At this point, it’s no secret – the free agent class this year is not good. It lacks high-end players, and that usually means good players end up getting paid more than what they should. That doesn’t mean there isn’t value to be found in this free agent class. The Colorado Avalanche don’t have a ton of cap space, and they’ll be looking for value on some cheaper free agents.
One way to find that value is by taking a look at players who dealt with injuries in 2022/23. There’s risk in doing this, especially for a team like the Avalanche that simply could not stay healthy last year, but there’s potential for great reward.
While some models project these players getting term, that’s far from a guarantee. A lot of NHL teams are risk averse, and giving term to players coming off major injuries carries a lot of risk. They could still be good players that can help a team like the Avalanche, but these injuries might be what gets them into Colorado’s price range.
Who are these players? Let’s take a look.
W Max Pacioretty
Pacioretty was once one of the most consistent goal scorers in the NHL, but injuries have slowed him the last two years. His final year with the Golden Knights was cut short by wrist and foot injuries. That led to him being dealt to Carolina last summer. On paper, a great fit, but he was never able to get started there. He tore his achilles tendon training last summer, and missed the first several months of the season. When he returned, he made it only five games before a second achilles tear.
This pickup would come with incredible risk, but I can’t imagine any NHL team is willing to pay him a lot of money or give him a lot of term after back-to-back achilles tears. Does Pacioretty still have it? It’s a very small sample size, but in just five games with the Hurricanes, he scored three goals. In his last year in Vegas, he scored 19 goals in 39 games.
Evolving Hockey projects him getting a 2-year deal at around $2 million, while Daily Faceoff thinks a 1-year deal at $1.5 million is more likely. For a team that struggled to get consistent secondary scoring, Pacioretty could be worth taking a chance on.
C Sean Monahan
We’ve discussed Monahan’s teammate Jonathan Drouin at length this summer, but the 28 year old center, on paper, makes a lot more sense. We already know he’s someone the Avalanche followed last year as a potential trade acquisition, but that never came to be.
Why is that? Well, the broken foot he suffered early in the year just never went away. It looked like he was getting close to returning in February, but he had another setback, and never returned. It looked like he was headed for a bounce back season as well, scoring 17 points in 25 games for the Canadiens. It’s important to note that he dealt with shoulder issues in Calgary, so it’s been a rough couple of years.
For a team that could use some size down the middle, Monahan makes a ton of sense. He’s good in the face-off circle, and showed he still has some offensive touch before the injuries last season. He’s another guy that Evolving Hockey projects could get a multi-year deal, while Daily Faceoff thinks a 1-year, $2 million contract is more likely. I tend to agree with the latter. Two straight season-ending injuries will scare teams off on giving away term, but Monahan, as a 3C, is intriguing. Montreal has interest in bringing him back, but if they don’t, he’s someone to keep an eye on.
C Jonathan Toews
Toews isn’t what he used to be with the puck on (or off) his stick, but we know he can win face-offs. The Avalanche kept tabs on him last year, but he didn’t get traded. He missed time last year after suffering from long COVID and Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, and these are things that could still linger.
His contract is anyone’s guess. He’s now 35, and leaving Chicago for the first time, so this is all new to him. Would not be my top choice, but on a one-year deal surrounded by a little more talent, it would make some sense.
W Connor Brown
Of all the players listed, Brown is the one most likely to get a decent contract. He’s coming off a torn ACL, but that’s something players return from pretty frequently these days. That knee injury held him to just 4 games with the Capitals. In the three years prior to that, he produced at a .612 point-per-game clip. He’s a secondary player who can play well with some skill, but not someone that can carry a line.
W Gustav Nyquist
My “under the radar” pick. Up until last season, he’s been a consistent point producer in the NHL, but he missed a large portion of the season due to injury. He was traded for very little at the deadline, and once he got healthy, was one of the Wild’s better players in the playoffs. He’s got a history of providing offense at the NHL level, and would be a sneaky good pick-up for any team looking for depth scoring.