Five Things The Avalanche Want to See in 2023
It’s hard to top a Stanley Cup. The Colorado Avalanche will have to try.
2022 was a pretty special year for the Avalanche. Everything really came together. From a dominating regular season to an impressive postseason, capped off by winning the Stanley Cup, times were good for the Avalanche.
Here’s what the Avalanche would like to see 2023.
A Healthy Team
This one seems fairly obvious, and very necessary.
It’s really impossible to get a read on this current version of the Avalanche, because they haven’t been remotely close to healthy.
They have yet to play a game with their captain, Gabriel Landeskog, in the lineup, and there isn’t a clear timeline on when he will come back. Josh Manson and Bowen Byram are said to be “not close”. Valeri Nichushkin came back from his injury, only to leave the lineup again after re-injuring it. Pavel Francouz has been missing due to an undisclosed injury, and Darren Helm has yet to suit up this season. Even Nathan MacKinnon missed 11 games.
The team is currently hanging on to that last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, but playing with such a beat up lineup makes it tough to evaluate the team going into the trade deadline and beyond. Here’s hoping they get some bodies back soon so the organization can get a proper read on the team.
A healthy team, I imagine, is quite good.
50 Goals for Mikko Rantanen
For the longest time, the Avalanche couldn’t buy a 30 goal scorer. Now that they have players regularly hitting 30 goals, we’re setting our sights a little higher.
Mikko Rantanen has had to carry the offense most of the season with all the injuries. He presently accounts for 23.5% of the teams goals. Barring a massive collapse, he’s a lock for 30 and should hit 40 if he keeps doing what he’s doing, so why not target 50?
The last 50 goal scorer the Avalanche had was Milan Hejduk in 2002-03. At the moment, Rantanen is on pace for 56 goals. Scoring tends to decrease as the season goes on, but wouldn’t it be fun to see another 50 goal scorer?
A Healthy Salary Cap Increase
It was originally anticipated the salary cap could grow as much as $4 million for the 2023-24 season.
The latest update, however, indicates it might only go up by $1 million.
Gary Bettman says #NHL is now projecting a $70m remaining escrow balance at the end of the season, which would result in the salary cap rising just $1 million this summer to $83.5 million.
Not willing to say now whether a negotiation with #NHLPA for larger increase is possible.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) December 13, 2022
With Nathan MacKinnon’s massive contract extension kicking in this summer, money will start to get a little tighter. J.T. Compher is an unrestricted free agent, and looks set to have his best NHL season, so keeping him might be difficult. Evan Rodrigues has been a great fit, but will they have the cap space to keep him?
Bowen Byram has not been able to stay healthy over the course of an entire season, so you have to wonder if a short deal might be on the table for him with a lower cap hit. Alex Newhook has been up and down this season, and he’s the other bigger restricted free agent they’ll have to sign.
We’ll look into the summer roster decisions later in the year, but the cap going up more than anticipated would be very helpful for the Avalanche.
A New Contract for Devon Toews
This contract would not kick in until the 2024-25 season, but Devon Toews has been such a perfect fit in Colorado that you would love to see the team find a way to keep him beyond this current contract.
His offensive numbers have taken a slight step back this season, but he’s averaging 25:15 a game, tied for seventh most in the NHL. He eats up a ton of ice time and is a monster at both ends of the ice.
The tricky part of the contract will be Toews’ age. By the time his next contract kicks in, he’ll be 30. The organization has typically been weary of committing long-term to players over the age of 30. But he’s a young 30. He still hasn’t hit 300 NHL games.
With Bowen Byram still struggling to consistently stay in the lineup, and Samuel Girard struggling on the ice, replacing Toews might be difficult.
Stanley Cup Repeat
I still believe a healthy Avalanche squad is a Cup Contender. There isn’t a team in the Western Conference that particularly scares me IF the Avalanche get some bodies back. Unfortunately, right now that seems like a big “if”.
The Eastern Conference seems to have all the juggernaut teams. The West is full of good teams, but none of them stand out as great, and none of them can match the elite talent on the Avalanche.
Give me a healthy Avalanche team against any Western contender, and then let the chips fall where they may in the Stanley Cup Final.