Imagine the headlines:
"Dale Tallon is nuts; swaps 2015 firsts with Colorado"
"Colorado makes huge steal, swaps 2015 selections with Florida."
At least, that's how they would probably look. Fortunately for the Panthers, our first round draft pick next season is viewed as extremely valuable, which is understandable considering that we've been at the bottom of the league the past two years and don't really look set to make a huge jump in the standings next season. On the other hand, the Colorado Avalanche's first round draft pick would probably carry less value than the pick that the Cats currently have, mainly because they made a tremendous turn around last year and won their division, before getting knocked out in the first round by the Minnesota Wild. They are mostly a young team, and on the surface, really look like they will improve on their season from last year, and make an even deeper run into the playoffs.
Until you take a closer look.
The Colorado Avalanche were very good at being "clutch" last season, meaning that they won a good number of tight games, and were efficient at turning goal differential into points. You can see this by looking at the standings, as Colorado finished in third place in the league in points, though they were 8th in overall goal differential. Tyler Dellow has a great in depth look into it, although it is from way back in the middle of the season.
Essentially, the Avalanche were the best in the league (at that point in the season) at turning goal differential into points. Also, they had a very, very high PDO, which was mainly brought about by Semyon Varlamov having a career year and a little bit of puck luck. It's very possible that Colorado see's PDO regression, as PDO is the type of thing to fall back to around 100, especially following a career year. For example, Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky saw his SV% drop from .932 to .923 this past season. The same drop for Varlamov would be from .927 to .918, which is still good, but equal to about 19 more goals against. In this scenario, the 19 more goals against drops them from 112 points to 94 points (or somewhere right around there). That number would have been good enough for the 2nd wild card seed in the Western Conference last season, but only by 3 points, a far cry from a division title.
Take into account that there isn't much team 'clutchness' in the NHL, and that there's essentially never replication of it from one year to the next, and all of a sudden Colorado goes from a playoff team contending for the Cup to a team just looking to make it into the playoffs.
Now factor in that the Avalanche lost Paul Stastny, and P.A. Parenteau, while adding Daniel Briere, Jarome Iginla, Brad Stuart, and Jesse Winchester, and things get even more interesting. Colorado was a very poor possession team last year (27th in the league), and their top two possession players were none other than Stastny and Parenteau. Sure, Nathan MacKinnon should be able to hold his own in a second line center role, but he won't be as dominant (possession wise) as Stastny. Iginla doesn't replace the hole left by Parenteau either; as shown by Tyler Dellow yet again, Iginla is really not the one driving possession anymore; he needs players to help get him the puck. (which Colorado sadly doesn't have). Jesse Winchester and Dainel Briere do nothing more than help to slightly fix the incredibly abysmal bottom-6 that the Avalanche had last season, as both are "meh" possesion players. Defenseman Stuart is slightly similar to Willie Mitchell in that he had a negative Corsi Rel, but he played on a possession giant in San Jose, so he probably can hold his own. Regardless, Colorado won't be making incredible strides in possession; they lost too much, and didn't necessarily pick up enough to cover it. Their team lost good players up front, and didn't add enough on the back end to fix their issues. Add all of the factors together, and it looks like a recipe for a total disaster.
On the flip side, the Panthers were a decent possession team with goaltending and special teams problems. Factor in the development of Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Hayes, Dylan Olsen, and the additions of Aaron Ekblad, Willie Mitchell, Jussi Jokinen, and Derek MacKenzie, and not only do the Cats look to stay a decent possession team (observe I left out Shawn Thornton and Dave Bolland...) but also improve on special teams. Picking up Roberto Luongo also fixes part of the goaltending problem, and, given a year with a couple of lucky bounces, the Panthers could easily make a run into the playoffs.
This type of trade is a huge gamble, but, looking at the data from last year, and at what each team has done through free agency, I think it would be safe to say that the Panthers have a better chance of making the playoffs than the Avalanche do. Even then, it's maybe even more likely that both teams don't make the playoffs, and then all that we've done is swap lottery picks.
That being said, I highly doubt a trade like this would ever happen. A year from now, I might look back at this article and think "Well... Let's delete that from the archives." But, right now, it looks like the risks don't outweigh the rewards, and swapping picks with the Avalanche may just be the type of smart, managerial move that Stanley Cups are made of.