The Expansion Draft has passed, the NHL Entry Level Draft has passed, but July 1’s Free Agent Frenzy has not. The Avalanche‘s roster remains pretty much the same as it did when they finished the season with the worst record in the NHL since the turn of the century.
Avalanche GM Joe Sakic has said on a few occasions that he expects “a lot of turnover” on the Avalanche roster. He also has said that the Avs will not be doing anything big when the free agent window opens on July 1.
A widely anticipated trade of Matt Duchene has yet to materialize and although there’s still time for that to happen, there’s a possibility that the longtime Av remains on the team when the season starts.
Let’s take a look at the roster as it stands today and what holes (we all know there’s hole) the team needs to fill.
Sven Andrighetto – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog – Tyson Jost – Matt Duchene
A.J. Greer – J.T. Compher – Matt Nieto
Joe Colborne – Carl Soderberg – Blake Comeau
Extras: Rocco Grimaldi, Mikhail Grigorenko
Others: John Mitchell, Rene Bourque
Let’s examine the forward group and their contract situations with the team.
Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Jost, Matt Duchene, A.J. Greer, J.T. Compher, Joe Colborne, Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau all have contracts for next season. Barring any trade (more on that later), these forwards will be on the opening night roster.
Sven Andrighetto, Matt Nieto, Rocco Grimaldi and Mikhail Grigorenko are all Restricted Free Agents (RFA’s), meaning that the Avs hold their rights and they can’t test free agency. However, the Avs would have to tender them qualifying offers in order to hold their rights. If the Avs don’t offer a player a qualifying offer, then the player becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) and is free to test the free agent waters on July 1.
Andrighetto, Nieto and Grimaldi were protected by the Avs in the Expansion Draft so it’s very clear that the Avs want them back. Andrighetto and Nieto will be on the opening night roster. Grimaldi spent most of last season in the AHL so it’s unclear if he’ll stick with the big club full time.
Mikhail Grigorenko is likely done with the Avalanche. He was left unprotected in the Expansion Draft despite being younger than Andrighetto, Nieto, and Grimaldi. With MacKinnon, Jost, Compher and Soderberg likely centering lines 1-2-3-4, there is no longer any room for him. It doesn’t appear he fits the mold of a Jared Bednar player as Bednar didn’t know what to do with Grigorenko. It appears Grigorenko‘s time in Denver has come to an end. Would be shocked if he was qualified by the Avs.
John Mitchell and Rene Bourque are UFA’s and they won’t be back. Joe Sakic wants to get younger and faster, two things that don’t describe Mitchell and Bourque.
Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher and A.J. Greer are all likely to be on the Avalanche opening night roster. J.T. Compher finished up the year with the Avs and it’s clear Jared Bednar was a fan. He’ll stick. Tyson Jost is an unknown but I don’t think Jost would have left the University of North Dakota so he can play for the WHL’s Regina Pats. He left university so he can play for the Avs and the Avs signed him so he can play for them now. And A.J. Greer is expected to graduate to the NHL. And according to A.J. Haefele of BSNDenver, Joe Sakic expects A.J. Greer to be on the opening night roster.
Take a look at all the names above (but take away Mitchell, Bourque, and Grigorenko as they’re not returning) and you’ll probably have your opening night roster for the Avalanche, barring any trade.
And that brings us to Matt Duchene. What’s going to happening with Matt Duchene? Is he staying or going? A deal can still be done as last year two mega deals were made between the Draft and the Free Agency Frenzy (Subban–Weber, Hall–Larsson). It seems like Nashville has interest, and maybe the New York Islanders too. But the price remains insanely high and as of now Sakic isn’t budging and teams aren’t either.
But if a Duchene trade does happen, the Avs will likely get their highly coveted defenseman. But it will also leave a massive crater in the team’s top six. The Avs likely won’t get a defenseman they want AND a top six forward in return. So the Avs will likely have to fill the hole by replacing Duchene with Grimaldi (Grimaldi did play with Jost and Landeskog at the end of the season) OR look to free agency.
However way you want to look at it, the Avs are going to have a ton of question marks heading into next season with hopes hanging on first and second year players. Maybe they’ll surprise everyone next year. Maybe they’ll get another top 5 pick in next year’s draft. What we do know is the Avs are hitting the reset button and are getting younger and faster. Out with the old and in with the young.
