Avalanche: Free Agency & Beyond

Tomorrow at 12 p.m. est will mark the start of the annual free agent frenzy where teams all around the league will get to bid on unrestricted (and restricted) free agents.

Before I take a look at what the Avs may or may not do, let’s take a look at their depth chart and their situation.

Gabriel LandeskogNathan MacKinnon Jarome Iginla

Mikhail GrigorenkoMatt DucheneMikko Rantanen

J.T. CompherCarl SoderbergBlake Comeau

Cody McLeod John MitchellAndreas Martinsen

UFA’s – Mikkel Boedker, Shawn Matthais, Jack Skille, Jesse Winchester, Andrew Agozzino.

RFA’s – Nathan MacKinnon, Mikhail Grigorenko.

Before taking a look at the Avs’ blueline, let’s concentrate on the forwards. The lines that I have up above aren’t ideal. Mikko Rantanen and J.T.Compher are both in bold because they aren’t locks to make the team and will begin the first year of their ELC’s. Rantanen, though it’s not for sure, is almost certain to make the team.Compher, on the other hand, isn’t. He’ll most likely start the year in the minors with San Antonio but he will battle it out to center the Avs’ 4th line. Compher is listed above as a left winger on the 3rd line but I’m just filling out the lines with what the Avs currently have under contract.

The Avs will badly need a top 6 winger as Jarome Iginla doesn’t cut it anymore. Iginla will be a staple for the Avs’ bottom 6 much like he was last year. As with what I did with Compher, I’m just filling out lines with what the Avs currently have under contract.

The Avs do currently have a top 6 winger as a UFA with Mikkel Boedker and although Boedker has interest in staying, Avs most likely can’t compete with the money Boedker will get on the open market. Avs have been linked to Russian forward Alexander Radulov for the last few months so perhaps they will take a run at signing him. Though he will be an expensive get (most likely even more expensive than Boedker), Radulov will add a lot of dynamic flair to the Avs. Radulov having been coached by current Avs coach Patrick Roy in juniors doesn’t hurt the Avs’ chances of landing him either.

The Avs would really like to bring back Shawn Matthais. If so, he will take Compher’s spot on the lines listed above and play with Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau where the trio showed chemistry when they played together. If this is the case, Compher will have to battle John Mitchell for the 4th line center spot. Compher might have a good shot at getting it too as John Mitchell’s name has been in the rumor mill for awhile. Avs have interest in moving on from him.

As for the other remaining UFA forwards – Jack Skille, Jesse Winchester and Andrew Agozzino… Jesse Winchester has suffered through concussions the last 2 years and will not be reattained by the Avalanche. Agozzino has played mostly with the Avs’ minor league teams the last few years and may be brought back for depth but both sides might be ready to move on. Jack Skille is anyone’s guess. Jack Skille had an up and down year for the Avs but it was mostly positive. The fact that he hasn’t been re-signed probably points in the direction of the Avs moving on from him. Bringing Jack Skille back in a depth role wouldn’t be a bad idea.

So forward wise, the Avs need is a top 6 winger and if they can’t bring back Shawn Matthais they also need a bottom 6 winger too. So let’s take a look at an ideal forward group for the Avs next season. Keep in mind, it’s an ideal lineup,not a for sure lineup.

Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – *Alex Radulov/Mikkel Boedker

Mikhail Grigorenko – Matt Duchene – Mikko Rantanen

**Shawn Matthais – Carl Soderberg – Blake Comeau

Cody McLeod – ***J.T. Compher – Jarome Iginla

Extra – Andreas Martinsen

* – Contingent on Avs signing either Alex Radulov or Mikkel Boedker. Avs need help on the right side. The probability isn’t high for either one.

** – Contingent on Avs bringing back Shawn Matthais. The probability is mid to high on this happening. If not Matthais, many other possible 3rd line forwards in free agency. Former Avalanche beat writer Adrian Dater states the Avs may look at Dale Weise.

*** – Contingent on Avs trading John Mitchell which would open space for J.T. Compher. Probability is also mid to high.

Now let’s take a look at the blueline and the situation surrounding it.

Nikita Zadorov – Erik Johnson

Francois BeaucheminTyson Barrie

Chris BigrasEric Gelinas

Extra – Duncan Siemens.

