, he bounced back to have a pair of nice seasons on Avalanche teams that made the playoffs. Then Sakic moved him to clear the way for Burakovsky. Soderberg’s was a positive outcome for the Avalanche, especially considering they gave up only a sixth-round pick to get him.
14. July 1, 2017
- Avalanche acquire Colin Wilson
- Predators get 2019 fourth-round pick (Marc Del Gaizo)
Wilson was a solid player in three years with the Avalanche. Fun fact: Del Gaizo, whom the Predators selected with the pick they acquired in this deal, was one of Makar’s teammates at UMass.
15. March 15, 2022
Jost was a beloved member of the Avalanche dressing room, and though he never found the offensive success in Denver that he or Colorado envisioned, he became a decent defensive player and penalty killer. Sakic, though, saw Sturm as a better bottom-six fit, given his size, defense and faceoff-taking ability. The German center was in and out of the lineup in the 2022 playoffs, but he assisted an overtime winner against Nashville and helped set up a huge, game-tying goal in Game 4 of the Cup Final. He played every game of the Lightning series, then signed with San Jose this offseason.
16. Feb. 24, 2020
- Avalanche acquire Michael Hutchinson
- Leafs acquire Calle Rosen
Acquired to provide goalie depth, Hutchinson almost won a playoff series for Colorado. The Avalanche ultimately fell in overtime of Game 7 against the Stars in their 2020 second-round series, but the Hutchinson acquisition at least gave Colorado a chance. Plus all Sakic traded was Rosen, whom he had already gotten from Toronto in the Kadri deal.
17. July 15, 2021
Trading Graves hurt, but Sakic knew he would likely lose him in the expansion draft. In return, he received a pick Colorado seems to have hit on, given how good Behrens looked at the University of Denver, as well as a forward in Maltsev capable of playing NHL games.
18. Feb. 24, 2020
Namestnikov wasn’t in Colorado for long, but he was a playoff contributor in the Edmonton bubble.
19. June 29, 2019
Sakic gave up very little in this deal to acquire a player in MacDonald who has given Colorado organizational depth and looks comfortable playing NHL games when needed.
Kurtis MacDermid (Geoff Burke / USA TODAY)
20. July 27, 2021
Players love MacDermid, and while his underlying numbers are not good, he showed improvement throughout 2021-22 and gave a Cup-winning Avalanche club 58 regular season games.
Tier Four: Marginal pluses
21. Feb. 25, 2019
- Avalanche acquire Derick Brassard, 2020 sixth-round pick (Nils Aman)
- Panthers acquire a 2020 third-round pick (Justin Sourdif)
Brassard was only in Colorado for half a season, but he brought a veteran presence to a young 2019 team and had a primary assist in Colorado’s final win of the 2019 playoffs: a victory against San Jose in Game 6 of the second round.
22. March 1, 2017
- Avalanche acquire Sven Andrighetto
- Canadiens get Andreas Martinsen
Andrighetto appeared in playoff games for the Avalanche, and Colorado didn’t give up much to get him.
23. April 12, 2021
- Avalanche acquire Carl Soderberg
- Blackhawks acquire Ryder Rolston, Josh Dickinson
Soderberg is all over this list. The Avalanche didn’t give up much for him in this deal, but they could have used a bigger deadline addition.
24. March 20, 2021
Though he’s had some rough outings, Johansson has been serviceable for Colorado when needed at the NHL level. The Avalanche lost him to waivers this past season, then brought him back in free agency. Considering how little Sakic gave up for the netminder, it was a worthwhile trade.
Tier Five: Inconsequential moves
These moves did not make a significant difference for the Avalanche in either a positive or negative fashion. They are all tied for Sakic’s 25th-best trade.
- April 10, 2021
Avalanche acquire Devan Dubnyk. Sharks acquire Greg Pateryn, 2021 fifth.
- Oct. 11, 2020
Avalanche acquire Kyle Burroughs. Islanders acquire AJ Greer.
- Sept. 27, 2019
Avalanche acquire Antoine Bibeau. Sharks acquire Nicolas Meloche.
- Feb. 6, 2019
Avalanche acquire Max McCormick. Senators acquire J.C. Beaudin.
- March 1, 2017
Avalanche acquires conditional fourth. Kings get Iginla.
