Avs Ink Andrighetto

On June 28, the Colorado Avalanche announced that they re-signed Swiss forward Sven Andrighetto to a 2 year, $2.8 million contract. The contract will hold an annual cap hit of $1.4 million per season.

“We were pleased with what Sven added to our team at the end of last season,” says Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic. “He sees the ice well and brings speed and scoring to our lineup. We’re excited to have him under contract.”

Andrighetto, 24, was acquired by the Avalanche at the trade deadline in February from the Montreal Canadiens for power forward Andreas Martinsen.

Andrighetto wasted little time adjusting to his new surroundings in Denver as Sven scored 5 goals and 15 points in 19 games for the Avalanche down the stretch, showing instant chemistry with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.

Drafted as an over-ager by Montreal in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft, Andrighetto spent most of the the time in the Canadiens organization in the minors where he was a productive scorer. In 170 AHL games, Sven posted 49 goals and 132 points. In 83 NHL games with Montreal, Andrighetto scored 11 goals and 28 points.

Andrighetto was among the 7 Restricted Free Agents the Avalanche tendered a qualifying offer to on June 26. He is signed up to the 2018-19 season.

Depth Chart Before Free Agency / Contract Situations

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.

Forwards:

Sven AndrighettoNathan MacKinnonMikko Rantanen

Gabriel LandeskogTyson JostMatt Duchene

A.J. GreerJ.T. CompherMatt Nieto

Joe ColborneCarl SoderbergBlake 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 (SubbanWeber, HallLarsson). 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.

Defensemen:

Nikita ZadorovErik Johnson

Mark BarberioTyson 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.

Goaltenders:

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.

Summation:

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.

Avs Take Makar, 2017 Draft Class

Although the Colorado Avalanche ended up on the losing end of the Draft Lottery process, in the end they got the player they truly coveted.

With the 4th overall pick in the 2017 Entry Level Draft, the Colorado Avalanche chose dynamic offensive defenseman Cale Makar.

Makar, 18, played the last two seasons with the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) where he was named the AJHL Player of the Year in both years. This past season, Makar was also named the AJHL Playoff MVP as well.

Makar, a right shot defenseman, scored 24 goals and 75 points in 54 games this past season with the Bandits while adding another 5 goals and 16 points in 13 playoff games.

The 5’11 187 pound d-man had gained a ton of steam heading into the draft with scouts/analysts calling Makar the most dynamic player in the entire draft regardless of position. Getting compared to multiple time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, Makar is said to have the highest ceiling of any player drafted this year. Many have called Makar a “difference maker” and a “future Norris Trophy winner”.

The Avalanche Selections:

1st round, 4th overall: Cale Makar: A 5’11 187 Lb, 18 year old right show, offensive defenseman.

2nd round, 32nd overall: Conor Timmins: A 6’1 183 Lb, 18 year old two-way right shot defenseman.

4th round, 94th overall: Nick Henry: A 17 year old, 5’11 190 Lb productive right winger.

4th round, 114th overall: Petr Kvaca: A 6’1 175 Lb, 19 year old goaltender.

5th round, 125th overall: Igor Shvyryov: A 6’0 205 Lb, 18 year old playmaking center.

6th round, 156th overall: Denis Smirnov: A 5’10 185 Lb, 19 year old scoring left winger.

7th round, 187th overall: Nick Leiverman: A 5’10 195 Lb, 18 year old puck moving left shot defenseman.

 

2017 NHL Entry Level Draft

Selections:

1st overall: The New Jersey Devils select F Nico Hischier.

2nd overall: The Philadelphia Flyers select F Nolan Patrick.

3rd overall: The Dallas Stars select D Miro Heiskanen.

4th overall: The Colorado Avalanche select D Cale Makar.

5th overall: The Vancouver Canucks select F Elias Pettersson.

6th overall: The Vegas Golden Knights select F Cody Glass.

7th overall: The New York Rangers (from Arizona) select F Lias Andersson.

8th overall: The Buffalo Sabres select F Casey Mittelstadt.

9th overall: The Detroit Red Wings select F Michael Rasmussen.

10th overall: The Florida Panthers select F Owen Tippett.

11th overall: The Los Angeles Kings select F Gabriel Vilardi.

12th overall: The Carolina Hurricanes select F Martin Necas.

13th overall: The Vegas Golden Knights (from Winnipeg) select F Nick Suzuki.

