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Avalanche Thoughts: Replacing Irreplaceable Landeskog, Under The Radar UFA’s



Avalanche Landeskog

There is nothing happening around the Colorado Avalanche right now.

Well, I’m sure some things are happening. Last week, Chris MacFarland said they’re having meetings to prepare for the off-season, but right now is kind of the calm before the storm. If the Avalanche are going to do anything before the playoffs end, it will likely be re-signing one of their own free agents. Otherwise, it’s going to be pretty quiet.

So what is there to talk about? Not much, to be honest. But I had a few things on my mind, so let’s get to it.

Landeskog is Irreplaceable, But MacFarland Will Have To Try

We might as well get this out of the way right now – you are not replacing Gabriel Landeskog.

He just does too much for this team on a nightly basis. We saw it all year long, and especially in the playoffs. Finding players like that is incredibly difficult. Artturi Lehkonen did the best he could do on the top line last year (and he did a heck of a job), but he’s not Landeskog.

So how do fill that hole? They’ll have to try by committee. The free agent class isn’t great. When I put out my “way-too-early” list of free agents the Avalanche might be interested in, a lot of people were underwhelmed by who was listed. I don’t disagree. It’s not a good class. You don’t want to build your team through free agency in the first place, but the Avalanche are in a strange spot right now. They don’t have any real top flight prospects to come step in, and if they want to get a real good top six forward, they might have to weaken their top four on defense. They don’t really want to do that.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if MacFarland and company had some sneaky trade up their sleeve that just comes out of nowhere. The Lehkonen deal comes to mind. He was a fantastic fit for the Avalanche, but he wasn’t some big name out on the trade market that everyone was after. Everyone kind of knew Montreal may move him, but Colorado wasn’t mentioned. He was under-the-radar, and he was everything the team needed. I kind of expect to be surprised with a move like that.

There’s a reason why the Avalanche were linked to Jonathan Toews last year, and why they’ll likely touch base with him this summer. No Landeskog leaves a huge leadership void in the locker room, and they may want another “stabilizer.” Now, Toews comes with his own controversy after what’s transpired the last few years in Chicago, but they were sniffing around. Ryan O’Reilly is another name they were interested in at the deadline, but he’s likely to get term, and Colorado probably can’t give him that. I’m not sure you want to give him term, either.

You just aren’t going to replace Landeskog with one player, but that’s really going to be the big thing to watch this summer. What are they going to do to fill the void left by the Captain? Now that they have a chance to plan ahead, they have to do something. Hopefully this is just a one year thing and Landeskog is back in 2024. I’m not convinced it will be just yet, but I sure hope to see him on the ice again. He’s a treat to watch.

Under the Radar UFA’s

The free agent list we went over had mostly name guys who will fit in your top nine, but there are some guys who may fly under the radar this summer. A big reason for that is health. Should the Avalanche, a team who seems to get decimated by injuries on a yearly basis, be going after players coming off injuries? Maybe not, but that’s how you find bargains.

Sean Monahan was someone they really monitored in Montreal last year, but his season ended pretty early around December. He tried to come back, but wasn’t anywhere close, so he was shut down. He’s a big body who can win face-offs. He’s dealt with a handful of injuries over the last few years, but on a one-year flyer, he makes sense.

One name that I can’t get out of my head is Connor Brown. He was a solid player for years in Toronto and Ottawa, but tore his ACL four games into the season with Washington. He started skating months ago, so he should be ready for the start of next year, but the bottom six adding someone with a history of production would be wise. He doesn’t turn 30 until January.

Yes, Andreas Englund is scheduled to be a free agent after the Avalanche traded him for Jack Johnson, and yes, there’s always a chance they touch base with him again. I’d be interested to see what the market is for him. There are always teams willing to overpay for big defensemen that can skate. He’s also on the young side compared to other free agents at just 27, so he may have options. I’d take him on the ice any day of the week over MacDermid, but there are other things at play there.

Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese were grinders for years in Pittsburgh, but have moved on. This summer, they’ll both be free agents, and still on the right side of 30.

Does this group of players get anyone excited? No, not really, and it shouldn’t. But this team has quite a few holes to fill, and finding under the radar guys is going to be a cheap way to fill out the roster. A few of them have upside, and you’re banking on them recovering from their injuries.

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