- Jan. 13, 2017
Avalanche acquire Felix Girard. Predators acquire Cody McLeod.
- Nov. 28, 2016
Avalanche acquire Cody Goloubef. Blue Jackets acquire Ryan Stanton.
- June 25, 2016
Avalanche acquire 2017 fourth-round pick (Petr Kvaca), Rangers acquire Nick Holden
- June 23, 2016
Avalanche acquire Rocco Grimaldi, Panthers acquire Reto Berra
- Feb. 29, 2016
Avalanche acquire Taylor Beck, Islanders acquire Marc-Andre Cliche
- Feb. 21, 2016
Avalanche acquire Shawn Mattias, Leafs acquire Colin Smith, 2016 fourth-round pick (Keaton Middleton)
- Sept. 9, 2015
Avalanche acquire Brandon Gormley, Coyotes acquire Stefan Elliott
- March 2, 2015
Avalanche acquire Jordan Caron, 2016 sixth-round pick (Oskar Steen), Bruins acquire Maxime Talbot, Paul Carey
- March 2, 2015
Avalanche acquire Mat Clark, Ducks acquire Michael Sgarbossa
Tier Six: Some good but could’ve gotten more (also known as the Ryan O’Reilly Trade)
38. June 26, 2015
- Avalanche acquire J.T. Compher, Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, 2015 second-round pick (traded)
- Sabres acquire Ryan O’Reilly, Jamie McGinn
This trade is tough to evaluate, because Colorado got solid players in this deal. Compher was a key middle-six forward on the 2022 Cup champion team and could take on added responsibility in 2022-23. Zadorov played nearly 300 games for Colorado, then was a primary piece used to acquire Brandon Saad. The Avalanche traded the 2015 second-round pick acquired in the deal to acquire three other picks, one of which turned into A.J. Greer, who played NHL games for Colorado.
That’s a solid haul. But… O’Reilly is more than a solid player. He has scored at least 20 goals in six of his seven seasons since leaving the Avalanche, and he won the Selke Trophy, Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup in 2019. In some ways, the deal worked out for both O’Reilly and the Avalanche — the player got his Cup in 2019, and the team got its own three years later, with Compher playing a larger role — but it’s fair to wonder if Colorado could have gotten an additional chip from Buffalo.
Tier Seven: Want a do-over?
39. Feb. 29, 2016
- Avalanche acquire Eric Gelinas
- Devils acquire 2017 third-round pick (Fabian Zetterlund)
The 2016 deadline saw a mismanagement of both trade chips and expectations. The Avalanche were 32-28-4 and ninth in the conference standings, and yet they deemed it worthwhile to trade notable draft capital in an attempt to make the playoffs. One of those deals was for Gelinas, who had one point and a minus-two rating in 33 career games with the Avalanche. He hasn’t played an NHL game since the 2016-17 season.
40. Feb. 29, 2016
- Avalanche acquire Mikkel Boedker
- Coyotes acquire Alex Tanguay, Conner Bleackley, Kyle Wood
The Avalanche would have received a compensatory second-round pick had they not signed Bleackley, a former first-rounder, so this trade was, in essence, giving Arizona a second-round pick for 18 games of Boedker in a non-playoff season.
Patrik Nemeth (Isaiah J. Downing / USA TODAY)
41. April 9, 2021
Nemeth struggled mightily in the Avalanche’s second-round loss against Vegas. With Bowen Byram and Erik Johnson injured, Colorado had a need for a defenseman, and Nemeth was not the answer.
42. Jan. 19, 2021
- Avalanche acquire Greg Pateryn
- Wild acquire Ian Cole
The Avalanche made this move to clear cap space and pave the way for Byram getting called up, but it turned out to be a mistake, in part because Johnson and Byram got hurt. Injuries are outside Sakic’s control, but the reality is the Avalanche spent the rest of the season needing someone like Cole on their back end. Moving on from the blueliner is why they traded for Nemeth at the deadline, and it leaves behind an unanswerable question: Could Colorado have beaten Vegas with Cole on the third pair instead of Nemeth?
It was a bad trade. But given how many deals Sakic made, only four moves in the “want a do-over?” tier is impressive.
(Top photo: Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY)