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Colorado adds a legend, a leader, and a prayer in desperate move to make the playoffs

2019-12-29

DENVER - With half the season in the books and a number of high-profile trades on record for 2019, Colorado's front office to decide to make yet another enormous roster change well before the February trade deadline. Boone Jenner, Marcus Nutivaara, Robin Lehner, Nick Schmaltz, and Jordan Staal were traded for Roberto Luongo, Dylan Larkin, and rookie defenceman Dennis Cholowski. When asked about the colossal moves, GM Kaylen Noga said "We came to a few realizations internally, and we decided to shift gears a little. We had been after another impact centre to build around, but as you can imagine they were hard to come by. When the opportunity to add became legitimate, we had to do it."

The opportunity referred to would be the addition of Dylan Larkin and goaltender Roberto Luongo at the cost of de facto leader Jordan Staal, franchise mainstay Nick Schmaltz, and Robin Lehner, Colorado's presumed present and future starting goaltender. GM Noga added "Nick Schmaltz is going to be one heck of a hockey player, seeing him develop into a star for another franchise will be bittersweet. For Nick, we had hoped he'd make the transition to centre and become the Captain America to the Iron Man we already have in PL. And while Nick has grown into a very effective top-6 winger, we felt we had a lot of options ready to step into that position in place of Nick, which is a nice way of saying we had no room for him."

Nick Schmaltz suited up in 201 games for the Avalanche and exits the team as the franchise leader in assists with 81 and points with 114. A natural playmaker, Schmaltz collected 33 goals with Colorado. Robin Lehner was expected to be Colorado's starter until highly-touted rookie Ilya Samsonov was ready to take over the starting gig. Trading him opens a glaring hole in Colorado's lineup that Jimmy Howard and Roberto Luongo may not be able to patch. When asked about trading Lehner, PoHO Joe Sakic said "the decision to trade Robin was also a difficult one to make. We appreciate the importance of good goaltending, and Robin was really starting to turn a corner for us this month. We know trading him makes the climb into the post-season that much more difficult, and we feel we have two capable netminders capable of handling that pressure. If they're incapable of splitting the load the rest of the way, we'll settle for another lottery pick. If they rise to the occasion, then we look that much better for making the move. As for next year, we have a lot of faith that Linus Ullmark and Ilya Samsonov can be an effective tandem. Robin was an incredibly important part of this team, but the opportunity to acquire a player like Dylan doesn't come around often."

About Dylan Larkin, GM Noga added "Dylan is the kind of player we've been after for a very long time. He's a young, elite centre with fantastic leadership qualities. He's a clear number-one centre, one we're ecstatic to add to the foundation of this hockey club. Between him and PL, we feel we'll have a 1-2 punch worth mentioning among the league's best. Dylan's numbers may not have been eye popping in Carolina, but he was drowning in talent there. We're giving Dylan the opportunity to be the go-to guy for us right now, and we know the production will come in time. This was a very difficult decision to make but in the end, we just couldn't pass on the opportunity to add Dylan and we're pumped to see where he and PL can take this franchise."

The Avalanche also swapped Boone Jenner and Marcus Nutivaara for Dennis Cholowski and a draft pick. This marks the second time Boone Jenner has been traded by the Avalanche organization. On acquiring Cholowski, Sakic said "Dennis was a 1st round pick and has shown a little offensive ability on the back end. We're excited to watch him grow along with our crop of young defencemen like Nic Hague, Olli Juolevi and Conor Timmins. We feel he's close to being a top-4 capable offensive defenceman, and we could use a couple of the young guys join Shea and Hampus as quick as possible."

With Dylan Larkin in the fold, the Avs reinforce an already promising crop of young forwards. The goal remains the playoffs, with the responsibility placed directly on the shoulders of Jimmy Howard and Roberto Luongo. For Mile One Hockey, this is Sandy Bunns reporting.