UFA’s – Zach Redmond, Andrew Bodnarchuk.

RFA’s – Tyson Barrie.

Unless a blockbuster trade happens (and I’ll touch on this below) this will be the blueline the Avs will ice next season. 21 year old d-men Nikita Zadorov and Chris Bigras are pretty much locks to be full time NHL-ers next season and that was basically guaranteed when the Avs traded away Nick Holden and bought out Brad Stuart. What pairing and how many minutes they’ll get is the big question.

But the real big question is Tyson Barrie. A restricted free agent whose name that’s been in trade rumors non stop for the last couple of months. The Colorado Avalanche and Barrie’s agents at Newport Sports have a long history and it’s not a good one. Tyson Barrie shares the same agents with Ryan O’Reilly who the Avs traded last summer after not being able to come to an agreement on a contract extension. Avs General Manager Joe Sakic has said recently that Barrie “will be here” and that he’s “not worried”. Time will tell. Tyson Barrie has arbitration rights and it remains to be seen whether the Avs will deal Barrie or sign him before arbitration rears its ugly head.

Duncan Siemens, one of Avs’ 2 first round selections in 2011 will be given the opportunity to fight for real NHL minutes. Siemens, who is roundly considered a bust, turns 23 in September and has only played 1 NHL game. Siemens played the last 3 seasons in the minors with mixed reception.

The Avs like to carry 8 d-men so the Avs will probably look for a depth d-man. According to Denver Post writer Mike Chambers, Avs will not bring back pending UFA Zach Redmond but may bring back Andrew Bodnarchuk.

As for the goalies, the Avs will go with Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard as their 1-2 punch. Pickard is a restricted free agent but there’s zero fear of losing him.

So that’s what the Avs are looking like for next season. Their needs are a top 6 winger (preferably a right winger), 3rd line winger (preferably a left winger) and a depth defenseman. The Avs have approximately $20.9 million in cap space, although a humongous chunk of that will go to new contracts for Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Barrie, Mikhail Grigorenko and Calvin Pickard.

THERE’S SMOKE, BUT IS THERE FIRE!?!?

There was nearly a meltdown throughout fans of the Avs on social media accounts when it was rumored the Colorado Avalanche were about to part with one or more of their young core players.

It all started when TSN senior reporter Frank Seravalli said on TSN 1260 radio around 1:40 p.m. est that Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog will making his debut on TSN’s trade bait board. Though mostly every fan shook these comments off (as Barrie, Duchene, even Varlamov have been in trade rumors but to no avail), chaos erupted just a little over 20 minutes later.

A little after 2 p.m. est, James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail tweeted that “Sounds like Colorado has something big brewing”. After months of Barrie and Duchene rumors and speculation that the Avs were looking for a seismic shift core wise, the back to back tweets from Seravalli and Mirtle rattled a lot of cages for Avs fans online.

Then there was the rumor of a 3 way trade between Colorado, Winnipeg and Edmonton. Nothing was concrete on who would go to which team but the players involved included Tyson Barrie and Gabriel Landeskog of the Avs, Jacob Trouba of the Jets and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers. The rumor was never speculated by the “big” insiders around the NHL but with Avs having been linked to Trouba and the Oilers wanting to pry Barrie from the Avs, it seemed like a very likely possibility.

Adrian Dater of Bleacher Report eventually tweeted after the chaos that his sources told him that they don’t think Gabriel Landeskog will be moved in any trade.

TSN’s Darren Dreger stated on June 30’s Insider Trading that the Avs and the Ducks were in a trade discussion a few weeks ago that would have sent Gabriel Landeskog to the Anaheim Ducks for Hampus Lindholm. The trade apparently fell apart.

Also on June 30’s Insider Trading, Bob McKenzie stated that though the Avs aren’t desperately trying to trade Tyson Barrie, the Avs are getting a lot of calls on him. As well, Darren Dreger stated the Avs are looking to make a big shake up of the team’s core and Landeskog and Matt Duchene could be part of future deals.

A chaotic day  indeed for Avs fans but they survived another day. The real big question is will Joe Sakic pull the trigger on a franchise altering trade or stay put for at least one more season. Interesting times ahead.

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