14th overall: The Tampa Bay Lightning select D Callan Foote.

15th overall: The Vegas Golden Knights (from NY Islanders) select D Erik Brannstrom.

16th overall: The Calgary Flames select D Juuso Valimaki.

17th overall: The Toronto Maple Leafs select D Timothy Liljegren.

18th overall: The Boston Bruins select D Urjo Vaakanainen.

19th overall: The San Jose Sharks select F Josh Norris.

20th overall: The St Louis Blues select F Robert Thomas.

21st overall: The New York Rangers select F Filip Chytil.

22nd overall: The Edmonton Oilers select F Kailer Yamamoto.

23rd overall: The Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota) select D Pierre-Olivier Joseph.

24th overall: The Winnipeg Jets (from Columbus via Vegas) select F Kristian Vesalainen.

25th overall: The Montreal Canadiens select F Ryan Poehling.

26th overall: The Dallas Stars (from Chicago) select G Jake Oettinger.

27th overall: The Philadelphia Flyers (from Washington via St Louis) select F Morgan Frost.

28th overall: The Ottawa Senators select F Shane Bowers.

29th overall: The Chicago Blackhawks (from Anaheim via Dallas) select D Henri Jokiharju.

30th overall: The Nashville Predators select F Eeli Tolvanen.

31st overall: The St Louis Blues (from Pittsburgh) select F Klim Kostin.

The Avs currently hold the 32nd overall pick. Rounds 2-7 are set to take place tomorrow at 10 AM ET.

 

2017 Mock Draft

Tomorrow night, June 23, the first round of the 2017 Draft goes down in Chicago, Illinois. Not only is it the time where teams build their futures but it’s also a time where teams make big trades.

As I did last year, I will do a mock draft and once again I will only do so for the first 15 selections. Of course, I’m not taking into account whether a team is rumored to trade their pick or not. For example, Dallas is rumored to be trying to trade their 3rd overall pick for an established forward/defenseman. Since that is only a rumor at this point and they haven’t traded the pick as of right now, I will draft the best possible player for Dallas at the 3rd overall spot.

Without further ado.

1st overall: The New Jersey Devils select F Nico Hischier

Unlike the past two drafts, there is no clear cut generational player at the top of the draft. With this draft, you could make an argument for three or four players going #1. The Devils have drafted forwards in the 1st round the last three drafts and although they’re reportedly looking to upgrade their blueline, I think the Devils will go with centerman Nico Hischier. They drafted centerman Mike McLeod 12th overall last year, so going forward having a 1-2 punch down the middle with HischierMcLeod seems like a pretty good place to start considering they’re a rebuilding team. Hischier, will be the highest drafted Swiss player in NHL history. Dynamic offensive player with great hands and good wheels.

2nd overall: The Philadelphia Flyers select F Nolan Patrick

This one is interesting as I can see the Flyers going with a forward or a defenseman. The Flyers have had three 1st round picks in the previous two drafts, selecting a defenseman and two forwards. The Flyers typically love drafting defensemen and they do have a group of stud defensive prospects. Combine that with a need for a centerman (Giroux turns 30 in January and he can’t play forever) and the Flyers‘ GM Rox Hextall‘s connection with the Brandon Wheat Kings, I don’t see them passing on Nolan Patrick. Nolan Patrick was the consensus #1 pick of this draft all year until he was surpassed by Hischier at the end. Potentially a #1 center, Patrick can impact the game at both sides of the ice with his size, speed and skill.

3rd overall: The Dallas Stars select F Gabriel Vilardi

You can make the argument that the Stars would select one of the top two defensemen because defense has been their Achilles heel in recent years. However, this team needs a centerman. They have Jamie Benn, yes. But after that? They have Jason Spezza but he’s 34 years old and the Stars are dangerously close to having to replace him. The Stars also lost Cody Eakin in the Expansion Draft. When you take that into consideration it makes all the sense in the world they go with a center. But after Hischier and Patrick, there’s a slew of centers that are ranked in the same area and in different order on prospect rankings. It’s really about a team’s preference at this point. Maybe it’s Cody Glass or Elias Pettersson but I think they will go with Gabe Vilardi. The only knock on Vilardi is his skating. Other than that, outside of Hischier and Patrick, Vilardi is the safest forward pick in the draft. A puck possession monster, Vilardi is a responsible two-way centerman that can play in all situations and is a force on the forecheck.

