A familiar face is coming back to Colorado.
The Avalanche picked up veteran forward Matt Nieto and defenseman Ryan Merkley in a trade that sent forward Martin Kaut and defenseman Jacob MacDonald to the San Jose Sharks, the team announced Wednesday night.
Nieto spent parts of four seasons with the Avs after being claimed off waivers on Jan. 5, 2017, then signed with the Sharks as a free agent prior to the 2020-21 season in his second stint with the franchise. He’s accumulated 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 45 games this season for the Sharks, and will add depth to a forward group that has been beset by injuries throughout the season.
Arguably the best stretch of Nieto’s career came in Colorado, where the 5-foot-11, 187-pound left wing notched 81 points (34 goals and 47 assists) in 251 games between 2017 and 2020. That included a 2017-18 season that saw him set career highs in games played (74) and goals (15) for a team that was eventually eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
Merkley, 22, was drafted with the 21st overall pick of the 2018 draft by San Jose, and made his NHL debut last season. The 6-foot, 186-pound defenseman appeared in 39 games, collecting six points (1 goal, five assists), but has spent the entirety of this season with the San Jose Barracuda in the AHL. He has 14 assists in 30 games.
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The trade marks the end of a disappointing tenure for Kaut in Colorado. Taken with the 16th overall pick in the 2018 draft, the Czech native was never able to break through with the Avs. He notched just six points (three goals, three assists) in 47 games spread out over four seasons, with three of those points (one goal, two assists) coming in 27 games this season.
MacDonald, acquired by the Avs in a trade in 2019, appeared in 33 games (two assists) with Colorado this season — matching a career high established during the 2020-21 season.
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