It’s been another impressive run for the Colorado Avalanche this season. After a less than stellar start to the year, the Avs are now right back at the top of the Central Division, posting a 26-8-3 record and sitting 4 points up on the St. Louis Blues in second place, and with two games in hand. Newcomer Darcy Kuemper has settled in as the starting goalie with his new team, and Nazem Kadri has elevated his play to a whole other level, with 15 goals and 51 points in 34 games, and is currently leading the team in scoring despite better-than PPG seasons from Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar, and Gabe Landeskog. The Avs are heading towards what could be their best chance to contend for a Stanley Cup. Both Kadri and Kuemper will be UFAs next summer, and Colorado will have trouble replacing either player either off the market or internally. Fans can expect GM Joe Sakic to make a push for new acquisitions at the trade deadline this March, in the hopes that this season may finally be his team’s year. Here are the best pieces he can offer other clubs in a trade deal.

Valeri Nichushkin

This by no means suggests that Nichushkin is having a bad season; he’s not. In fact, he could very well eclipse his career-high in goals at the rate he’s playing. 10 goals and 17 points in 22 games as of this writing. However, Nichushkin, now 26-years old, will be a UFA next summer. He’s one of the more affordable UFAs on Colorado’s roster, but he’ll be expecting a raise if he has a career year, which means that the Avs won’t be able to keep him at his current cap hit of $2.5 million. It’s not so much that he’s not worth it as it is that the Avs have more important pieces that will require their cap space and an extra $2.5 million to work with would be valuable in that regard. Better to get something back at the deadline, even a rental, than to lose him for nothing in July.

Andre Burakovsky

Take the same issues with Nichushkin’s new contract and magnify them twofold, and you have Andre Burakovsky. Currently making $4.9 million and scoring 14 goals and 32 points in 35 games, Burakovsky will also be a free agent next summer and looking for a raise. Once again, the Avs will be looking to sign another goaltender or to hold on to Kuemper, as well as looking for a way to keep Kadri around, and Burakovsky’s negotiations may get in the way of that. It comes down to whether the Avs keep the more affordable Nichushkin or the more productive Burakovsky. The difference here is that Burakovsky is producing right in line with how he has in other seasons, while Nichushkin’s production has gone up in his contract year. Take from that what you will, but the fact remains whichever of these players is sticking with the Avalanche into next year, the other is likely to be shopped around.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel

After being waived by Philadelphia in November, the Avalanche picked up Aube-Kubel and threw him into their bottom 6 during their early-season bout with injuries. After posting just 1 assist in 11 games with the Flyers this year, Aube-Kubel has 5 goals and 12 points in 25 games with the Avalanche. He’s 3 points shy of a career-high season in 11 fewer games played. Aube-Kubel isn’t likely to fetch much on his own – there’s some sense to the idea that his production jumped up due to being on a more productive team – but as a sweetener to a trade package, the Avs could flip a freely-acquired asset into a valuable return for their playoff run.

Mikhail Maltsev

The Avalanche acquired Maltsev in a trade with New Jersey last summer that saw Ryan Graves sent to the Devils in exchange. Since arriving in Colorado, Maltsev has played 11 games with his new team, put up 0 points, taken a penalty, and gone -4 during his ice time. Not a great start, but the former 4th-round selection from 2016 is still just 23-years old, and his 5 goals and 18 points in the AHL this season suggest that there’s still some potential here. The Avs may prefer to hold onto him and see what he becomes, but another team might be willing to offer up something in exchange for this budding prospect.

Photo credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

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