Avalanche Ink Dominic Toninato

The Colorado Avalanche have announced that they have signed college free agent Dominic Toninato to a 2 year Entry Level Contract. The deal is worth $800K in the NHL and $70K in the AHL.

“We are excited to announce that Dominic has decided to sign with our organization,” said Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic in a press release. “He is a big, responsible two-way center and represents a solid prospect for the future of our team.”

Toninato, 23, was selected in the 5th round at the 2012 Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 6’2 200 pound centerman spent the last four years playing at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

In his senior year, Toninato captained the Minnesota-Duluth team that went to the NCAA Frozen Four. Also in his senior year, Toninato was named the NCHC’s best defensive forward. Dom Toninato has scored 54 goals and 91 points in 151 college games.

Via text message, “Colorado is a young team that is rebuilding and we thought there was a great opportunity to be a part of that,” said Dominic Toninato.

Other Notes

  • As was expected for months, Avalanche draftee and Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher has officially rejected the Avalanche and is now free to sign with anyone. Denver Post reporter Mike Chambers reports that the New Jersey Devils, Vegas Golden Knights and the Buffalo Sabres are among the interested teams.
  • Nikita Zadorov still remains unsigned. Many people believe/have heard that both sides have agreed to a two-year bridge deal worth a cap hit of $2 million. There is speculation that the deal hasn’t been announced because both sides are potentially working on a long term deal. At this point, it is almost certain that a deal will get done between the Avs and Zadorov.
  • Matt Duchene is still a member of the Colorado Avalanche. Nothing imminent on this front but it’s still possible Duchene gets traded before the start of training camp. The Columbus Blue Jackets remains the front runner and quite possibly the only runner at this point in time. But there’s still other suitors like the Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins and even the New York Islanders. Have they moved on?



The Latest On The Zadorov Situation

There is only one piece of business left for the Colorado Avalanche to handle before the start of next season.

(Well, two, if you count the trading of Matt Duchene. And I think most people would agree it has to get done).

But in terms of getting players under contract for next season, there is only one remaining player who is without a contract. The Big Z, Nikita Zadorov.

What’s the latest?

On July 26, in an interview with Eurolanche, the Colorado Avalanche European Fan Club, Nikita Zadorov‘s agent Rolland Hedges said regarding a contract that “Nikita’s going to make a decision after August 2″.

Last night, Adrian Dater of BSNDenver said that he’s hearing that the Zadorov camp is looking for $2.75-$3 million per year and the Avalanche are offering $2 million per year on a new contract.

The term of the contract is expected to be a two year bridge deal.

At this point it doesn’t seem to be that wide of a gap for this deal not to get down. But where is Zadorov‘s heart at the moment? Does he really want to leave the NHL? Is he offended by the Avalanche way of pinching pennies on him?

The Colorado Avalanche fan base are getting increasingly nervous over a lack of non deal and the confidence in GM Joe Sakic to get a deal done isn’t very high.

With no Matt Duchene trade as of right now, the only defensemen the Avs have under contract for next season that is guaranteed to be on the Avs opening night roster are Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Mark Barberio, Andrei Mironov. And one of those four d-men (Mironov) hasn’t played a game in the NHL. Needless to say, the Avs NEED Zadorov more than ever.

Joe Sakic had two jobs to do this off-season: 1) Sign Nikita Zadorov and 2) Trade Matt Duchene.

It’s almost August and neither have come to fruition.


Avs Sign Grimaldi, Graham

Rocco Time

First reported by Adrian Dater of BSNDenver yesterday, it was officially announced today that the Colorado Avalanche have re-signed Restricted Free Agent forward Rocco Grimaldi to a 1 year, 2 way contract. The financial terms of the deal, reported by Adrian Dater, is $700K in the NHL, $170K in the AHL.

Grimaldi, 24, was acquired by the Avalanche in June 2016 in the Reto Berra trade. In his first season in the Avalanche organization, Rocco Grimaldi spent the majority of the campaign with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL where he led the team in goals with 31 and points with 55 in 72 games. His 31 goals were tied for third in the AHL and he was only the fifth 30 goal scorer in San Antonio Rampage history. Grimaldi also played 4 games with the Avalanche where he registered 1 assist.

Avs Ink Graham

First reported by Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports yesterday, it was officially announced today that the Colorado Avalanche have signed free agent defenseman Jesse Graham to a 1 year, 2 way contract. According to Lavoie, the deal is worth a total of $650K.

