The Colorado Avalanche are going to have a handful of decisions to make this summer. Some of them might be easier than others, but the organization will have to make some touch choices regarding some of their own free agents.
One of those happens to be Evan Rodrigues.
The soon-to-be 30 year old forward kind of fell into the hands of the Avalanche at the end of last summer. The contract that he waited for never came (we’ll get to that soon), and he was still available in the middle of September. The Avalanche signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract for the season. Smart business by Colorado, as they waited out the market and got a solid player on a great deal.
And it paid off.
Rodrigues didn’t set career highs in any category, but he was on pace to do so over the course of a full 82 game season. A couple of small injuries led to him only playing 69 games, but the production was there. That production, however, wasn’t significantly different than what he did in Pittsburgh the year prior. In fact, if you look at his points-per-60, it went down a little bit (1.65 to 1.41).
Rodrigues certainly found himself in a bigger role in Colorado than he did in Pittsburgh. With the Avalanche, he averaged nearly 15 minutes of ice time at even strength. In Pittsburgh, he was just under 13 minutes a night. So even though his raw production went up, he wasn’t quite producing at the same rate.
The versatile forward did not want to settle for a one year deal last summer. The original plan was to get some term. After he signed with Colorado, it came out that he and his agent allegedly turned down a 3-year, $10.5 million ($3.5M cap hit) contract at the start of free agency. Considering what he signed for, that’s a rather large loss of money. That led to him changing agents soon after.
But Rodrigues didn’t do anything this season to hurt his value. He played a variety of roles for Colorado, even if he was over-extended a decent bit. It makes sense that Colorado would want to bring him back…at the right price. What is that price?
Evolving Hockey projects that he should get a contract that pays him $4.7M per year over the next four years. That’s a big pay increase, and a fair bit of term. More on both ends than he allegedly turned down last year. Seeing as how he will be 30 this summer, dealt with the same bouts of inconsistency this season, and the cap isn’t increasing all that much, I have a hard time seeing him get that. All it takes is one team offering it to him, though.
A contract like that seems a little too rich for the Avalanche to take on. With at least 8 roster spots to fill, and only a little over $20 million to spend, things will be tight. But after the season ended, Rodrigues sounded like a guy who really wanted to stick around. He said as much to be me back in February. Can Colorado use that to their advantage in negotiations?
Even though he had cold stretches, and played a lot more than he probably should have, his underlying numbers were very strong. He had the highest expected goals for percentage of all the regular forwards that spent the entire season in Colorado. On the ice, he was a fit stylistically, so it makes sense to keep him around.
So what would a potential extension with the Avalanche look like? Another one-year extension seems highly unlikely, so term will likely be necessary, as well as a pay bump. In a perfect world, a 3×3 deal would be great for the Avalanche, but if push comes to shove, offering him the deal he turned down last summer would work as well. That’s the same cap hit J.T. Compher has played with the last handful of years, and you’d look for him to have a similar role as the utility forward. Anything above that, and it starts to get a little too rich for Colorado.
With a little over a month until the start of free agency, the Avalanche will be able to exclusively negotiate with Rodrigues if they choose to. If he hits free agency, the odds of him returning go down significantly. Things have been quiet, but still plenty of time for the Avalanche to nail something down if there’s a fit.