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Avalanche Offseason: Hunting RFA’s That May Not Get Qualifying Offers



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Each and every year in the NHL, there are good players that are not extended qualifying offers by their current teams, making them unrestricted free agents. There’s not a ton of them, but they can be found, and with a flat cap, there’s a chance we see more of them this year. The thing about the majority of these players is that they’re still relatively young, so there’s still a glimmer of hope that they can find their game elsewhere. It’s a market any team should have an eye on, and the Colorado Avalanche are no different.

Just last summer, the Toronto Maple Leafs found their starting goaltender, Ilya Samsonov, in free agency because the Washington Capitals didn’t qualify him as a restricted free agent. In the past, Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Duclair, and Ryan Hartman are examples of players who went unqualified, only to catch on with new teams.

Who are some players in danger of not getting qualifying offers this year that may fit on the Avalanche? Let’s take a look.

Winger Jesse Puljujärvi

What happened with Jesse Puljujärvi in Carolina after the trade deadline is exactly why I didn’t think he would be a great deadline pickup for the Avalanche. In 24 games with the Hurricanes, he picked up just three points, all of which were assists. It’s not a total surprise that he couldn’t just flip a switch after the trade. He looked like a player that needed to be rebuilt from the ground up, and that’s a difficult task in the middle of the season.

But you have a much better chance of doing that when you acquire a player in the offseason. You can work with them through the summer and into training camp. Puljujärvi requires a $3 million qualifying offer from the Hurricanes for them to keep his rights. That’s a tough number to justify, given the season he just had. He was also a healthy scratch most of their playoff run. It would seem likely he will not be qualified this summer, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Maybe he heads back to Finland, but he’s a player the Avalanche should take a look at if he’s free, at a significantly lower price tag than what he was making. In February, on a Finnish podcast, Mikko Rantanen said they’d welcome him in Colorado with open arms.

Could it happen this summer? We’ll see.

Winger Max Comtois

After 16 goals in 55 games in the 2020-21 season, got a decent two-year extension from the Anaheim Ducks. He has yet to hit that level again. This summer, he’s due a qualifying offer of $2.45 million, a difficult number to justify, given he’s scored just 15 goals in his last 116 games. He was on the trade block at the deadline, but did not move, and they’ll probably try to move him before having to make a decision on his qualifying offer. The Ducks are not facing any sort of cap crunch, but don’t want to continue giving him a raise if he hasn’t earned it.

He’d be an intriguing player for the Avalanche to target. He’d bring a little bit of nastiness and some size to the bottom six for Colorado, something they were lacking last year. Up until the team acquired Lars Eller at the deadline, none of their bottom six forwards topped the 6′ mark. At just 24, any team picking him up is just hoping to reclaim some of that magic that Comtois had two years ago. Relative to his teammates, his underlying numbers were not that bad, and Anaheim was a mess overall. It could be worth the gamble if he hits the market.

Winger Trent Frederic

It seems highly unlikely Frederic won’t get a qualifying offer, but the Bruins are in a really tough spot. They have a little under $5 million to work with in terms of cap space, and someone who needs a new contract is goaltender Jeremy Swayman. He’ll take up a lot of that $5 million. Frederic is the type of players fans love, and is a solid bottom six energy forward.

His qualifying offer is only $1.15 million, but he has arbitration rights, which make this situation trickier for Boston. Coming off a 17 goal season, he’s due a big raise. He’s more likely to be a trade chip as opposed to being someone who doesn’t get qualified, but he’s a name to keep an eye on this summer.

And these are just some names that we’re hearing about now. There’s always surprise players who don’t get qualified. Last summer, Dylan Strome, Sonny Milano, Nicolas Aube-Kubel (a familiar name to Avalanche fans), and Dominik Kubalik were some of the names that hit the open market because their teams didn’t decide to qualify them.

Just something to keep in the back of your mind during the offseason.

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