Graham, 23, split the 2016-17 campaign with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL and the Missouri Mavericks of the ECHL in the New York Islanders system. Graham, a 6th round pick in the 2012 Draft, scored 2 goals and 9 points in 19 games for the Sound Tigers and 6 goals and 25 points in 24 games with the Mavericks.

Almost There

After the signing of Rocco Grimaldi, the Avalanche only have one more RFA (Restricted Free Agent) left to sign. That would be Nikita Zadorov. Adrian Dater of BSNDenver is certain that Zadorov will be re-signed by the Avs and he thinks the two sides aren’t that far apart on a new deal and it’s only a matter of time before the deal gets done.

That doesn’t help calm fears of Avs fans as the threat of Zadorov leaving for the KHL is very much an option.

But we’re almost there.



Avs Re-Up Nieto, Other Tidbits

Nieto Re-Ups

The Avs and Matt Nieto were scheduled for an arbitration case next week in Toronto if they had not come to terms. But on July 25, the Colorado Avalanche announced that they have re-signed forward Matt Nieto to a 1 year, $1 million contract.

Nieto, 24, was claimed off waivers from the San Jose Sharks mid-season. In 43 games with the Avs, the 5’11 190 pound left winger scored 7 goals and 11 points.

Drafted by the Sharks in the 2nd round of the 2011 Draft, Nieto had spent parts of 5 seasons with the Sharks organization, scoring 28 goals and 70 points in 221 games.

Avs Come To Terms With 3 Others

On July 18, the Colorado Avalanche announced that they have come to terms with 3 of their Restricted Free Agents, signing forwards Felix Girard, Gabriel Bourque and defenseman Duncan Siemens all to 1 year deals.

Gabriel Bourque, 26, was signed by the Avs before the start of last season, coming to the team on a PTO (Professional Tryout). After starting the first 6 games with the Avs, Bourque was sent to the minors for the rest of the season where he scored 10 goals and 33 points in 61 games for the San Antonio Rampage.

Felix Girard, 23, was acquired by the Avalanche in January from Nashville in the Cody McLeod deal. The former 4th round pick had his best offensive output of his pro hockey career in his time with the Rampage, scoring 7 goals and 20 points in just 38 games.

Duncan Siemens, 23, was one of two 1st round picks made by the Avalanche in the 2011 Draft. This past season saw the former 11th overall pick set career highs in goals in the AHL (with 2), points in the AHL (with 7) and games played in the NHL (with 3). The 6’3 200 pound defenseman will be looking to make the Avs‘ opening night roster.

And That Leaves Two (WHAT ABOUT ZADOROV!?!?)

The Colorado Avalanche only have two Restricted Free Agents left to sign in Rocco Grimaldi and Nikita Zadorov.

There is zero worry with Grimaldi as he should get done at any time, sometime before the start of training camp.

The big worry is with Nikita Zadorov, the 6’5 230 pound 22 year old defenseman. There are some worried Avalanche fans who think he may bolt to the KHL. Those fears aren’t irrational as Zadorov himself said he would sign in the KHL if he doesn’t get a better contract from the Avs by the end of July.

Is this Zadorov’s way of leveraging the Avalanche into a better and bigger contract for himself? Does he really have interest in playing in the KHL? I guess we’ll find out next week if the deadline imposed by the Zadorov camp is for real.


Nothing new on the Matt Duchene trade front.

I still do think Duchene gets traded. With the Avs glut of forwards and a massive hole on the blueline where a Duchene acquisition would fit, I think it’s only a matter of time before Duchene gets shipped out of Denver.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Nashville Predators remain the front runners.

Avs Hire Bennett, Parkkila

The Colorado Avalanche have some new coaches.

In late May, about a month and a half after the disastrous 48 point season finally came to a close in Denver, the Colorado Avalanche announced they would not be bringing back assistant coaches Tim Army and Dave Farrish along with goalie coach Francois Allaire.

On July 7, on Joe Sakic‘s 48th birthday, the Colorado Avalanche announced they have hired Ray Bennett as an assistant coach and Jussi Parkkila as the goaltending coach. Both Bennett and Parkkila will join current Avs head coach Jared Bednar and assistant coach Nolan Pratt on the coaching staff.

Ray brings a tremendous amount of NHL experience and hockey knowledge to our team and Jussi has a proven track record of working with goaltenders,” said Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic. “They’re a great complement to our current coaching staff and we’re excited to have them join our organization.”

Bennett, 55, has served as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues for the past 10 seasons, working under four different head coaches. He handled many different situations and roles with the Blues from running the team’s power play, managing team preparation and providing offensive play evaluation.