4th overall: The Colorado Avalanche select D Cale Makar

It would be only the 3rd time since 2007 that the Colorado Avalanche would draft a defenseman in the 1st round (following Kevin Shattenkirk in 2007 and Duncan Siemens in 2011) if they were to select one. The jury is split on who is the best d-man in this year’s draft – Cale Makar or Miro Heiskanen. If the draft board played out like this and the Avs had the choice between Makar and Heiskanen, it sounds like the Avs would take Makar according to BSNDenver and TSN’s Bob McKenzie. That’s a bit surprising as Heiskanen is the safer of the two and Avs have always gone the safe route. If it is Cale Makar, the Avs are going for a home run swing. Scouts and analysts say Cale Makar has the biggest ceiling than any player in the draft. A dynamic, offensive minded d-man that can take over games, Makar has drawn comparisons to multiple time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson. The knock on Makar is his competition. He played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, a tier two league that is below the OHL/WHL/QMJHL. Question marks exist but if he realizes his potential, the Avs might get the best player in the draft.

5th overall: The Vancouver Canucks select F Cody Glass

A team in a rebuild, they have needs in all areas. They drafted d-man Olli Juolevi last year and although it’s never a bad idea drafting defensemen, I think they will go with a forward. And that’s bolstered by the fact that Jake Virtanen hasn’t quite turned out as they hoped so far. They’ll draft center Cody Glass, a player who’s drawn comparisons to Winnipeg Jets star Mark Scheifele. A potential 1st line center, Glass is a player that thinks and plays fast and at a high level. Really good transition game, attacks the opposition using his speed and skill. High hockey IQ and compete level. A great fit for Vancouver.

6th overall: The Vegas Golden Knights select F Elias Pettersson

With their 1st pick in their franchise history, the Golden Knights have the choice between taking a forward or a defenseman. With two other picks in the top 15 and with some quality d-men potentially available in that range, the Golden Knights will select highly skilled centerman Elias Pettersson. Golden Knights GM George McPhee has been known for drafting European players so Pettersson fits right in. Pettersson has great hands, quick feet, and his skills are off the charts great. The knock on him is his size. His height isn’t the problem as he’s over 6 feet tall but it’s his frame. He weighs in under 170 pounds. He’ll need to add some muscle to his frame before he’s ready for the NHL. Good thing is he’s still young and has plenty of time to do so.

7th overall: The Arizona Coyotes select D Miro Heiskanen

This is a no-brainer. A team that has a plethora of young talent up front that needs to build their blueline and arguably the draft’s top defenseman is up for grabs… the Coyotes will draft Miro Heiskanen. Heiskanen is seen as a safe, slam dunk pick. A two-way defenseman that plays a sound, pitch perfect game. Rarely makes mistakes. High hockey IQ, sees the game well, and makes a good first pass. Has offensive upside as well.

8th overall: The Buffalo Sabres select F Casey Mittelstadt

A team that could use some help on the defensive side of things and is rich with centers, and although on the surface Casey Mittelstadt might not be the best pick, it certainly is a good fit. Although Mittelstadt is a center, he can play on the left side which is a need from the Sabres perspective. Take away his decision to leave the USHL to play high school hockey, take away his mediocre performance at the NHL Combine, take away the concerns of his ability to produce at 5v5, there is a reason why he was ranked as a top 5 prospect for most of the year. He can play, Boy, can he ever play. Dynamic offensive player that brings a package of speed, skill and hockey sense.

9th overall: The Detroit Red Wings select F Michael Rasmussen

The Wings could use just about everything but since they have a couple of really good defensive prospects, I think they will go with a forward. Their pick? None other than 6’6 220 pound centerman Michael Rasmussen. Physically, he can play in the NHL tomorrow. His net front presence is a constant. He’s not afraid of engaging in the gritty areas. Also has an excellent shot.

