NHL Free Agency: An Early Look At Who Might Make Sense For The Avalanche
The loss to the Seattle Kraken for the Colorado Avalanche is still fresh, but we’re already less then two months away from the start of NHL free agency. It’s not too early to take a look at who might be available, and who may fit in Colorado.
Second line center will be the big focus, but it’s possible the Avalanche will have figured out that solution by trade before free agency even starts. If you’re looking for a second line center to play behind MacKinnon, this free agent class might not be where you look. There are some decent centers, but overall, it’s not the best class. There are still some interesting players that might be available, though.
Last summer, the Avalanche mostly just re-signed their own free agents. They brought Evan Rodrigues in, but he wasn’t signed until very late in the summer. Colorado has a lot of pending unrestricted free agents, some of which they will look to keep, but we’ll focus on free agents from other teams that may be a fit here. This isn’t a list of everyone they could target, but rather a handful that caught my eye.
Let’s get started.
W Jonathan Drouin
2 goals, 27 assists, 29 points in 58 games.
Is this the year we finally see the dynamic MacKinnon/Drouin duo from Juniors reunited? For the first time, it actually makes sense. Drouin will be a free agent, and will have to take a big-time pay cut. The Avalanche are in need of some talent up front, and will have to get creative to fill out the roster. Drouin is a reclamation project, so he’s not without risk. Whether or not he’s a fit in the Avalanche system is another question entirely, but do you take a swing on him rekindling that chemistry with MacKinnon for cheap? We will dig into Drouin a lot more before free agency, as my colleagues at Montreal Hockey Now have said the chances of him returning to the Canadiens are almost non-existent.
C Jonathan Toews
15 goals, 16 assists, 31 points in 53 games
If Toews wants to continue playing, the Avalanche will have interest. They’re still in “win now” mode, and Toews has won a lot in his career. He’s a great face-off guy, produced well on a terrible Chicago team, and was someone they monitored over the course of the season as a potential deadline pickup. Health is a concern with Toews, as is age. He’s just not the same player he used to be. Still, he’s one of the few centers on the market who might fit what they’re looking for.
W Jason Zucker
27 goals, 21 assists, 48 points in 78 games
Zucker had a bounce back year with the Penguins after struggling with health and production the prior two seasons. He’s a DU alum, so he’s got a history in Colorado, and plays with speed. He also can score goals, which the Avalanche need. Another player over the age of 30 that you have to avoid giving too much term to.
C David Kampf
7 goals, 20 assists, 27 points in 82 games
It isn’t just top six forwards the Avalanche need to find. The bottom six, as we saw most of the year, needs help. Darren Helm, Andrew Cogliano, and Matt Nieto are unrestricted free agents, and I can’t seem them bringing back all three of them. Kampf is a good face-off guy, he plays a lot on the penalty kill, and is a trusted defensive player. Seems like the type of player Colorado may look to add in NHL free agency.
C Erik Haula
14 goals, 27 assists, 41 points in 80 games
A great skater, another player who plays a lot on the penalty kill, and another guy who can win face-offs. Haula has bounced around the NHL a fair bit over the last few years, but makes a lot of sense for the Avalanche given the way he plays and his production this season. Had a very strong season on a fast Devils team.
W Gustav Nyquist
11 goals, 16 assists, 27 points in 51 games
Nyquist had trouble staying healthy this year, but was one of the few bright spots for the Wild when he joined them late in the season and in the playoffs. He’s been a consistent point producer in the NHL, and the combination of his age and an injury riddled year makes it seem likely he’ll have to take a pay cut.
D Connor Clifton
5 goals, 18 assists, 23 points in 78 games
Just like the forwards that will be free, the list of defensemen that will be available on July 1 is pretty underwhelming. Clifton could still re-sign with the Bruins, but if the Avalanche do have to move a defenseman this summer for cap purposes, they’ll need to bring in someone else. He played solid minutes on the best team in the NHL, and can kill penalties.
D Scott Mayfield
6 goals, 18 assists, 24 points in 82 games
Another player with connections to DU. A physical, stay-at-home defenseman, a role they may be looking to fill if both Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson do not return. Like Clifton, with a weak free agent class, there’s a chance Mayfield gets too much money for the Avalanche to be an option, but he’s a fit for what they may need.
Other Names To Keep An Eye On
W Tomas Tatar, C Oskar Sundqvist, F Pierre Engvall, W Danton Heinen, C Sean Monahan, D Troy Stecher, W Mattias Janmark, D Brian Dumoulin