Under former coach Tim Army, the Avalanche power play stagnated. The last three seasons under Tim Army, the Avs‘ power play ranked 29th, 19th, and 30th respectively. The last three seasons under Ray Bennett, the Blues‘ power play ranked 4th, 6th, and 8th respectively. With Bennett now handling power play duties for the Avs, there should be a big difference in power play production.

Parkkila, 40, has spent the last 12 seasons coaching goaltenders in Europe. That includes a five year stint in the KHL and two seasons in Liiga, Finland’s top professional hockey league. This past season, the 2016-17 campaign, Parkkila was in Austria coaching the goalies for the Grazz 99ers. In 2007-08, Parkkila began his pro hockey coaching career with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, where he tutored current Avalanche starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

Avalanche Sign Yakupov

On July 4, the Colorado Avalanche announced that have come to terms with right winger Nail Yakupov, signing the Russian forward to a 1 year, $875K contract.

Nail is a young, skilled winger who will add depth to our lineup,” said Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic. “We look forward to seeing him at training camp.

Yakupov, 23, was drafted 1st overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2012 Draft. The 5’11 195 pound winger had a great rookie campaign with the Oilers, scoring 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games.

He has since fallen on hard times and lost his way. Following his rookie season, Yakupov played three more seasons with the Oilers where he failed to recapture his rookie year form. He was then traded to the St Louis Blues before the start of last season where he quickly fell out of favor with coaches Ken Hitchcock/Mke Yeo, finishing the year with 3 goals and 9 points in 40 games.

The Latest Matt Duchene Rumors

And we wait…

It’s July 3rd and Matt Duchene is still a member of the Colorado Avalanche. I’m not going to get into whether Avalanche GM Joe Sakic is right for keeping Matt Duchene or wrong for not trading him. If you ask basically anyone on social media, Joe Sakic is the worst general manager in the history of pro sports. The minority say Sakic is right for not rushing into a bad deal. Regardless of what side of the fence you are on, Duchene is still a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

So, where do we stand? It seems like we’re getting closer to a trade… well, that’s what it seems like. June 30 and July 1 many well known hockey reporters seemed to suggest that progress was being made on the Duchene trade front. Nothing much since then though. So who knows?

The last post I did on possible trading partners for Matt Duchene, there were six teams on the list. Three teams on that list aren’t on this one. It seems like the New York Islanders, the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators are no longer options. The Canadiens are practially 100% out on DucheneĀ and have been since they traded Mikhail Sergachev. There has been zero talk this off-season about the Senators in regards to a Duchene trade. A dark horse maybe but doubtful. And many reporters have gathered that the Islanders have been out of the Duchene sweepstakes since the Draft.

There are still five (at least five) teams that are connected to Matt Duchene. Let’s take a look at what’s being said around the campfire.

The Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets were one of two teams that TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger mentioned having a deal on the table for Matt Duchene. That was on June 30. On July 1, Dreger tweeted that Blue Jackets were still trying to pry Duchene from the Avalanche.

Columbus Blue Jackets beat writer Aaron Portzline has confirmed the Jackets’ interest in Duchene. He first tweeted that 23 year old defenseman Ryan Murray would be the main piece heading to Colorado in a potential Duchene deal. On July 2nd, Portzline tweeted that he was told that the Avs asked for Gabriel Carlsson.

Carlsson was drafted in the 1st round, 29th overall in the 2015 Draft. He’s a 6’4 185 pound left shot defenseman who is only 20 years old. He spent most of last year playing in Sweden before coming over to play pro hockey in North America. He played in two regular season games for the Blue Jackets and five playoff games for them.

Who knows what a potential deal between the two would look like? The Avs also are said to want a 1st round pick and a prospect as well. Are the Jackets only wanting to trade Murray as part of the package where the Avs are wanting Carlsson instead? Is that the sticking point? Or are the Jackets/Avs also stuck on the prospect too where the Jackets want to give away a certain prospect but the Avs want a different one?

Very interesting. Follow Aaron Portzline on Twitter for updates.

The Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators was the other team that Darren Dreger said had an offer on the table for Matt Duchene. The Predators have had interest in Duchene for quite some time now so this isn’t a shock.

The hockey world almost blew up on July 1 when it was announced that Nashville and Colorado had made a trade. Ultimately, it was a false alarm as the trade was Colin Wilson to Colorado for a 4th round pick.

After the Predators signed Nick Bonino to a 4 year deal, many assumed that the Preds were out on Duchene. But according to many reporters such Adrian Dater, Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie, the Predators are still very much interested in Duchene.

Hockey Night In Canada studio host David Amber also believes that Nashville will find a way to get a Duchene deal done as both sides seem motivated to get something done.