Nikita Zadorov – Erik Johnson
Mark Barberio – Tyson Barrie
Andrei Mironov – ?
Extras: Chris Bigras, Anton Lindholm, Duncan Siemens.
Others: Patrick Wiercioch, Fedor Tyutin, Cody Goloubef.
So many question marks with the blueline at this point, so let’s take a closer look at the contract situations going forward.
Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Mark Barberio all have contracts for next season. Barring any trade of course, they will be on the opening night roster. Andrei Mironov also has a contract for next season and is expected to be on the opening night roster. Mironov left the KHL to come over to North America to play in the NHL. I doubt he left his country and taking less money to go play in the AHL. So count Mironov on the opening night roster.
Nikita Zadorov currently doesn’t have a contract for next season but is a RFA. Joe Sakic told BSNDenver at the Draft that they have a contract offer on the table for Zadorov and the ball is in his court. Zadorov will be back.
So that’s 5 roster spots occupied for opening night.
A Matt Duchene trade for a defenseman would help solidify the team’s top 4. But if that doesn’t materialize, the Avs have a few unsavory options. Play the inexperienced young kids or go to free agency.
Chris Bigras and Anton Lindholm have contracts for next season. Lindholm played a handful of games down the stretch for the Avs and coach Jared Bednar seemed to really like him. Bigras has over 30 games of NHL experience but didn’t see any time in the NHL last season as injuries found him and Bigras never really found his game. One or both could be options for opening night.
Duncan Siemens got a few games at the end of the season but his future with the Avs is murky at this time. The former 1st round pick from 2011 has only appeared in 4 NHL games in his career. He’s been labelled a bust from virtually everyone. He currently doesn’t have a contract. He’s a RFA so if the Avs qualify him, it means the Avs still have faith in him. If not, he becomes an UFA. At this point, I don’t get the sense either way which direction the Avs are leaning.
Fedor Tyutin is an UFA and he won’t be back. The Avs claim they want to get younger and faster and Tyutin is older and slower. Cody Goloubef is an UFA and I’m not sure what’s going to happen to him. Given that he still doesn’t have a contract a week before free agency starts, I don’t think Goloubef will be back. However, the Avs could use another right shot d-man in the system. Doubtful he’s brought back though.
Patrick Wiercioch is a RFA. If the Avs qualify him, they will hold his rights. If not, he’s an UFA on July 1. The way the season ended with Wiercioch being scratched on numerous occasions, I would guess he won’t be back. He’s still relatively young and he still would be a good depth defenseman but it doesn’t sound like the Avs want him back. I would also guess Wiercioch doesn’t really have any desire to return either.
So there you have it. Going to be interesting to see how this blueline looks come opening night. Either the Avs trade Duchene to stabilize the top 4 on the blueline (while creating a huge hole on the offense) OR the Avs keep Duchene which would help their offense but would leave the defense lacking and wanting more.
Sakic has his work cut out for him.
Semyon Varlamov – ?
Others: Spencer Martin, Jeremy Smith.
The one thing you can say for certain that the Avalanche will do when free agency opens on July 1 is that they will look for a backup goaltender for Semyon Varlamov.
The Avalanche lost their backup when Calvin Pickard was chosen by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft.
22 year old Spencer Martin saw a few games with the Avs this season and was also named to the AHL All-Star game. But he’s just not ready for the NHL full-time. He needs to continue to develop and play lots of games in San Antonio. No need to rush him.
Jeremy Smith became Calvin Pickard‘s backup when Semyon Varlamov was shutdown due to his injuries. Smith is an UFA and I would be surprised if he was brought back. Can’t blame him for his poor numbers entirely as the team in front of him was terrible but he certainly wasn’t part of the solution either.
The Avalanche‘s roster is basically set for next season.
The big question is what happens with Matt Duchene? If the Avs don’t trade Matt Duchene, the Avs’ blueline will be lacking. If the Avs trade Matt Duchene, then there’s a hole in the offense.
Team needs: 1 back-up goaltender and 1 top six forward / 1 top four defenseman depending on what happens with Matt Duchene.