10th overall: The Florida Panthers select F Kristian Vesalainen

It’s around this spot where it gets dicey. Prospect rankings are all over the place. Some scouts have players a lot higher/lower than others. It really comes down to beauty in the eye of the beholder. My pick for them is Kristian Vesalainen. In 2015, the Panthers drafted Lawson Crouse, a two-way winger with size. It didn’t work out with him in Florida as he was eventually traded to the Arizona Coyotes. In picking Vesalainen, it’s essentially Florida doing that pick over again and hopefully this time getting it right. Vesalainen is a big, strong hard working winger who has the ability to impact the game on both sides of the puck. He’s versatile as he can play on both wings and even down the middle. There are concerns regarding his offense but he has good hands and a good shot. If they don’t want a repeat of the Crouse situation, Florida shouldn’t rush Vesalainen. Let him develop and in a few years they may have a very important player in their lineup.

11th overall: The Los Angeles Kings select F Owen Tippett

One of the most interesting prospects in this draft is Owen Tippett. Some scouts/analysts have Tippett rated in the top 10 while others have him in the 20 range. The Los Angeles Kings have been a team built around two-way forwards and it has shown in recent years with a lack of offense. This team struggles to score goals. Owen Tippett is a goal scoring machine. He generates a ton of shots and drives offense. In terms of goal scoring, he might be the best goal scorer in the draft. He also has a great shot and is a great skater. Unfortunately, many see him as one-dimensional and his play away from the puck leaves you wanting more. With a new general manager and a front office shake up in Los Angeles, does the team switch directions and go with skill? Or do they stick with what the old regime did and prioritize two-way players over pure skill?

12th overall: The Carolina Hurricanes select F Martin Necas

The Carolina Hurricanes are drowning in good young defensive prospects. If there’s a team who doesn’t need to draft d-men it’s the Carolina Hurricanes. Their pick – centerman Martin Necas. It seems like a perfect fit (and I’m not the only one whose mock draft has Necas going to Carolina) as Carolina‘s biggest need is in the center position. They also haven’t been afraid of drafting European players. Necas is a right show centerman who is good in all areas. Although he sometimes tends to disappear in games, Necas can beat his opponents with speed and smarts. A lightning quick skater who can go-go-go, Necas is a gifted offensive player with a ton of creativity. Necas playing on a line with Sebastian Aho sounds pretty damn good, doesn’t it Canes fans?

13th overall: The Vegas Golden Knights (FromĀ Winnipeg) select D Juuso Valimaki

Their second of three picks in the 1st round. I had them picking forward Elias Pettersson 6th overall so this time around I have them picking a defenseman. They will select Juuso Valimaki, a 6’2 200 pound Finnish defenseman who played for the Tri-City Americans the last two years. A two-way d-man who has an underrated offensive game, Valimaki is a minute munching dependable d-man who can play in all situations. Good first past, good not a great shot, and reads the play really well.

14th overall: The Tampa Bay Lightning select F Nick Suzuki

Tampa Bay is in a position where they can draft the best player available, especially since they just acquired Mikhail Sergachev from Montreal last week. Nick Suzuki is considered to be the steal of the draft by whoever drafts him. Although he’s only 5’11 180 pounds, Suzuki is a smart, gifted offensive centerman who thinks and plays at high speed. Though his size may deter some, Suzuki plays a sturdy game and he’s hard to knock off the puck. He’s skilled with the puck and has a high hockey IQ, Suzuki is also a great skater. The talent is there, the work ethic is there, the only thing that isn’t there is size. If he was above 6 feet tall and around 200 pounds, Suzuki would easily go in the top 10… he still might. After trading away Jonathan Drouin, the Lightning may want to add another high talented offensive player to replace him.

15th overall: The Vegas Golden Knights (From NY Islanders) select D Timothy Liljegren

I had them drafting a forward with their 1st pick, a defenseman with their 2nd pick, and I have them picking another d-man with their 3rd pick. Timothy Liljegren is a fascinating prospect. At the start of the hockey year, the 2017 Draft was suppose to be the Nolan Patrick/Timothy Liljegren draft. Patrick remains in consideration for the top pick where Liljegren has fallen quite a bit. The reason why? He had a case of mono that took him out of the game for a couple of months. And when he returned he wasn’t all that impressive which started to worry a lot of scouts. But nonetheless, Liljegren is a highly skilled d-man. His creativity, skill, and skating are off the charts and has the potential to quarterback a #1 powerplay in the NHL. His decision making gets called into question as he’s prone to putting himself into danger (on the ice). Valimaki is a left shot two-way d-man and Liljegren is a right shot offensive d-man. Potential future pairing in Vegas?

Avs Lose Pickard

The Colorado Avalanche will need a new back-up goaltender.