It’s been said by many, including Predators GM David Poile, that the Preds have zero interest in moving any of their big four on defense (P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis). But things got a bit interesting when the Preds acquired Alexei Emelin from the Vegas Golden Knights. The Preds already have many good bottom pairing defensemen already. Acquiring Emelin, who will hold a cap hit of nearly $3 million, is a bit suspicious. Is this a precursor to a Matt Duchene trade?

On July 1 before the free agency window officially opened, Elliotte Friedman tweeted that there was some talk that the Preds kicked tires on free agent defenseman Karl Alzner as a precursor to a bigger move. Friedman assumed that bigger move would be Matt Duchene. The Preds didn’t get Alzner but they did get Emelin.

The Avs need a left shot d-man. Subban and Ellis are right shot d-men, so they’re likely safe. Roman Josi is a left shot d-man but he isn’t going anywhere. That leaves Mattias Ekholm who so happens to be a left shot defenseman. Did the Preds acquire Emelin, a left shot d-man, to replace Ekholm in the Preds‘ top 4? Aren’t I a conspiracy theorist?

Ekholm just turned 27 so that’s older than the age bracket of 20-24 that Sakic is looking for. But he’s a left shot d-man and would automatically form the Avs top d-pairing with Erik Johnson (allowing Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Barrie to form their 2nd pairing).

Again, this is me speculating, but it makes a ton of sense for both teams.

If you’re Nashville, you could have Johansen-Duchene-Bonino-Sissons down the middle… or move Duchene to the wing, replacing the lost James Neal, and have Johansen-Jarnkrok-Bonino-Sissons down the middle. The Preds could have that kind of firepower and still have Subban, Josi and Ellis… yeah that’s a Stanley Cup waiting to happen in Nashville. And that’s also assuming the Preds would keep their top two defensive prospects in Sam Girard and Dante Fabbro too.

Makes a ton of sense. And everyone knows Duchene loves Nashville. A match made in heaven.

The Boston Bruins

One of two new teams to make the list – The Boston Bruins. The Bruins were heavily linked to the Avs at the trade deadline… but that was for Gabriel Landeskog not Matt Duchene. Well apparently they have some interest in Duchene now.

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch was one of the more prominent names to mention the Bruins as a possible suitor for Duchene. As with the Bruins-Landeskog speculation earlier in the year, defenseman Brandon Carlo has been the piece rumored to go back to Colorado in a potential deal.

Carlo is a 6’5 200 pound, 20 year old defenseman who just finished his rookie campaign, collecting 6 goals and 16 points in 82 games. But the thing with Carlo is that he’s a right shot d-man. The Avs already have Johnson and Barrie on the right side. The Avs need a top 4 d-man on the left side so Carlo isn’t a great fit for next season.

The rumors are out there. The Avs have been been asking for Carlo for awhile. Does this go anywhere?

The Pittsburgh Penguins

The other new team to the list – the two time defending Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins have always been in the background in regards to Matt Duchene. But no one (excluding Penguin fans) ever really thought it was possible. They have elite forwards already. Do they need another good forward?

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned Pittsburgh as a low key, lurking in the shadows, team that might be able to get Duchene from Colorado.

What the Penguins have that could make the Avs blink is Olli Maata. Whatever you may think of Maata (he’s injury prone, his stats are declining), Maata is a left shot d-man with some size and is only 23 years old… with two Stanley Cup rings. A package containing Maata may entice the Avs. But the real question is, do the Avs like Maata? If the answer is no, then you can cross Pittsburgh off thes list. If the answer is yes, then the Penguins are in contention for Duchene.

The Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes are the perfect trading partners. They have tons of young defensemen that would entice the Avs and they have a Matt Duchene sized hole in their lineup.

But both teams have stubborn managements. Out of all teams on this list, it seems like the Hurricanes are the long shots at this point. I’m not hearing a ton about the Hurricanes in connection to Matt Duchene trade rumors.

Personally, I think the fact that Matt Duchene only has two years left on his contract is one of the biggest reasons why Duchene isn’t a Hurricane right now. I think the Hurricanes are worried that Duchene will walk in two years. And they don’t want to give up young pieces for a guy who potentially won’t be on their team in two years.

I can’t say I disagree with that line of thinking. Especially since the Hurricanes have never really been huge destinations for big name players (Justin Williams excluded). Having a playoff drought as long as Carolina has had, it’s hard to convince big name players to stay or come to Carolina.

But still… Matt Duchene is a perfect fit for them. Just like Noah Hanifin would be a perfect fit for Colorado.