It is popular opinion right now, no matter where you look, that Colorado Avalanche forward J.T. Compher is expected to be a hot commodity if he hits the market on July 1. The Athletic, DailyFaceoff, and ESPN all have him near the top on their lists of pending UFA’s.
And it makes sense as to why, especially in a weak free agent class. He’s young for a pending UFA (28), he’s coming off the most productive season of his career, he’s versatile, and he played a key role on a recent Stanley Cup winner. Those guys typically get paid a lot of money if they hit the open market (See: Barclay Goodrow).
The contract projections are quite high. EvolvingHockey projects a 5-year contract where he makes $5.6 million per year, similar to what Andrew Copp got from Detroit last summer. DailyFaceoff isn’t that far off, as they predict a 5-year deal at $5.3 million per year.
Compher has earned every right to test the market if he chooses to. He’s in the prime of his career and this is likely the biggest contract he’ll ever get.
But that’s not a contract the Avalanche can easily hand out given their cap situation, and a tough one to rationalize after Compher’s performance in the postseason as second line center.
And as we saw on Friday, you can get a decent return for the rights of a player who is expected to be one of the top free agents to hit the market. If the Avalanche decide they are not going to be able to re-sign Compher, it’s an avenue they absolutely need to explore.
The New Jersey Devils knew they couldn’t re-sign Damon Severson, and did the smart thing – they got a third round pick for his rights. Think about that. A third round pick for a player you knew you couldn’t bring back. That’s just smart business. Columbus didn’t want to fight with other teams come July 1, so they were aggressive and made the move.
The Devils, like the Avalanche, moved away picks over the last year to help the team immediately. Coming into Friday, they had just one pick in the first three rounds of the upcoming NHL Draft. Now, they’ve added one more. Last year, Colorado didn’t pick until round six. This year, they pick just once in the first five rounds. Next year isn’t much different. They need all the assets they can get, and should explore every option available.
There have been no updates on how negotiations have gone, and that’s how the Avalanche typically do business. A month ago, GM Chris MacFarland didn’t give any info on negotiations, but once a player gets this close to the open market, they typically want to see what offers are out there.
“Part of the CBA is unrestricted free agency, and when players are entering that year, that’s a right that they have, is to test the market,” he said.
Now, there’s no guarantee they can get a third round pick for his rights. Heck, there’s no guarantee they get anything. But as one of the top pending UFA’s, Compher will have his options. And the Avalanche need to see if one of those teams is willing to pay a little more to guarantee they get their man.