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Trade: Avalanche send Graves to Devils with eye on expansion draft

Trade: Avalanche send Graves to Devils (instead of losing him to Kraken?)

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 10: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves (27) slide across the ice during the third period of game 6 in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoff series at T-Mobile Arena on June 10, 2021 in Las Vegas , Nevada. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Denver Post via Getty Images

Between buyouts and trades, teams continue to adjust to the looming Seattle Kraken expansion draft, and 2021 NHL Free Agency. The latest domino dropped with an interesting trade between the Devils and Avalanche, highlighted by Ryan Graves being sent to New Jersey.

Devils receive: Ryan Graves

Avalanche receive: Mikhail Maltsev, 2021 second-round pick.

Devils trade for Graves, Avalanche avoid losing him to Kraken expansion draft

The way things were looking, the Avalanche were likely to expose Ryan Graves to the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. Maybe certain factors left Graves overrated in some eyes, but losing him for nothing would’ve been painful.

Graves, 26, carries a $3.167 million AAV for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons. After 2022-23, he could become an unrestricted free agent.

The Devils have made a habit of exploiting other teams’ salary cap woes in recent summers. So far, it hasn’t paid off, but buying low on Graves falls in line with taking chances on Andreas Johnsson, Ryan Murray, and others.

No doubt, the Devils can use help on defense, whether Graves ever becomes more than a second-pairing defenseman or not.

According to Peter Baugh of The Athletic (sub required), the Avalanche’s Kraken expansion draft protected players will look like:


Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog (UFA), Andre Burakovsky, Nazem Kadri, Tyson Jost, Valeri Nichushkin


Cale Makar, Samuel Girard, Devon Toews


Philipp Grubauer (UFA)

Now, the Avalanche aren’t totally out of the Kraken-patrolling woods. Seattle could still land a nice player, such as Joonas Donskoi. But getting some assets for Graves seems like a wise move. It makes plenty of sense for the Devils, too.

A quick look at Maltsev

Along with a second-rounder in 2021, the Devils sent Mikhail Maltsev to the Avalanche in the Ryan Graves trade.

Maltsev, 23, is a left wing with 33 NHL games (6G, 3A for nine points) under his belt. The Devils used a fourth-rounder (102nd overall) to pick Maltsev in 2016.

While The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler ranked the Devils’ farm system 11th back in January, Maltsev was not listed. Getting 33 games of NHL experience isn’t half-bad for a 23-year-old, though.

Overall, shrewd work from the Devils, although credit to the Avalanche for landing at least something for Graves in this trade. For another expansion-driven trade, consider the Predators trading Viktor Arvidsson to the Kings.

Will we see other teams make trades to mitigate the Seattle Kraken expansion draft? Could some of those moves involve side deals with the Kraken themselves? That might pick up Friday, as teams face a Saturday deadline to submit their protected players lists.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.