First off, Joe Sakic will address the media tonight after the Avs make their pick at No. 25, so we’ll hear from him personally on the state of the roster, the draft pick, free agency and anything else he’s asked about. But here’s the latest on what I’m hearing regarding the Avs and free agency:
They aren’t likely to be as big a player as some might have hoped or expected.
While it’s commonly assumed that the Avs have a ton of cap space with which to go shopping for a pricey free agent or two (Taylor Hall, Alex Pietrangelo), there are a couple of issues: First, they have five of their own players who are restricted free agents, players they will need to at least tender a qualifying offer to retain and then, most likely, negotiate newer, pricier deals from there.
The five are: Andre Burakovsky, Valeri Nichushkin, Tyson Jost, Ryan Graves and Nikita Zadorov. While I still expect Zadorov to be traded, until he is, he’s still a member of the Colorado Avalanche hockey club so his salary will be included for the purposes of this post.
Burakovsky is coming off a career-high season for goals (20) and points (48) and his last salary was $3.25 million. Let’s say for the sake of argument he gets at least $4 million on his next deal. There goes a decent chunk off the $22.3 million of cap space the Avs currently have, according to CapFriendly.
Nichushkin, who played on a one-year, prove-it contract of $850,000, had one of the higher plus-minus numbers for a forward in the NHL (+26) and had 13 goals. No, he’s not going to break the bank either way, but I’ve got to think he’s going to clock in at at least $2 million on his next deal. And if he doesn’t get a good enough offer from the Avs, he can go to arbitration, and maybe get more. So, being conservative, that $2 million brings us down to $16.3 million left in cap space.
Ryan Graves led the entire NHL in plus-minus (+40) and finished the season as a top-two D-man on the team. What’s that worth? That’s up to the agent and Joe Sakic, but I’ve got to believe we’re talking at least $2 million per moving forward, and quite possibly much more. Graves could easily hit the JackpotCity online casino with his next deal. He’s got arbitration rights too, and I can easily see him getting at least a $3 million per reward, maybe more. For the sake of this argument, I’m going to go with $3 million here.
That brings us down to $13.3 million, with Jost and Big Z still to go. If Big Z were re-signed, that’s going to cost at least $3.2 million, because he’d have to get a qualifying offer at that amount just to have his services retained. Let’s give him a bump up to $3.5 million on a new deal, and now we’re down to under $10 million in cap space, with Jost still left.
Jost is only coming off his entry-level contract, but he’s going to cost at least $1 million per to retain, and I can see him getting $1.5 million. Now we’re down to just a little more than $8 million in cap space.
So, go sign a Taylor Hall at $8 million per and call it a day right? Well, if you add a Hall and those other five guys, that only brings the number of signed regulars for next season at 20 players. The Avs have to field a 23-man roster, so there would be three other players needed to fill out the roster and they obviously will cost money.
(This is assuming the Avs say goodbye to existing unrestricted free agents such as Matt Nieto, Vladislav Namestnikov, Colin Wilson and Kevin Connauton).
Now, trading a Zadorov or a Jost or a Nichushkin for, say, just picks would create more cap room with which to sign a free agent, but is that all you want for any of those players – just picks? And, what if you deal them away and then you can’t get the free agent or two you wanted with that cap space?
Here’s the other problem with signing big-ticket guys right now: After this coming season, the following guys can become unrestricted free agents: Landeskog, Cole, Grubauer, Calvert and Bellemare. And, oh by the way, after this next season, guess who will be a restricted free agent and needing a new deal?
Yeah, Cale Makar. He won’t come cheap. If you want to extend Landeskog and give Makar a fat, long-term deal, we’re probably talking at least $7 million per for each player.
So, the Avs have more cap issues than maybe we all previously thought. I still expect this team to sign a free agent or two, but I think we’re talking more about lower-priced guys now. Maybe a Michael Grabner. Maybe a Brendon Dillon. Hell, maybe a Kevin Shattenkirk or a Brian Boyle.
Another thing: I am hearing the Avs aren’t “hot” after any new goaltender either. They have two guys, Grubauer and Francouz, at a good price for next season and they seem to be of the belief that it was just bad luck that they got hurt when they did and that the position is not a weakness moving forward.
We can debate more about that, and I plan to tonight on a new podcast with colleague Scott MacDonald.
But for now, I think the bottom line is: the expectation of any major signings should be greatly tempered.