In the weeks following the Avalanche’s Game 7 to the Seattle Kraken, I genuinely felt Alex Newhook had played his last game with Colorado. This was before we heard that Gabriel Landeskog is also expected to miss the entire 2023-24 season. It just seemed that within limited cap space, the importance of signing Bowen Byram and replenishing their center core after Nathan MacKinnon, there simply wouldn’t be enough room for Newhook. Even if he signed a bridge deal worth a paltry $1.5 million per season (which is unlikely for a young 30-plus point forward), it just felt like the team needed to save as much cap space for other priorities.

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

It’s now an expectation that Colorado will utilize up to $7 million above the cap ceiling because of Landeskog’s absence. But even with that, Newhook just didn’t seem to have a role.  And it’s not because he did anything wrong.

The Avs are in a Stanley Cup window and waiting on Newhook’s development isn’t something they can do. They also lack high-end draft capital, which they slightly replenished in this deal — acquiring the No. 31 and No. 37 overall picks in the upcoming draft.

On an entry-level deal, which Newhook just played through, it made sense to keep him around as a depth forward. But as a restricted free agent looking for that bigger cap hit, it was time to move on. His future was dependent on developing into a second-line center in 2022-23. That’s something he still could do. But the Avs can’t afford to enter the upcoming season with him slotted in as the 2C. Hence why they went out and acquired Ryan Johansen and his $4 million cap hit.

Newhook as a 3C or a winger on the third line was also an option. That’s where he’s made his mark over the past two years. But when I see GM Chris MacFarland pull off a deal like this, it says to me that the front office has other plans to rebuild their bottom two lines. Newhook needed to be a reliable second-liner at 22 years old to stay in Colorado and he just isn’t that. Not yet.

There are also other possible outcomes that could evolve because of this deal. As soon as the Habs acquired Newhook, it was a clear sign that they were dropping out of the Pierre-Luc Dubois race. Dubois has since been signed and traded to the L.A. Kings in a blockbuster deal that sent several pieces back to the Central Division rival Jets. One of those pieces is Alex Iafallo, a winger who is one year away from unrestricted free-agent status. If Winnipeg chooses to flip him, the Avs could look into bringing him in as Landeskog’s replacement on the second line.

But another possible outcome is a different Kings winger. L.A. still needs to shed cap space to build their roster — one that doesn’t have a starting goalie under contract. If MacFarland was able to find a way to pry Viktor Arvidsson and his $4.25 million salary out of Los Angeles, it would give Colorado the exact type of winger it needs to complete the new-look top-six. Arvidsson’s best years of his career were played in Nashville alongside Johansen. Reuniting the two could not only give the Avalanche the scoring to offset Landeskog’s absence, but it could also help Johansen rejuvenate his career after a tough season in 2022-23.

These are just some of the scenarios that could play out following this move. The true judgment of this trade will likely have to wait until we learn which direction the Avs choose to go. But if one thing was made clear here, it’s that Colorado is not interested in another disappointing first-round loss. There is a clear urgency to chase another Stanley Cup, and the front office will find a way to make that happen.

Even if includes making tough decisions like this.