The Tampa Bay Lightning are trading forward Ross Colton to the Colorado Avalanche, per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Colton, 26, is still a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. The Avalanche will need to sign him to a new contract or go to arbitration. Tampa Bay was going to have a tough time signing Colton, who has potential as a solid bottom-6 forward.
The Lightning will get the 37th pick in the 2023 NHL Draft on Thursday, a second-rounder the Avs acquired via the Canadiens in the Alex Newhook deal. Tampa Bay had just three picks prior to this deal, all in the sixth round or later.
Colton was a fourth-round pick back in 2016, playing two seasons at the University of Vermont before signing his entry-level contract with the Lightning in 2018. He spent a few seasons playing for Syracuse in the AHL before coming up to the NHL in 2020. Colton scored 12 points in 30 games in his first season and was a key part of the Stanley Cup championship team in 2021. He had nine points in 23 playoff games in 2022, when the Bolts lost the Cup to the Avs. Colton has 83 points (47 goals) in 190 career games.
This is another great move by the Avalanche, who have been busy the past 48 hours. Colorado traded Newhook to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday for two picks and a prospect. Those picks are both in the top-40 in the 2023 NHL Draft this week (31, 37). The Avs also made a deal recently to acquire C Ryan Johansen from the Nashville Predators. Colorado adds Colton, who can bring some stability to the bottom-6 and also has potential to play up if injuries occur.
If Gabriel Landeskog sticks on LTIR and is unable to return, the Avalanche have plenty of cap space to play around with this offseason. Expect a few more moves in free agency or via trade, potentially on Wednesday night at the draft. The Avs can use those acquired picks to make a play for an established NHL forward or move up.
Per Peter Baugh of The Athletic, the Avalanche are expected to let center J.T. Compher walk in free agency. That is likely because of the additions of Colton and Johansen so far. Colorado shouldn’t be done making moves.