Ross Colton is the latest in a string of moves by the Avalanche to address and rebuild its center core behind superstar Nathan MacKinnon. The savvy deal by general manager Chris MacFarland, acquiring the 26-year-old center from the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2023 No. 37 overall pick has all but solidified Colorado’s top-3 centers for the foreseeable future.

Colton, a restricted free agent, is one year away from unrestricted free agent status. He is owed a qualifying offer of $1.25 million. If he signs the QO, he could walk straight into free agency next summer. But I’d expect the Avs to give him at least two years on a new deal, which would align with Johansen’s contract, and provides clarity at center moving forward.

There was no question that the Avalanche’s biggest need this offseason was forward depth. But once it became clear that J.T. Compher was on his way out, the Avs’ need for depth specifically at the center position became all the more dire. Already without Nazem Kadri and now Compher, Colorado found itself suddenly without any centers to play behind Nathan MacKinnon. This also includes Alex Newhook, who potentially could’ve slotted in at 3C — but he’s since been traded to Montreal in a deal that gave the Avs picks No. 31 and the pick used to obtain Colton. And of course pending unrestricted free agents in Darren Helm, Lars Eller and Evan Rodrigues — three of the other players that saw time at center for the Avs last season. All that remains is another RFA in Ben Meyers, who could be in the running for the fourth-line center role.

Listen to “Alex Newhook Traded To Montreal” on Spreaker.

With Colton, the Avs managed to find a direct replacement for Compher with similar versatility, production and usage. Colton is also a year younger and gives the Avs another option in the circle. Both he and Johansen are well over 50 percent in career faceoff percentage. He also provides a similar type of physicality in the postseason to Compher. Despite being in the NHL for only three years, Colton has already amassed 52 playoff games, a Stanley Cup-winning clinching goal in 2021, and took part in the last fight in the Stanley Cup Final against now teammate Logan O’Connor.

Colton as the third-line center fits a lot more than Newhook would have. I went over the Newhook deal yesterday and my opinion of him remains the same: I have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to take that next step in Montreal at some point. I believe he will be an impact player in the NHL and a solid top-six center. But the reality is, Newhook was not ready for the role the Avalanche needed him to be ready for. And that was apparent when he was unable to grab a hold of the 2C spot last season.

In total, Newhook netted the Avs Colton, the No. 31 overall pick and a prospect in Gianni Fairbrother. And with the first round of the draft just hours away, all eyes are on MacFarland and that No. 31 pick. It’s possible the Avs have another deal in mind to continue to fill out their forward core.

Three trades. Three solid pieces of business.