Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
A breakdown on where players stand this offseason
After a disappointing Game 7 loss in the second round of the playoffs, 2019-20 season is officially over for the Colorado Avalanche.
As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, the focus for the Avs and general manager Joe Sakic now shifts to one of the most unorthodox offseasons we’ve ever seen. In a world where most teams will be looking to cut salary, the Avalanche are one of the few who will actually have money to spend.
That doesn’t mean Joe will be bringing everyone back. With an eye towards winning a Stanley Cup before Nathan MacKinnon’s current contract expires, the Avs time to go all-in is now. Sakic will be looking to make a big move or two this offseason and as a result, some of the players currently on the roster will find themselves in new jerseys by the time the 2020-21 season begins.
Not going anywhere
Nathan MacKinnon ($6.3m, three years remaining)
Mikko Rantanen ($9.25m, five years remaining)
Cale Makar (ELC, one year remaining)
At the end of the day, these are the three players that Joe Sakic would not even entertain the thought of trading. Nathan MacKinnon has turned into then best player in the NHL, while Cale Makar is on his way to being one of the best defenders in the league. Add to that the cost certainty of a star winger like Rantanen and these are the three absolute untouchables from the lineup.
Probably not going anywhere
Gabriel Landeskog ($5.57m, one year remaining)
Nazem Kadri ($4.5m, two years remaining)
Samuel Girard ($5.0m, seven years remaining)
Pavel Francouz ($2.0m, two years remaining)
Gabriel Landeskog is the captain and for many, he’s the heart and soul of the team. That said, he’s due an extension (and a raise) at the end of next season so while it’s likely the two sides will get a deal done, you never want to rule out the possibility that a pending UFA could be moved.
There’s an argument to be made that a 22-year old top-4 defender that is signed long terms is an absolute untouchable. Sam Girard was almost put in that category BUT in an offseason where Sakic might swing for a couple huge moves, you can’t ignore the possibility that Girard might have to be included in any sort of ground-breaking blockbuster.
Potentially available for right price, but likely not being actively shopped
Erik Johnson ($6.0m, three years remaining)
J.T. Compher ($3.5m, three years remaining)
Joonas Donskoi ($3.5m, three years remaining)
Matt Calvert ($2.85m, one year remaining)
P-E Bellmare ($1.8m, one year remaining)
Erik Johnson is a guy that many fans have talked about trading for more than a year now. They problem is that he’s the undisputed leader on the blueline – something that became very evident when the team’s defense took a nose dive when he got injured in the playoffs. Despite a slightly inflated AAV, Johnson is incredibly important to this team, that said, he has a NMC that could cause issues in the expansion draft. If someone on his list (Johnson can list 19 teams he can be traded to) makes a big offer for the veteran defender, Joe would have to listen.
Compher and Donskoi are both guys who bring versatility and speed to the lineup. Despite that, they both suffer from a lack of consistency and were unable to lock down a true “role” in the lineup. Both are slightly overpaid for a third line player so if Joe has plans to break the bank on a UFA, moving one of them might make sense.
Like Landeskog, Calvert and Bellmare are entering the final year of their contracts. They are both valuable veterans in this lineup but either could be moved to create room in the lineup for a youngster like Shane Bowers, Logan O’Connor or Martin Kaut.
Ian Cole ($4.25m, one year remaining)
It’s not very likely to happen but if the Avalanche have the inside track on a move that would bring in some big money, buying out Cole would be an option to clear cap space. A buyout would save the Avs $3m against the cap this coming season but it would cost them an extra $1m a year from now.
Free Agents to walk away from
Free agents commanding larger salaries
Andre Burakovsky (restricted free agent)
Ryan Graves (restricted free agent)
Valeri Nichushkin (restricted free agent)
All three of these players have arbitration rights and are coming off of career seasons. That should scare Sakic and the Avs front office. He will need to get them re-signed before any arbitration hearing, otherwise each might be awarded an AAV that is too rich for the team.
Graves is a guy that looked like the perfect partner for Cale Makar at times this season but then he took a huge step back in the postseason. The best course of action would likely be to give him a one year deal to prove his regular season wasn’t a fluke.
The Avs struck gold in Nichushkin. Brought in late as a reclamation project, the 25-year old put together a very impressive comeback season. Sakic likely wants him back and a deal giving him a $2m AAV over each of the next two seasons would likely be enough to get it done.
Free Agents with big question marks
Nikita Zadorov (restricted free agent)
Tyson Jost (restricted free agent)
Vlad Namestnikov (unrestricted free agent)
No one would be surprised if wither Zadorov or Jost were traded this offseason. Both are long standing members of the team that have found themselves falling down the depth chart as the lineup has improved.
Forgetting where he was drafted, Jost could be a very solid bottom-6 forward for a contending Avalanche team, so if there isn’t a trade offer worthwhile, signing him for around $1m might be a good option.
Zadorov, on the other hand, is going to be looking for an improvement on the $3.2m he made last season. That’s expensive for a guy who is going to be playing on the third pair next season. Given Sakic’s unwillingness to sign him long-term over the past few summers, it’s easy to see a scenario where the Avs decide to move on.
After being acquired at the deadline, Namestnikov looked very good at times in the Avalanche lineup. That said, his AAV of $4m last season is too high for a guy that plays the role he would in Colorado. Unless he’s willing to take a pay cut, he’s likely to move on.
*We would like to thank our friends at Second City Hockey for the idea and format of this article