On Wednesday night, NHL’s newest franchise the Vegas Golden Knights announced their selections in the Expansion Draft at the NHL Awards.

Picking in order from worst team in the league to the best, meaning their first selection would be from the league’s worst Colorado Avalanche, the Golden Knights selected goaltender Calvin Pickard.

A fan favourite, Pickard was drafted in the 2nd round, 49th overall in the 2010 Draft. Splitting time between the NHL and the AHL the past few years, the 25 year old became a full-time NHL goalie this past season and was anointed the starting role when Semyon Varlamov fell victim to injuries.

Pickard has posted a record of 28-44-6, a 2.77 GAA and .914 save percentage in his tenure in Denver.

All the best and good luck in Vegas, Picks!

The End Of An Era? Matt Duchene Trade Partners

It was simpler times. It felt like a perfect marriage.

There was nothing but smiles, joy and happiness when the Colorado Avalanche drafted the speedy centerman 3rd overall in the 2009 Entry Level Draft marking the start of a rebuild in Denver. Growing up as a diehard Avalanche fan and worshiping the organization’s greats like Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy, Matt Duchene was suppose to lead the charge of a second wave of excellence in Colorado.

It almost feels like yesterday when Matt Duchene tweeted after the 2013 season that he was looking forward to bringing a Stanley Cup back to Colorado. How he wanted nothing more than to be part of the Avs for the rest of his career.

Now… honestly, it feels like that was eons ago.

Matt Duchene‘s name has been firmly planted in trade speculation since November 2015. It seemed like he was on his way out of Denver last summer until the Avs decided to give the team’s core another shot. And then…

Well, the Avalanche finished in dead last by miles and found themselves making history as the worst team in the salary cap era, finishing with a measly 48 points. And throughout the tumultuous, embarrassing season, trade chatters involving Duchene only grew louder.

All the losing and the unknown of whether he was going to be traded by the team he grew up idolizing, who he had given 8 seasons of his life to, started to weigh on Duchene. It culminated in statistically his second worse output of his career, scoring only 18 goals and 41 points in 77 games. In the final 35 games of the season, Duchene only managed to score 2 goals and 12 points.

As the season started to inch to a close, Duchene was asked many times whether or not he wanted to stay. His response? Truncated, Duchene would be opened to a trade (but would be happy if he stayed put although it surely doesn’t feel that way).

The kid from Haliburton, Ontario who dreamed of playing for the Colorado Avalanche no longer seems to care whether he stays or not. All of the losing and lack of success combined with constantly hearing his name in trade speculation has gotten to Matt Duchene. Both the Colorado Avalanche and Matt Duchene need a fresh start. It’s only a matter of time before the proverbial divorce papers are signed. It’s a real shame as Matt Duchene felt like an Avalanche lifer.

Top notch insiders such as Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger of TSN have gone on record and saying that they both think that Duchene is likely traded (they said the same thing last summer too but it seems almost certain this time around).

Joe Sakic has been rumored to want a young defenseman (20-24 years of age) with NHL experience, a top prospect and a 1st round pick in exchange for Matt Duchene. The question is can the Avs even get that kind of return especially since Duchene‘s trade value isn’t at the highest as previous years? Are the Avs willing to budge on that? Will any team pay that kind of price? If no one does, will the Avs keep Duchene or sell him to the highest bidder regardless? Going to be interesting with the Draft just days away.

Let’s take a look at the 6 (best) possible destinations for Matt Duchene.

The New York Islanders

Longtime TSN broadcaster Gord Miller tweeted a week ago that he heard that the New York Islanders were the front runners to land Matt Duchene.

Not surprising if true. The Islanders were in the mix to acquire Duchene at the trade deadline. From an Islanders perspective, adding Matt Duchene makes a ton of sense. Their superstar captain John Tavares’ contract expires next summer. The Islanders have gone back and forth from making the playoffs to missing them the past several years. In order to sway Tavares from testing the free agent market next summer, the Islanders have to make some moves to bring in help to show Tavares they are serious about winning. Duchene and Tavares are also good friends. You want to make Tavares happy, acquiring a highly skilled forward who he’s friends with seems like a good idea.

What would a potential trade look like?

The Islanders don’t have any real young stud defenders with NHL experience. They do have a couple of 26-27 year old d-men that they would be willing to part with in Calvin De Haan and Travis Hamonic.

