Who should the Avalanche Add this Offseason?
Another offseason is on us, and a little earlier than next year.. This offseason has been full of news and non news, and it leads us to wonder what the Avalanche will do with the roster next year.
Disclaimer: This blog is entirely speculation. This is a exploration of different ideas or scenarios that would be interesting, and is just a discussion point!
The Av's unfortunately will be without captain Gabriel Landeskog for the entirety of the next season, and he has massive skates to fill. As for non news, there have still been no updates on the status of Valeri Nichushkin, aside from the GM Chris MacFarland stating that he wants Val to be a long term player for this team.
Let's take a look at some of the free agents available, and what holes the Avalanche have to fill. This is the roster as it currently sits, and how I see it (assuming Nichushkin is back and ready to play):
There are a few glaring holes on this roster as it sits right now, and a few opportunities to improve things. As you can see, the defense as it sits has a $5 million dollar man on the third pairing. Even if Girard moves up, you either put $4.5 million cap hit Manson on the 3rd pairing, or Byram, who is sure to be making a decent amount more than his ELC (how much more is to be determined). There is a possibility the Avalanche make a trade to fill a top 6 hole and use Girard as trade bait to get that, or that Newhook becomes an addition to a trade to address a gap higher in the lineup. We will explore that possibility in another blog, but let us focus purely on free agents, and some ideas around that.
This unrestricted free agent class isn't filled with a bunch of super high end players, but more guys that are on the backswing of their career, or maybe used to be stars and are now just solid players with a bit of age to them. Keep in mind, the Avalanche have 7 million dollars in LTIR dollars they can use, but with Landeskog's uncertainty past this year, combined with his long term contract, I don't see the Avalanche making a long term commitment to anyone. This actually might bode well for the types of free agents that are available. Could we see a few 1 year contracts to a few solid players to set up a run for next year? (It worked last time with Kariya and Selanne .... right???) Additionally, I won't discuss guys like Bergeron or Kreicji (assuming they are Bruins or bust), or the big RFA's like Troy Terry, Timo Meier, Jesper Bratt, Let's take a look at a few scenerios..
1) Patrick Kane on a 1 year deal?
As I said, this blog is entirely speculation and discussion points. What if Patrick Kane wanted to go on another run, and decided to join the Avalanche on a 1 year deal to bolster the lineup... Who knows? He might be excited about the idea of playing with high skill players like MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Makar, and maybe with the idea of two puck hounds like Lehkonen and Nichushkin to help do some of the dirty board work to help free space up for Kane? He had a disappointing run with the Rangers, and a down year last year on a rebuilding Chicago team but there's no denying that Kane is a supremely talented player and still has a ton to offer, but he is getting on in years and may be running low on chances to make one final run.
2) Vlad Tarasenko on a 1 year or short term deal?
Tarasenko was a devastatingly talented player for years with the Blues, and still has some solid skills, but there seems to be a strange pattern to his numbers over the last few years. He was known as an elite level offensive player and actually set a career high in points in 21-22 after a few down, injury filled years. And then, this past season, he had 50 points in 69 games, which is definitely solid, but not the point per game of his prior season. Maybe the Avalanche could see a fit here? Tarasenko still has an elite shot and abilities, and the Av's need more offense from more than just a few bodies up front.
3) Ryan O'Reilly back to the team he was drafted to?
Ryan's lost a step, and one he probably couldn't afford to lose, but he is still a solid player. He's got that faceoff skill that would replace JTC (I believe he walks to another team this year), and some good veteran leadership ability. Does he fit in the room? Most of the players that were on that Av's team when O'Reilly wanted out aren't around anymore, and he had an ok playoffs for the Leafs. Maybe as a 2nd center, surrounded by some of the speedy players on the Avalanche, he could add something solid.
4) Tyler Bertuzzi to lock in a winger spot?
This one conflicts me for a few reasons. I feel like Bertuzzi is going to be looking for a solid long term deal, and the Av's have spent a lot on the wing (Rantanen, Nichushkin, Landeskog, Lehkonen). I don't know if they'd like the idea of another long term contract on the wing, which I think Bert will be looking for at age 28. He performed very well in the playoffs though, but we've seen examples of guys flashing in the playoffs and then not repeating. He had a down, injury filled regular season, and a long term deal here would come with a modicum of risk.
5) Jonathan Drouin as PTO/Career Saver?
Low risk, Medium reward? Drouin has skill. He's also had a really rocky time in the NHL. Being in the middle of the hockey world in Montreal takes a toll on some guys, and before that, being on a team like Tampa that has really high expectations... Could the Av's take a low risk, 1 year, prove it deal to Drouin to play on the same team as MacKinnon again? I'm not saying I would put them on the same line... I'm not even suggesting this could be a fantastic idea. I'm just saying that he is a skilled guy, and maybe not being leaned on as the guy on Colorado where he can blend into the background a bit might help him regain his confidence.
6) Michael Bunting as a Nazem Kadri Redux?
Bunting took some criticism from the Toronto media and fans after some undisciplined play in the playoffs, but there's no denying hes a skilled player. Could the Avalanche entice him over to play with more stars? Bunting had 63 points in his "rookie" year, and 49 points this year, with 23 goals scored during each. He can score, and he could fit comfortably with this team. The question of course is, how many suiters will be interested in him? Does he look for a long term deal somewhere? If so, we're back on the same train as Bertuzzi. I don't think the Av's will want to spend hard on the wing for a long term contract.
7) Jason Zucker on a shorter term deal?
Zucker had a solid rebound season last year, scoring 27 goals. He had a few injuries the last few seasons, and scored 20+ goals for the first time in a few seasons. With his age and injury history, he may look at a short term deal or a few mercenary type contracts to finish out his career. He has skill, but injury concerns are scary. Colorado dealt with enough of those in the last year and saw how impactful missing good players is.
These are just a few ideas looking through the potential free agent list. While there are no stand out UFA's like Panarin, I don't think the Av's would have a fit for that type anyway. Perhaps this UFA group could bring what the Av's need, in a shorter term aspect until we see how Landeskog heals up.
Coming soon, I will look at some interesting trade options. Do the Av's look at moving Samuel Girard for a forward? What about Devon Toews? Does Alex Newhook have more rope remaining on the team or is he a candidate for a move?
Tune in to find out, and thanks for reading!