Avalanche trades expansion-draft target Ryan Graves to New Jersey for a Russian forward and draft pick – The Denver Post

The Avalanche on Thursday traded a player it probably would have lost in next week’s expansion draft.

Colorado sent defenseman Ryan Graves to the New Jersey Devils for Russian forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round selection (61st overall) in the 2021 draft. Maltsev, 23, the Devils’ fourth-round draft pick in 2016, is coming off his NHL rookie season with New Jersey.

The Avs, who traded their 2021 and 2022 second-round picks to the New York Islanders for defenseman Devon Toews before last season, now have a second-round pick in the upcoming draft and won’t lose the 26-year-old Graves for zero in return. The three defensemen they are expected to protect from the expansion Seattle Kraken are Toews, Cale Makar and Sam Girard. Veteran oft-injured defenseman Erik Johnson waived his no-trade clause to allow Colorado to protect their top-three ice-time leaders.

The Avs also gained some salary relief. Graves’ cap hit over the next two seasons is $3.12 million. He likely will be replaced by a young player on his entry-level contract with a cap hit of less than $1 million. The candidates are Bo Byram, Justin Barron, Nate Clurman and Keaton Middleton, among others.

The Avs acquired Graves from the New York Rangers on Feb. 26, 2018, in a straight-up swap of young defensemen from the 2013 draft class. Chris Bigras, the Avs’ second-round pick, was sent to New York. Graves, a fourth-rounder, partnered with Makar on the Avs’ top pairing in 2019-20 and led the NHL with a plus-40 rating.

Maltsev, 6-foot-3 and 198 pounds, made his NHL debut Jan. 31 and produced nine points (six goals) in 33 games. He also played one game for the Devils’ AHL affiliate and produced a goal.

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