What the Islanders do have that could tempt the Avs to unload Duchene is the 15th overall selection in this year’s draft and a top forward prospect in Matthew Barzal.

Would the Islanders have any interest in unloading Barzal, a 1st round pick and one of De Haan/Hamonic? Considering the situation they are currently in, it seems possible. Would the Avs take the trade? Depending on what other offers they get, it seems like a decent enough of a trade. Although they don’t get a young stud d-man in this potential deal, they get a fairly young d-man who can play in their top 4, a top prospect, and another 1st round pick.

It seems like the Islanders have the assets to pull off such a deal. It’s very possible.

In a perfect world, the trade would be: Calvin De Haan, Matthew Barzal and the 15th overall pick in the 2017 Entry Draft for Matt Duchene.

**RUMOR** IslandersRyan Strome has popped up in a potential Matt Duchene trade.

***NOTE*** It appears the Islanders will be trading the 15th overall pick to the Golden Knights.

The Carolina Hurricanes

There’s probably no better trading partners than the Carolina Hurricanes in regards to a potential Matt Duchene trade. Not only do the Hurricanes have a plethora of young d-men that the Avs would want but the Hurricanes are a team that is in need of a skilled centerman like Matt Duchene.

The problem here is maybe they are too perfect of a fit. The Hurricanes, especially in recent history, have never been a team known to make a blockbuster trade but instead try to build from within.

Another issue that comes up is that Matt Duchene only has 2 years left on his contract before he becomes an UFA. The Hurricanes have never been able to attract big ticketed free agents so maybe they’re worried that if they do acquire Duchene that he’ll walk from them in 2 years. It’s definitely something to consider.

But if the Hurricanes do want Duchene, they have many defensemen they could offer up. Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin or even Brett Pesce would be the guys that the Avs would really want as a center piece for a Duchene trade. The Hurricanes would probably want to trade the Avs Justin Faulk or Haydn Fleury in a possible trade. The Hurricanes also have prospect Jake Bean as a potential trade piece.

If the Avs were to acquire Hanifin or Slavin, it would most likely be a 1 for 1 trade… maybe the Avs could get a mid round pick out of it as well. But the Avs won’t be getting a 1st round pick and a top prospect along with it. If Pesce were to come back to Colorado it would be likely the Avs could get a 1st round pick in this year’s draft and maybe a prospect along with it.

Perfect trading partners. Both teams have the other’s need. But can they get something done with one another? It remains to be seen.

The Montreal Canadiens

They would have been ideal trading partners as the Montreal Canadiens had blue chip defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev who the Avs badly wanted at last year’s draft. But on June 15, the Canadiens traded Sergachev along with a conditional 2nd round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for high flying Jonathan Drouin and a conditional 6th round pick.

The piece the Avs would have wanted most of all would have been Sergachev. Now that Sergachev is gone, the likelihood of Duchene being dealt to Montreal lessens.

However, Montreal still needs a centerman. They don’t see Alex Galchenyuk as a center and rumors are swirling that the Habs are tying to deal him. Is it possible the Avs and the Canadiens would consider a scenario where Duchene heads to Montreal for Galcheyuk, the 25th overall pick in this year’s draft, and d-man prospect Noah Juulsen.

The question is, would Montreal even consider trading that kind of package for Duchene? And if they would consider that, would that interest the Avalanche? I’m not sure either way but it sounds like the Habs want multiple pieces for Galchenyuk so this deal seems highly unlikely.

Wouldn’t say it’s unlikely or not going to happen but Montreal as a trading partner took a hit when Mikhail Sergachev was dealt to Tampa.

The Columbus Blue Jackets

Considering they traded their #1 center a year and a half ago in Ryan Johansen to Nashville for d-man Seth Jones and that last year they passed over a consensus top 3 pick in winger Jesse Puljujarvi for centerman Pierre-Luc Dubois, seeing the Columbus Blue Jackets as potential suitors for Matt Duchene is no shocker.

There’s a need from the Blue Jackets’ perspective and they do have some pieces that could make a Matt Duchene trade work but a lot like the Islanders, the Blue Jackets don’t have a true young stud on the blueline (that they’re willing to trade) that the Avs would covet.

Defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are non-starters for the Blue Jackets. They are staying put in Columbus. Avs would love to get their hands on either one but that’s simply not happening.

