Goodbye, Taylor Hall rumors. Adios, visions of Alex Pietrangelo in Avs Burgundy and Blue. Safe travels, Torey Krug.
Essentially confirming a Colorado Hockey Now report from the day before, Avs general manager and franchise icon Joe Sakic said Tuesday night that his club just won’t have the cap space available to go on any big spending sprees when NHL free agency opens on Friday.
“We have a lot of (restricted free agent) guys we have to take care of,” Sakic told Colorado Hockey Now. “A lot of guys with arbitration rights. We know the arb numbers and once those come in we’re not going to have a lot of room under the cap.”
Indeed, arbitration rights – which happen a lot earlier in NHL players’ careers now than yesteryear – are the biggest handicap to the Avs’ cap flexibility. Of the six regular players the Avs extended qualifying offers to this week to retain their rights (Andre Burakovsky, Valeri Nichushkin, Ryan Graves, Nikita Zadorov, Vladislav Kamenev and Tyson Jost), Jost is the only one who cannot take the Avs to arbitration this month if negotiations toward a new contract aren’t satisfactory to the player. (Kamenev’s rights were retained, even though he signed with a KHL club. It’s complicated, but Kamenev can only count against the cap if he decides to leave the KHL and pursue a career again in the NHL).
If at least five of those guys are back on the Avs’ roster for next season, which the NHL has set a target date of Jan. 1 to begin, probably about $15 million, minimum, would be subtracted from the Avs’ current available cap space of $22.3 million.
Yeah, the Avs still will have a few bucks to throw at a free agent or two, but they are probably certain to be lesser-name guys. The fact is, the Avs will have to sign a free agent or two, most likely, to just fill out a 23-man roster. It’s still unclear if the Avs are pursuing any of their own potential UFAs, guys such as Matt Nieto and Vladislav Namestnikov.
“We’ll have a little flexibility and we’re going to try and use that smartly,” Sakic told Colorado Hockey Now. “Whether it’s free agency, or we’re more comfortable taking our time and seeing what trades are out there. It’s going to be a long offseason, so there’s no pressure to do anything right away. We can wait and make sure we get the right player to try and help our team.”
Indeed, owners around the NHL are nervous about the coming season. If they don’t know whether paying fans will be in arenas at the start of the next season, their checkbooks are going to become that much tighter. There is a lot of speculation that all but the most premier names on the free-agent market – and that’s a small list – may find a very cold, inhospitable market for as long as uncertainty reigns about the coronavirus. Or, it could be the reverse. Maybe the smaller-name guys will go quicker, because they won’t cost as much. Maybe the guys like Pietrangelo, who want some kind of huge deal, might find it tougher to get what they want.
We’ll start to know more on Friday.