OTTAWA, Ontario--As the Colorado Avalanche players took the ice at Canadian Tire Center on Wednesday afternoon, there was a sense of relief among the group. The NHL Trade Deadline had passed 30 minutes earlier and most the squad was still intact.
However, the two players that were absent from the hour-long session were forwards Jarome Iginla and Andreas Martinsen, both of whom were off to new clubs. Colorado acquired forward Sven Andrighetto from the Montreal Canadiens for Martinsen and nabbed a conditional fourth-round 2018 draft selection from the Los Angeles Kings for Iginla.
In addition, the Avs recalled forward J.T. Compher from the San Antonio Rampage later in the day to fill an open roster spot.
For the 20 players that took part in the practice at the home rink of the Ottawa Senators, it was a bittersweet feeling to see their teammates and friends leave.
"Obviously Iggy, we were all hoping he would get another chance at winning a Cup," said Matt Duchene. "And Marty, we're excited for him too. He's going to an unbelievable team in Montreal. They've made a lot of good moves at the deadline, and I think they're a team that is going to have a long run. We're happy for those guys. Sad to see them go, but happy for them."
Video: Matt Duchene talks to the media in Ottawa
With the Avalanche having its postseason hopes dashed weeks ago, the players knew the club was going to be a seller at the deadline. Executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic had spoken on many occasions about doing what's best for the franchise long term on March 1, and the only players that he deemed "safe" from possibly being moved were 21-year-old Nathan MacKinnon and 20-year-old Mikko Rantanen.
That had the rest of the team nervous in the hours and minutes leading up to the deadline at 3 p.m. ET.
"It was a little bit of a crazy day. Everybody was walking around on pins and needles, kind of wondering what was going on," said head coach Jared Bednar, who was also going through his first trade deadline in the NHL. "So there is some uncertainty there. There is some anxiety there, I'm sure. We wanted to make sure that we had a good day of practice and try to get better here today. I thought the guys were in good spirits going out on the ice. I think the guys are happy that Iggy has a chance to go and hopefully take a run at a Cup."
Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog noted that the Avs can now just focus on playing solid hockey for the final 21 games without the cloud of possibly being traded hanging over their heads.
"We lose a couple great guys and really good hockey players, but this day is over and we can finally move on and just play hockey," Landeskog said. "We know we need to be better for the last six weeks of the season, but we don't have any distracting trade deadline coming up at least.
"I want to be here. I want to remain an Avalanche for a long time, so I'm happy to be here on this day and for three o'clock to be over with.
Video: Avs captain Gabe Landeskog after practice in Ottawa
Duchene is equally thankful to now just focus on playing for the Avs.
"I'm glad it's over," Duchene said. "It's nice to be able to move on.
"I love being around my teammates here. We have a good group. Even though we're struggling this year, we have a good group in the locker room. I just try to take that in and try to be the best I can for those guys."
Colorado arrived in Ottawa in the early morning hours on Wednesday after playing in Philadelphia the night before and the players went to their hotel rooms like it was any other night after a road game. But when they woke up and started getting ready to go to the rink for the 3:30 p.m. practice, that's when the magnitude of deadline day hit them.
"It was weird. We hopped on the bus from the hotel at 1:00, and obviously Iggy wasn't on the bus, so that was weird," Landeskog said. "And then we came here and we had a couple hours to kill before practice. We're playing soccer out in the hallway and all of a sudden Martinsen gets a phone call and he's gone. So it was weird to say the least, but we all know that this is part of the job and part of the business. Wish those guys best of luck, and hopefully they get a chance to hoist [the Stanley Cup] this year."
What the Avalanche got on Wednesday in Andrighetto and Compher are players looking to showcase their skill at the highest level.
Andrighetto, a 23-year-old from Zurich, Switzerland, had been up and down between the Canadiens and their AHL minor-league affiliate for the past four years. He has recorded 28 points (11 goals and 17 assists) in 83 career NHL games.
"A young skilled forward looking for more of an opportunity," Sakic said of the former Canadiens right wing. "We feel with his speed and hockey sense and skill he can help our power play."
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar on the team's new players
Sakic has talked about getting younger and faster, and both Andrighetto and Compher will accomplish that.
Compher, 21, is in his first professional season after spending the past three years at the University of Michigan. He ranks third on the Rampage in scoring with 30 points (13 goals and 17 assists) in 41 games.
"We have high expectations for Compher from what we've seen from him, and he's had over a half season of pro hockey now and playing against men in the American Hockey League," Bednar said. "He's played a big role on their team down there, so he is a guy that we're looking forward to getting up here. And he will play a little bit of special teams for us, for sure. We'll want to get a real good look at him here going down the stretch."
Compher will make his NHL debut on Thursday when the Avs take on the Senators, while Andrighetto is expected to join the club in the near future, possibly in Winnipeg on Saturday for the third and final game of the road trip.
Where Compher will slot in the lineup has yet to be decided, as Bednar said he'll discuss the Colorado's line combinations with his coaching staff later in the evening.
The one lineup note the Avs coach did make known was that goaltender Calvin Pickard will start in Ottawa, which happens to be the same city in which he made his NHL debut in on Oct. 16, 2014. He made 23 saves in a backup role after starting netminder Reto Berra got hurt less than three minutes into the game.