The defenseman the Blue Jackets would trade would be Ryan Murray. Murray was drafted 2nd overall in the 2012 draft. The 23 year old d-man hasn’t panned out as he and many others expected. The former top prospect has been plagued with injuries and offensively hasn’t shown a ton. Is he the guy the Avs would want the centerpiece of a Matt Duchene trade to be? I don’t know but the Jackets would certainly have to entice the Avs with other pieces as well.

The Blue Jackets currently have the 24th overall pick in the upcoming draft but it appears that 24th overall pick will become property of the Vegas Golden Knights. Though it has not been announced, it is expected the Jackets will trade that pick to Vegas in exchange for staying clear of certain players in the Expansion Draft. That hurts a potential trade with the Avs but a next year’s 1st round pick could still be an option.

The Jackets do have plenty of intriguing young forwards that they could part with in beefing up a trade offer for Matt Duchene. Potential names include Oliver Bjorkstrand, Sonny Milano, Gabriel Carlsson, Brandon Saad, Boone Jenner, Josh Anderson and William Karlsson.

Columbus has a Matt Duchene-shaped hole in their lineup but I don’t know the likelihood of Duchene going to the Blue Jackets. There’s a possibility but unsure if they’re in the mix or not.

The Ottawa Senators

When Matt Duchene‘s name first came up in the rumor mill in November 2015, the first team that was linked to it was the Ottawa Senators. And they have been linked to Duchene ever since.

This past trade deadline the Ottawa Senators were in hot pursuit of Duchene and some insiders believed that a Duchene trade to the Senators was close. But in the end, the Senators threw in the towel and backed out of the Duchene sweepstakes. Senators GM Pierre Dorion made it clear the price was too steep. That sentiment was echoed by Senators‘ owner Eugene Melnyk, in a very dismissive condescending tone, saying “Did you hear what they want for Duchene? Oh my God!”

The Avs were rumored to have wanted the Senators‘ 1st round pick, their top defensive prospect Thomas Chabot and top forward prospect Colin White. (You could see why the Sens scoffed at this proposal).

But you got to think, the Senators lost in double OT in game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the eventual Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins. They were one goal away from ousting the Pens. The Sens need a #1 center. They were so close to making the Cup finals. Is it possible the Sens double back to the Avs for Duchene knowing that they were so close to eliminating the eventual Cup champs? Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman has wondered this himself,

What would would a potential trade look like? Well, Thomas Chabot isn’t going anywhere. Not a chance Ottawa trades him.

At this point, defenseman Cody Ceci, Colin White and a 1st round pick for Duchene seems like something that would interest the Avs. The Sens probably wouldn’t want to offer that much. The Avs would rather want Chabot over Ceci. So they meet in the middle?

The Nashville Predators

The most interesting team on this list, the dark horse if you will, is the Nashville Predators.

The Predators are interesting. The only area of weakness in their organization is down the middle. They have Ryan Johansen whom they acquired for Seth Jones a year and a half ago but not much after that. Nashville made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins. They snuck by the Anaheim Ducks in the western conference finals after losing Johansen to injury. The loss of Johansen was a fatal blow to the Preds as they just couldn’t compete with the Penguins‘ elite centers in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Having a JohansenDuchene one-two punch down the middle, combined with good goaltending and arguably the league’s best defensive group could make Nashville a near favourite to bring home a Stanley Cup come this time next year.

One thing that does concern me is that Nashville and Colorado are in the same division. If you’re going to deal Duchene, it’s best to trade him to a different conference or at the very least a different division. The Avs definitely don’t want to be burned by a Duchene trade especially if they have to be reminded of it 4-5 times a year when they play Nashville.

What would a potential trade look like? Well, the Avs wouldn’t be getting there hands on one of Nashville‘s top 4 studs on the blueline. P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm aren’t going anywhere.

Preds could offer up d-man Dante Fabbro, forward Kevin Fiala and the 29th overall selection in this year’s draft for Matt Duchene. Fabbro was the Predators‘ 1st round selection last year and was teammates/roommates with Tyson Jost in their draft year. Fiala was the Preds‘ 1st round selection in 2014. Although he only has 17 points in 60 NHL games, Fiala has been a prolific scorer in the AHL. Maybe not ‘sexy’ names to get in a Duchene trade but still good young players with a lot of upside.

Are we in the final days of the Duchene era? Time will certainly tell but it sure does feel like it.